Saturday, January 30, 2021

Tater Tao

Today we should all congratulate ourselves on (just about) making it through the first month of the new year. I'm trying to maintain a positive attitude, so let's say we're one month closer to getting our COVID-19 vaccines.

While scrolling through my photo archives, I came across this 2015 "record head" shot featuring a forebear of the Pipe of Ambiguity. The record cover art was done by Sam Norkin (1917-2011). Norkin was a prolific cartoonist who specialized in caricatures of Broadway actors and ensembles. At first glance, his work probably reminds the viewer of Al Hirschfeld (1903-2003). While there are similarities in style, and certainly in subject matter, Norkin's art is more wildly exaggerated and angular, even Cubist. 
Norkin did this wonderful drawing of Cab Calloway for a 1955 LP on Epic Records.

The "Bingle" photo is a souvenir from a phase I went through several years ago, when I wasted a lot of time taking record-head selfies with items from my collection. It was fun, but thankfully, I now have a weekly deadline to keep myself busy making cartoons.

Speaking of which, here's the latest batch to roll off the production line here at Bizarro Studios North.

He's a good employee, but don't startle him when he's concentrating on a repair.
The only time most Americans encounter Roman numerals is in reference to Super Bowl games, although the NFL showed less than total commitment when they named the 2015 game "Super Bowl 50" instead of "Super Bowl L." Apparently, some football fans were miffed, but maybe it was a wise decision. The version with the Roman numeral almost looks like "Super Bowel."
While doing my research for this gag, I learned the difference between the words pictograph (a drawing or painting on a rock wall) and petroglyph (a carving or inscription in rock).
The CEO of the Mister Lactose Corporation is a former military operative who participated in musical torture initiatives.
Friday's spiritually-enlightened spud was fun to draw, although I later realized that for potatoes, having more than two eyes isn't a big deal.
We ended the week with an unintentionally timely gag. Fortunately for this patient, he has more than forty colleagues who are eager to show the way, and then some.

That's the latest from our US headquarters in scenic Hollywood Gardens, PA. Thanks for popping by. Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog to check out his latest Sunday Bizarro. He's also been reporting from what looks to be a restful getaway on a mountainside near Oaxaca City, Mexico. He seems to be in an enviable state of relaxation and bliss, which makes me very happy for him.

Bonus Track

Tom Waits: "Ice Cream Man"
from the album Closing Time
(Asylum Records, 1973)

 NOTE: Certain YouTube videos are unavailable outside the US. On some phones you must select "View Web Version" to see the video content.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Bears Don 't Cry

This week we watched the peaceful inauguration of our country's new President and Vice President, and saw that it is indeed possible for elected officials to act like adults.

The new administration will certainly not be perfect, but things already look promising in many ways.

The highlight of the day for us at BSN was the young inaugural poet Amanda Gorman. Her writing is brilliant, and she was poised, powerful, and on point. She served as a refreshing contrast to the grunting criminal imbeciles who desecrated the Capitol just two weeks prior. Perhaps we have reason to be hopeful for the future after all.

Transitioning from the sublime to the ridiculous, we're tickled to share another pipe-related image.

This is a screen grab from the 2015 horror-comedy Moose! The Movie, a low-budget indie film written by Tundra cartoonist Chad Carpenter. The dapper gent pictured above is Tom Gammill, creator of the comic strip The Doozies. Tom also has a side gig as a producer for The Simpsons, and he's one of the funniest people on the planet.
Our gig here is to do our best to send little packets of humor out into the world, and hope they bring our readers some levity. Here's our latest batch of comics.
My first sketch of this gag was captioned "Vice Signaling," but the final caption was more effective and satisfying. 
As I write this post, I notice that the character in the bow tie reminds me of the work of Willy Murphy (1936-1976). Murphy, though not as well-known as some of his contemporaries, is one of my favorite underground cartoonists. His writing was sharp and smart, and he directed much of his satiric commentary at the counterculture. His character, Henry Henpeck, suffered some form of humiliation in every story, but in the last panel was always shown describing an imagined triumph to reluctant listeners. This representative page is from the second issue of Murphy's posthumous comic book, Flamed-Out Funnies.
From the Bizarro Studios North Comics Archive

Tuesday's gag grafts together two wildly disparate pop culture references, for a peanut butter cup of humor.
If you have compound eyes, and you look through a kaleidoscope the wrong way, do you see a single image?
I took some good-natured heat from a few banjo aficionados I know, though they clearly recognized this as a joke and not a manifesto. I also pointed out that the character said "practice" rather than "play," and that as someone who plays ukulele, I'm fair game for similar jokes.

I'm fairly certain that this happens regularly.
Let's hear it for lowered expectations. What really hurts is that this is his agent, not his publisher.

That's the weekly wrap-up from Your Obedient Cartoonist. Don't forget to check out Dan Piraro's blog to see what he's cooked up for his always-sumptuous Sunday Bizarro page, and his always fascinating commentary on the week's comics and current events.

Bonus Track

Tell Me Why You Like Roosevelt (Weren't No Kin)
Otis Jackson
Recorded in 1949
Since a new president took office this week, here's a musical tribute to a previous American leader. The sound is so full and complete, it's easy to miss that it's purely vocal, with no instrumental accompaniment.

I first heard this tune on a wonderful LP called "Get Right With God," which was issued in Europe in the early 1980s.
Listeners with more than a passing interest in rock and roll understand that the music has deep roots in Black church music. You don't have to be a religious believer to dig the performances collected on this album. All you need is ears.

NOTE: Some YouTube videos are unavailable outside the US. On some phones you must select "View Web Version" to see the video content.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Under the Weather

Another Saturday has rolled around, and yet again we find ourselves at the end of a head-spinning week of events. The current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue set a record for most impeachments, and we're crossing our fingers that his final exit four days from now will be uneventful.

Since we introduced the Pipe of Ambiguity as Bizarro's new Secret Symbol, I've been seeing examples of pipe imagery on the web. I'm not implying cause and effect, only noting that since the symbol is in the front of my consciousness, pictures of pipes jump out at me.

My dear friend and fellow cartoonist/illustrator Mark Zingarelli recently posted this helpful hint (or "life hack" in today's parlance) on his Facebook page, and naturally I had to share it here.

With all that's been happening in the news, you might have missed some of our recent cartoons, so we're presenting them all in a convenient blog post for your amusement.

Health care professionals have to blow off steam from time to time, just like the rest of us.

He'll soon be leader of the cave village.

Horror writers know to build stories around their readers' fears. This piece features prominently in his literary collection, Tales of Mystery and Catatonia.

This fellow is planning for a future when we can again travel in relative safety. I managed to do a cowboy-themed comic without having the fun of drawing a cowboy. I should have given our would-be tourist a snazzy western shirt.

Friday's gag is a prime example of a cartoonist using humor to help cope with our troubles or fears. In my area of the country, a lot of us may experience seasonal affective disorder. Our winters are usually long, cold, dark, and gloomy. This time around, those meteorological factors are coupled with the fatigue of many months of isolation and self-quarantine (or at least they should be).

When we're able to move about again, I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's photos from their travels, and to reuniting with friends near and far.

One waggish commenter suggested that this comic's protagonist suffered from overexposure to Jimmy Buffett's music. For this listener, there's no safe level of Jimmy Buffet. But that's me. Whatever brings you enjoyment without harming others is fine by me.

And if we're a democracy, how did we get stuck for four years with a mendacious criminal despot? An apian monarchy would have been preferable, but let's hope for an orderly transition to something closer to normal in the coming week. Pincers crossed.

That's the latest from Bizarro Studios North. Thanks for checking in on us. If you're interested in additional comics commentary, you ought to visit Dan Piraro's blog, where you can also admire his latest Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track

Therapy and psychology are recurring themes in our comics, and we certainly believe that humor can be therapeutic. Music offers similar benefits, and a terrific new album that was released this week has been nourishing my soul.

The album is Maquishti, a collection of solo performances on vibraphone and marimba by Patricia Brennan. My copy arrived in Thursday's mail delivery, and it provided my working soundtrack for most of Friday. It’s already a favorite, and I know I’ll return to it often.

Here's a live version of "Sonnet," which is one of the compositions included on Maquishti.

To quote a good friend: Music improves the human condition.

Saturday, January 09, 2021


Well, this year is off to an unfortunately eventful start, isn't it. All I will say about current events at this time is that reliable sources in Hell report that Nixon has been doing cartwheels there since mid-week.

A few readers have mentioned that a significant percentage of my Bizarro gags are cowboy-themed. I recently found some of my elementary school photos, and this one from third grade probably explains a lot.

I insisted that I had to wear that shirt for my school picture. I still believe I made a smart choice.

With the news dominated by cosplaying goons, you may have missed some of the week's comics. For your amusement, we present a handy recap.

For his sixth birthday, he's getting his first corporate directorship.

Remember when narcissists were relatively harmless figures of fun?

They do things the old-fashioned way at Dodge City General Hospital.

By the way, medical research has found that biting down on a leather strap is much more effective than biting a bullet.

Some of the windowsills show signs of waif damage, and the seller failed to disclose that the previous owner was murdered by a pair of drifters.

He needs reading glasses for closeup work, be can see far out just fine.

Sometimes when we cartoonists brainstorm topics for humor, we come up with more than one usable joke. That happened to me a couple of months ago, when I wrote two gags riffing on the phrase "memory foam mattress." The first one ran on December 28, and the other was published today.

Had I found four more variations, I might have run an entire week of memory foam gags.

Thanks to all for reading Bizarro, and for your comments and email. Be sure to visit Dan Piraro's blog, to see what he's cooked up for Sunday's comics page. It's a real beaut this week, and he also offers some solid commentary on the horrible news of the week.

And if you're not reading Dan's surreal western graphic novel, Peyote Cowboy, what are you waiting for? The art is stunning, and he's already twenty episodes into the wild and woolly storyline.

See you next week. Until then, be nice to yourselves and to each other, and don't follow fascists.

Bonus Track

Allen Toussaint
Who's Gonna Help a Brother Get Further

Allen Toussaint (1938-2015) was an American musician, songwriter, arranger and record producer, and a key figure in popular music worldwide. I saw him perform a few times, and was always impressed by his gentle nature and humility. His music is in heavy rotation in my workspace.

Note: Some YouTube videos are unavailable outside the US, and on some mobile devices, it may be necessary to select "View Web Version" in order to see the video.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

The Pipes Are Calling

Happy New Year from Bizarro Studios. Congratulations for making it through what felt like the longest twelve months of the 21st Century. Let's hope things improve this year.

Scan courtesy of the B. London Archives

For your amusement, we present a review of our final gags of 2020.

It's clearly time to replace that mattress.

Although this gag was built on a simple pun, the layout, requiring four word balloons and a caption box, proved to be a little tricky. I also discovered that I have a lot of difficulty typing the word "eucalyptus." Fortunately, it doesn't come up often, only when I text my koala friends.

The latest example of the streptonym, a favorite form of worldplay at Bizarro Studios North.

The final comic of December included two sticks of dynamite tucked into the art, including the rarely-seen peppermint twist variant.
We kicked off 2021 with the official debut of Bizarro's new Secret Symbol: The Pipe of Ambiguity. I'm enjoying placing it into the art, but we probably won't add any more symbols in the foreseeable future. We have enough to keep track of as it is.

Perhaps the blowhard who spent the last four years promising a "phenomenal" replacement for the ACA was expecting extraterrestrials to miraculously deliver it. It wouldn't be the most outlandish idea he's floated.

Thanks for sticking with us as we send our words and pictures out into the world. We hope they provide a daily distraction and an occasional laugh. Please check out Dan Piraro's blog for his always-pithy commentary, and his newest Sunday Bizarro page. 

Also, if you enjoy beautifully-drawn, surreal western adventures (and who doesn't?), you going to love Dan's graphic novel, Peyote Cowboy.

Photo Credit: A tip of the old porkpie to my good pal (and longtime comics hero) Bobby London, for the photo at the top of the post.

Bobby recently shared this scan of a TV Junior magazine from his childhood. It's his personal copy, ink stains and all, which he's held onto since 1959. When I saw it on Bobby's Facebook page, I immediately stole downloaded it. 

The upside-down image of Heckle & Jeckle caught my eye, showing them to be ancestors of Bizarro's own Inverted Bird.

Bobby is currently hard at work on The Essential DIRTY DUCK, to be published by IDW. 

In addition to collecting his long-running strip from the pages of National Lampoon and Playboy, the book will include a biography of the artist and some other surprises. It's already on my wish list. Bobby is one of the giants, and it's gratifying to know Dirty Duck is getting a proper book collection.

Bonus Track

Our closing tune has no connection to any of the week's comics. It's just a goofy record that I love.

This 1968 single is the only known release by the Family Frog. I've never located any information as to who's responsible for this oddball gem. It may simply have been a bunch of studio players having fun between takes, imitating Bob Dylan singing a Beatles song.

Courtesy of the Bizarro Studios North Vinyl Archive

I first encountered this humorous version of "Help!" on a Bonzo Dog Band bootleg LP released in 1976. For years I thought it was a rare Bonzos outtake, but it was only a bit of mischief perpetrated by whoever issued the bootleg album.