Saturday, April 24, 2021

Innocent Until Proven Goofy

Hello again from scenic Hollywood Gardens, PA. Before we jump into our review of the latest Bizarro dailies, here's this week's Pipe Pic, featuring comic genius Harvey Kurtzman.

 
Among Kurtzman's many achievements, he was the founding editor, and the main writer for the first 28 issues of MAD. He's responsible for inspiring generations of wisenheimer cartoonists. This image was his author photo from the seventh issue of Kurtzman's post-MAD publication, Help!
 

After posting last week's blog entry, I doodled the final page in my most recent sketchbook. I then started a new one with my usual ritual: numbering the pages with a rubber stamp, putting a "please return" notice on the first sheet, and attaching a pocket of pens and pencils to the front cover. I've filled an average of one sketchbook per year over the past three decades.


 
These books will never be exhibited as works of art, or reprinted for collectors to study. They're just part of my daily work routine, serving as repositories for words, phrases and images that might lead to finished cartoons. I carry one with me just about everywhere, to capture any potential gag ideas. My colleague Hilary Price (Rhymes with Orange) refers to these potential comic concepts as "kernels," an apt descriptor.

Most of their pages would be meaningless to anyone else, but these volumes provide a comforting sense that I've documented a few unformed ideas, and will have a starting point when it's time to write a new batch of gags. They're this cartoonist's security blankets.


With that digression out of the way, let's review this week's comics.

 

At this point, she's just flapping it in.


A reflection on perspective, acceptance, and letting go.

 

 
I wonder if this may have been a childhood nickname. 
 
 
The gang's other members are Dopey and Daffy, animated mugs who were also saddled with unfortunate names. A friend commented that I made the perp look "simultaneously clueless and sinister." That may be, but I simply tried to draw the character as accurately as I could. Now those two qualities are all I can think of when looking at him.

Veterinary psychologists have found that this situation is a common feline dream. Unlike humans who have nightmares about being in social situations without their pants, cats experience no anxiety or embarrassment upon awakening.

I recently read an article about the artist Ai Weiwei, discussing the joy he gets from being around his cats. He observed:
I’ve learned so much from animals. It’s important to be around another species that has a completely different set of instincts and intuitions. Humans are so rational. We are defined by our knowledge, and that blocks our emotions and understanding of ourselves. But anyone who opens their mind or heart to cats can experience something that can’t be found in human society. They teach you that you can have a happy life without knowing anything at all. They take care of themselves, and they make their own fun. To be an individual, to be self-content — those are nice qualities for a life.

We can all learn from our feline companions.

The monster's not a bad sort, he's just frustrated about the way his warmest sweaters end up all stretched out.

That covers it for another Bizarro week, folks. Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's weekly blog for his thoughts on these gags and other, more weighty matters. While you're there, you can also admire his latest Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track (with Commentary)

I've shared musical selections by the Bonzo Dog Band several times in the past. They were a significant influence on my misfit teenage psyche, and I still listen to their records today.
 
Courtesy of the Bizarro Studios North vinyl archives
 
I recently rediscovered a folder of music columns I wrote in the late twentieth century. Unsurprisingly, one was an appreciation of a Bonzos record. My words follow the video link below.
 


Passport to Absurdity:

The Bonzo Dog Band’s The Intro and the Outro

 

"Hi there, nice to be with you, happy you could stick around, like to introduce Legs Larry Smith, drums." 

 

So begins "The Intro and the Outro," to my mind the quintessential Bonzo Dog Band recording. After naming the seven Bonzos over a vamp that bears a passing resemblance to Duke Ellington’s "C-Jam Blues", Viv Stanshall introduces "Big John Wayne, xylophone" and the proceedings veer into hilariously ludicrous territory.

 

The British blues-rock craze is deftly emasculated with the line "Over there, Eric Clapton, ukulele" followed by a bar of anemic plinking; a daring move given the era’s worship of guitar-gods, but the bit that still cracks me up is "And looking very relaxed, Adolf Hitler on vibes... Nice!"

 

"Intro," from the Bonzos’ debut album, Gorilla, is sort of an audio analogue to the cover photo of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper (coincidentally released the same year, 1967), with the "actual" band members surrounded by contemporary and historical figures of varying degrees of fame. In contrast to the wax museum feel of the Pepper photo, "Intro" is hyperkinetic. I first heard it in the mid-70s, on the double LP, History of the Bonzos, and was so knocked out that I played it several times in succession before listening to the rest of the album. 

 

"Intro" is a powerful and beautiful work, made by enthusiastic young maniacs fresh out of art school, that still sounds original and continues to reveal new joys decades after its creation.

2 comments:

tennisjazz said...

Sketchbooks:

Your books may never be exhibited as works of art, but you must keep them! Some future Ph.D. candidate, likely in Creative Writing or English History or whatever, will make them central to their doctoral thesis about you or about cartoonists' methodologies or whatever, count on it!

Wayno said...

Oh, yes, I’m definitely keeping them. They’re important to me, and I still find gag ideas by flipping through an old volume.

Thanks for your very kind words!