Saturday, July 31, 2021

May I Have Another?

Greetings once again from Hollywood Gardens, PA, the home of Bizarro Studios North. 

We're about halfway through the summer season, and the cautious optimism of Independence Day is already giving way to a possible resumption of existential dread. We'd like to offer a brief, harmless escape from the raging lunacy of the world by presenting our latest cartoon output for your enjoyment.

But first, here's this week's pipe pic. It's a portrait of novelist and screenwriter Raymond Chandler, and was brought to our attention by a regular Bizarro reader named Andréa.

Chandler created hardboiled Detective Philip Marlowe, who appeared in a series of novels, including The Big Sleep; Farewell, My Lovely; and The Long Goodbye. Many photos show Chandler with a pipe, and this one is a particularly striking composition. Thanks to Andréa for the alert.

Chandler became a writer at age thirty-four, after losing his job as an oil company executive in the Great Depression, which should serve as an inspiration to all of us late-blooming escapees from the corporate world.

Some gems of wisdom apply across the universe.

I enjoyed drawing a pair of Klein bottles in this panel. According to Wikipedia, a Klein bottle is "a non-orientable surface: it is a two-dimensional manifold against which a system for determining a normal vector cannot be consistently defined." Who am I to argue with that? 

I first heard the term mentioned on the Firesign Theatre's 1972 album, Dear Friends.

The album includes a parody of sci-fi adventure serials, titled Mark Time! In the segment, an excitable character voiced by Philip Proctor proclaims:
Prince Arcturus has us by the thrusters! With you as bait, half the Federation Navy's gonna come blastin' in, and the Prince’ll have 'em trapped like Mars flies in a Klein Bottle! 

I've mentioned here before that the Firesign Theatre had a profound effect on my sense of the absurd, when as a misfit high schooler, I listened to their seminal Columbia LPs countless times on my cheapo Lloyd's brand stereo console.

Tuesday's panel showed a highly motivated consumer from the olden days, when people worked together in offices.

Newspapers that publish Bizarro in its strip format received one of our infrequent sideways strips, which we've rotated here for easier reading.

The fun-loving monastics of Alpha-Omega House love to initiate new members. Many of our readers noted that the third brother from the left was modeled after John Belushi. In fact, all four characters were loosely based on actors who appeared in Animal House. Left to right, the inspirations are Bruce McGill ("D-Day"), Stephen Furst ("Flounder"), Belushi ("Bluto"), and James Widdoes ("Hoover").

A word of advice: Don't argue semantics with a beast who can lock its jaws on your forearm.

Our second cinematic homage of the week references one of Gene Wilder's most beloved roles, and reveals the origin of his surname.

To be fair, the cleric was using the Penance app to keep things fair for all parishioners.

That's the recap for this week, dear friends. Stop by Dan Piraro's blog for more comics commentary and other edification. While you're there, pause to admire his latest magnificent Sunday page.

Take care of yourselves, and each other.

Bonus Trailer

Farewell, My Lovely (1975)
Starring Robert Mitchum as Philip Marlowe

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Bonus Painting

Robert Mitchum (2007)
Acrylic on Masonite, 12" x 12"



Saturday, July 24, 2021

Spare Parts

Welcome back to the blog, Jazz Pickles. I'm starting this post with a pipe pic featuring someone I've met in person: the great R&B singer Barrence Whitfield.

© Bloodshot Records, 2013

Mister Whitfield is a deeply knowledgeable music historian, and has been making his own music since the mid-1980s. He's the most dynamic performer I've ever seen. I had the pleasure of hearing the original lineup of the Savages at a small club in Pittsburgh in 1985, and again, at an even smaller club in 2015.

Your cartoonist with Barrence Whitfield
Club Cafe, Pittsburgh 8/26/15
Thirty years after that first time, he was more powerful than ever, and put on a show worthy of the largest venue. If you have a chance to hear this man, do not pass it up. And be sure to buy some of his music. You'll thank me.

Now, let's review the week's Bizarro comics to see if any pipes turn up.

Monday's pipe-free cartoon showed a clever crew's innovative mutiny strategy.

I find the creative naming of pups of mixed parentage to be quite amusing. Whatever you call your canine family member is fine with me as long as they are loved and properly cared for. A few weeks ago, I heard one that was new to my ears: "sheepadoodle." I also have a good friend who's a chiweenie. We're all mutts of one sort or another.

My favorite comment on this one appeared on Instagram:

Inaccurate. Mayflies have no mouths.

At least I accurately portrayed their use of social media and their ability to speak English.

The musician in Thursday's panel is famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma. I drew this cartoon back in March, after hearing that he had given an impromptu solo performance at the Massachusetts clinic where he received his second dose of the COVID vaccine. I'd been thinking about his generous gift to others at the clinic, and naturally my cartoonist's brain led me to a silly pun.

My thanks go out to Yo-Yo Ma for inspiring the gag, for sharing his musical talents with the world, and for demonstrating concern for his fellow humans by getting himself vaccinated.

While doing research, I found a lovely quote from Mr. Ma:

Music, like all of culture, helps us to understand our environment, each other, and ourselves. Culture helps us to imagine a better future. Culture helps turn "them" into "us." And these things have never been more important.


This kitten scout has earned the organization's first-ever demerit badge.


Mythical creatures likes mermaids, Sasquatches, or centaurs often provide fodder for gags. I've seen cartoons about mermaids with the human and fish parts switched, but don't recall one about a reverse centaur. Centaurs not only get all four legs from the horse, but also the human's arms, and they're considered to be exotic and sexy. A beast made from the remaining pieces seems like a sad afterthought.

That's the recap of my latest work. Thanks for stopping by, and remember, you can subscribe to my newsletter here, and receive notifications on new blog posts in your email. Each newsletter also includes a peek at something from the drawing board, just for fun.

If you'd can't get enough behind-the-scenes comics talk, don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's Bizarro blog. In addition to commenting on these gags, Dan also shares his latest Sunday page, and he usually has interesting words about any number of unrelated topics. I always feel that I've learned something when I read one of his posts.

Mistaken ID

Last weekend, we visited friends in a nearby town, and I took the opportunity to check out the comics page in their local paper. I prefer reading comics on newsprint, with the imperfections and grit of physical media. 

When I started as Bizarro's Monday through Saturday cartoonist in 2018, my name was added to the feature's byline to reflect that change. The credit in your local paper (one hopes) now reads Bizarro, by Wayno & Piraro.

This particular publication instead created a mashup of our names, crediting the comic to "Dan Pirano."

Another comics panel in the same paper had a byline crediting a cartoonist who has nothing at all to do with that feature, so ours is at least nearly correct.

Bonus Track

Barrence Whitfield and the Savages
"Stop Twistin' My Arm"
from the album Ow! Ow! Ow!
(Rounder Records, 1987)

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Saturday, July 17, 2021

By Any Other Name

Another Saturday has arrived, which means it's time to look back at the latest output from Bizarro Studios North. After we share a pipe pic, of course.
A tip of the Bizarro porkpie to our pal Jonathan Barli, who provided a high resolution scan of this lovely image. Jon wrote, edited and designed The Mad World of Virgil Partch, the definitive book about my all-time favorite cartoonist.
This odd fellow is becoming a semi-regular member of the Bizarro Repertory Company. 

He made an appearance five years ago in my previous comic, WaynoVision.

Tuesday's gag dramatized a moment of interspecies empathy, a quality the human race would do well to emulate, although we have difficulty exhibiting empathy among our own kind.
We featured some granular medical imaging for a Wordless Wednesday gag.

My initial sketch simply substituted a snow globe for an ultrasound viewing screen, which was only slightly amusing. Showing a kid literally building a snowperson inside the globe added a layer of humor, combining logic with absurdity.

We also realized that the ultrasound sensor should properly be placed on the bottom snowball. That mistake would've been embarrassing.

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but Rosie points out that a knuckle sandwich is a heartfelt expression of criticism.
The Batman approach, as applied to the gastropod kingdom.
To wrap up the week, we squeezed one more variation on the glass half empty/half full theme.

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Be sure to visit Dan Piraro's blog, too. He's always got something interesting to talk about, and you can read his latest widescreen Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track

They Might Be Giants: "Snail Shell"
From the album, John Henry (1994)

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Saturday, July 10, 2021

Everybody Snoozes, Nobody Loses

Greetings from Bizarro Studios North, where we're happy, but a little tired. Last night my musical trio gave our first public performance since March 2020, at a local community's street event. One day, we hope to be able to afford roadies. Until then, we have to transport and set up our own sound system, but we know it's not the worst problem in the world.

This week's pipe pic features actor Fred MacMurray (1908-1991), who partly inspired a cartoon this week.

MacMurray was often photographed with a pipe, and as a musician, he  played the most pipe-like of instruments.

Before becoming a single parent on a sitcom, MacMurray enjoyed a long movie career. He appeared in Billy Wilder's classic film noir, Double Indemnity. For Bizarro, we imagined an ovine version, set in New Zealand, where sheep outnumber humans six to one. In our film, the leads were played by Baa Baa Stanwyck and Fred MacMutton. We hear it's popular on EweTube.
Our friends Rina Piccolo and Hilary Price, of Rhymes With Orange, also ran a gag involving sheep on Monday. That was just the first coincidence involving our comics. I later learned that Monday was also the 25th anniversary of the birth of Dolly the sheep, the first mammal cloned from an adult somatic cell.

Tuesday's gag baffled many readers. I received dozens of comments, emails, texts, and phone calls from those who were confused by it. 

The premise was simply that the clever mice had cut a tall hole in the wall, making the household cat think that extra large mice had moved in. The joke failed to land for a lot of readers.
I'm now thinking that I probably should have drawn the opening in the shape of a large, musclebound rodent. Perhaps I'll redo this one some day.
We offered a less mystifying scene on Wednesday, with one of our favorite character pairs: a ventriloquist and a dummy. 
It occurs to me that they each may have been looking at the other's chart.
We love to draw clowns, even more than dummies. When we manage to place a clown, in a poop joke, without words, it's a trifecta of cartoonist enjoyment.
We took advantage of the strip's landscape layout to put the balloon dog at the end of a longer leash.

Friday was Streptonym Day here at the studio, and we paid tribute to a genre of music we often listen to while working.

Saturday's panel was built on the idea of ghosts addicted to "spectral media," which didn't feel like it was (trans)substantial enough to make a gag. The youngster's response, however, added another dimension and completed the joke.

That's the latest roundup from me. Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog for his thoughts on these comics (as well as other topics), and to admire his latest Bizarro Sunday page.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you're all cool, safe, and well.

Bonus Track

"That Mellow Saxophone"
Roy Montrell and His Band
Specialty Records, 1956

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Saturday, July 03, 2021

Front Roe Seat

It's the eve of America's Independence Day holiday, and I'm slowly getting used the the idea of moving about freely in society. I'm not there 100% yet, but am enjoying seeing friends after so long, and we even ventured out to dine in an actual restaurant. We hope you're enjoying newly-restored personal freedoms, too.

We scoured the internet to find a suitable July 4th pipe pic, and think that this one works nicely.

I'd never seen this side of Uncle Sam before. He impressively holds a pipe in one corner of his mouth while blowing smoke out the other side, all without smearing his cherry red lipstick.

Before you assemble your pyrotechnic display for tomorrow night, perhaps you'd like to review this week's Bizarro comics.

As one of three highly competitive siblings, I grew up with this mealtime blessing:

In the name of the father, son, and holy ghost
Whoever eats the fastest gets the most.

I've fought against my speed-dining impulse since adolescence, and this comic served as a reminder to slow down.

I have only rudimentary knowledge of superhero comics, and had to do some research to figure out who I could draw as members of this team and what they look like. I was scolded by some readers for leaving out their favorite character, and others complimented me for including ones they liked. The most interesting comment read:

Bro the Wally west is so wrong in his kid flash costume he didn’t have a white emblem it had just the red lighting

Apparently this stickler for accurate comic book visuals isn't as strict regarding punctuation and capitalization.

If we did half of everything we claim during our medical exams, we'd be in great shape. My suspicion is that more people fudge the truth when their doctor asks how many alcoholic beverages they have in an average week, but I'm too tipsy to look up the data to support that hunch.

At Bizarro Studios we'll stop at nothing to set up a pun.

Friday's gag is my favorite of the week, and also my favorite of the year so far. When I sent my sketch to Dan Piraro, his review was: 

It’s hilariously and uncomfortably sexy, but not. Very strange.

That told me that I had something in this one.

I wrote and drew this panel back in March. The other day, I was searching the web for a drawing by my cartoon hero Virgil Partch. I remember seeing a self-portrait he'd done that would be an excellent pipe pic for the blog. I couldn't find a decent of that, but I ran across a mermaid cartoon by the master; one that's much naughtier than mine.

It's likely that I'd seen this comic sometime in the past, and I'm relieved  that my gag is different from VIP's, but it shows his strong influence on my work.

Oh, the problems faced by the privileged class.

Unfit for Print

Here's a comic we decided not to run, when some potential concerns were brought to our attention.

After we sent in the files for an upcoming week, our hardworking editors at King Features alerted us that the image might be viewed as a representation of domestic violence. They noted that domestic violence against men is an issue that often goes unreported.

My intention was to poke fun at the sport of mixed martial arts with a punning caption, and it hadn't occurred to Dan or me that it could appear that we're making light of a real-life social problem. Our editors suggested some ways the art might be changed to make the joke work, but after some discussion, we (Dan and I) decided to drop this panel and put another one in its place.

I've self-rejected tons of gags for various reasons, and usually get them weeded out early in the process. This is the first time I've dropped one after the art has been completed. Initially it bothered me, but I realized that since taking over the daily duties, I've done about 1,200 comics, and ditching one out of that number is a good success rate. It tells me that I've dumped most the stinkers early.

Although we chose not to run this in syndication, we decided to share it here on the blog, and hope that by providing context for the joke, it doesn't cause anyone discomfort.

As a relatively new syndicated cartoonist, I was impressed that the decision about this panel was left to the creators. Our editors offered insight and suggestions, but never once told us what we should do. I depend on them every day to spot typos or correct miscounted symbols, and this week I gained a deeper appreciation for what they do on our behalf.

After you've finished reading all of this, you ought to check out Dan Piraro's blog. Dan always has something interesting to say about my latest comics (among other topics), and his Sunday pages are stunning week after week.

Bonus Track

A song for tomorrow, performed by X.

"Fourth of July" was written by Dave Alvin of the Blasters, another great American band.

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Thanks, and have a safe holiday weekend.