Saturday, August 28, 2021

Dark Waters

This week, we're opening with a pipe pic hat trick, courtesy of Denis Kitchen, by way of FoB Hank E. We have three related photos of an item from Denis's collection.

The first two images are side and top panels of the box containing an official Smokey Stover Screwball Pipe, and the third one shows the actual item. Smokey Stover was a wacky "screwball" comic strip created by Bill Holman (1903-1987), starring a loony firefighter. The strip ran from 1935 until Holman's retirement in 1972. In fact, Holman and his comic will grace us with at least one more pipe pic sometime in the future. He drew hundreds of pipes during his career.

Holman loved puns and nonsense words. He was particularly fond of the word "foo," which was the basis for many puns in his strip, and Smokey often referred to himself as a Foo Fighter.

Here at Bizarro Studios, our humor is less manic than good ol' Smokey Stover, but we love that style too. Here's our own comic output from the past week.

It's best to be honest upfront, to let someone know you're not playing games with them, even when you're playing a game.


This couple wrote their own wedding captchas, although a competent robot could easily beat most humans at this sort of thing.
Certain cephalopods love to prank their friends. Thankfully, a third squid was nearby and snapped a photo for us to use as a reference.

Drawing the ink cloud was a slightly hypnotic exercise, and I felt relaxed when I finished the art. I only wish I'd had the appropriate ink on hand for the project.

The sketchbook preliminary shows that this image presented itself to me fully formed.

I was also pleased with the strip version, which allowed for additional ink-cloud therapy.

The past eighteen months have been an emotional windfall for introverts, and have taught some others that it is possible to enjoy quiet and solitude. Of course, it'd be preferable if we had the choice of gathering or being alone without having to factor in fear of infection by a willfully ignorant segment of the populace.

Their most serious disagreement was over the use of a litter box versus the backyard.

Over the millennia, washing instructions have become more specific but less comprehensible.

That's the latest from my drawing board. Thanks for visiting. Be sure to visit Dan Piraro's blog for additional commentary on these gags, and whatever else is currently occupying his active and curious mind. While you're there, you can also marvel at his latest masterful Bizarro Sunday page.

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Bonus Track

Mose Allison: "Look What You Made Me Do"
from the album I've Been Doin' Some Thinkin' (1968)

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Known as "The Sage of Tippo, Mississippi," Mose John Allison, Junior (1927-2016) is a longtime favorite here at Bizarro Studios North. I was lucky enough to see him perform many times. In the mid-1990s, Mose's daughter attended college here in Pittsburgh, and when he visited, he usually played at a local club. We also traveled to hear him in Georgetown on many occasions, including a particularly memorable New Year's Eve show.

Allison was the subject of one of about 150 portraits I did many years ago as a project for Rhino Records. At a concert in 2001, he graciously signed the original art.

Thanks for the music, Mose.

It's time for me to wrap up this post. My musical trio has a gig to get ready for this evening. We'll be sure to include one of Mose Allison's songs.


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Saturday, August 21, 2021

Infinite Recession

Welcome back to the old blog, Jazz Pickles. We have quite a few extras in store this week, so let's jump right in with a charming pipe pic.

This delightful family photo comes to us courtesy of Bizarro reader (and New Yorker caption contest winner) Paul N, who is one of the children in the picture. Paul's father channels the classic mid-century suburban dad as he poses with his brood while proudly clenching his pipe. In Paul's family, this photo is known as "My Mother the Centaur."

Our sincere thanks go out to Paul for sharing this wonderful image.

Now, we present a review of the visual offerings from the week in Bizarro.

Monday's panel reminds us that human activities can have unexpected and far-reaching consequences.

This gag was well-suited to the strip layout. When I wrote it, I realized that we'd see more of the vehicle in the strip version, so I planned for that when preparing the art.

My original art usually looks quite different from the finished comics. I draw by hand, with ink on paper, but much of what ends up in the published cartoon is created digitally. I normally start with the paper oriented vertically, but I wanted to draw a winder image to accommodate the strip layout, so I turned the paper sideways.

The raw art includes blue and red pencil lines, scribbled dialog, a sequence number (this was the 1,137th drawing since I started as Bizarro's daily cartoonist), and a stamped date to document its completion. All of this stuff is removed later.

I open the scan in Photoshop, clean it up, drop it into a blank panel template, digitally draw whatever else is needed, and add text and color.

That's a quick overview of how Bizarro brand comedy sausage is made.

Tuesday's image and dialog were reverse engineered to illustrate the punny caption. Unsurprisingly, more than a few readers got into arguments on social media about which news organization they imagined I was referring to. As a hint, think of those who claim merely to be offering opinions and asking questions when called out for spreading dangerous lies.

We followed up with an uncontroversial but slightly gross cat joke. The magazine shown is actually called Nip Aficionado, but the full name would have been illegible at a reduced size.

I believe that a measure of silliness is crucial to one's spiritual well-being.

You should, however remove your clown shoes indoors.

A simple idea that turned out to be a bit of a pain to draw. I nearly drew it with the bald spots creating the fractal pattern, but quickly realized that would have been impossible to pull off.

With a week including cats, a clown, and Bigfoot, we scored a trifecta of our favorite comedic subjects. All that's missing is a cowboy. 

Award yourself bonus points if you got the reference on the youngster's t-shirt, or were curious enough to google it.

Thanks for stopping by. Remember to visit Dan Piraro's blog to see what's on his hyperactive mind this week, and to check out his latest magnificent Sunday Bizarro page.

And, since I'm offering links, I also invite you to subscribe to my recently-launched newsletter. Each newsletter provides a link to the latest blog post, and also includes an exclusive look at whatever I'm working on at the time of writing. You can also unsubscribe at any time.

Bushmiller Update

Last week's pipe pic (above) was an isolated panel from a Nancy comic. We never found the complete strip, but FoB (Friend of Bizarro) Hank E alerted us to another Nancy strip using the same punchline.

I know that Bushmiller sometimes recycled comics, because I've seen original art with the date whited out and replaced with a later date. In this case, however, it appears that he drew an entirely new strip for the same gag. 

Thanks to Hank, and to legendary underground comix artist and publisher Denis Kitchen for releasing several book collections of Bushmiller's work. 

In the early 1990s, I was fortunate to see much of my early comics work appear in some of Denis's publications, which was, and remains a thrill.

The strip shown appeared in the Kitchen Sink Press book, Nancy Dreams and Schemes.

Bonus Track

Professor Longhair: "Bald Head"
from the album Crawfish Fiesta
Alligator Records, 1980

Henry Roeland Byrd (1918-1980), better known as Professor Longhair, was a unique and important figure in American music, and was a major influence on many musicians in New Orleans and around the world, including Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, and James Booker. This album was released shortly before his death at age 61.

Everything he recorded is worth a listen.

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On some mobile devices, you must select View Web Version
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The blog and newsletter are always free,
but gratuities are welcomed.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Art & Commerce

I hope you survived Friday the 13th without incident. This week, we endured a brief, intense heatwave here in Hollywood Gardens, as well as several rounds of heavy rains and some impressively scary thunderstorms. Thursday evening, I uploaded the latest batch of Bizarro comics files just before a power outage hit. The gods were smiling on Jazz Pickles that night.

This week's pipe pic was drawn by Nancy cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller. I found this isolated panel on a Tumblr feed, and I'd guess that the gag involved a misunderstanding about smoked salmon. The image looks to have been scanned from the original art, as evidenced by the yellowing halftone screen film on Pee Wee's shirt.

Following in Ernie's footsteps as best we can, here's our latest bunch of funnies.

Nitrous oxide can be mildly hallucinogenic, casting doubt on the existence of the Enamel Angel.

Some crime scenes are rife with negative energy. Fortunately, agents assigned to the Chi Files are at the ready to balance the vibrations.
The times they are a-changin', and it's more difficult than ever to predict a new low. This manuscript was just completed a month ago. Fortunately, savvy marketers are able to adapt.
As someone who enjoys bleu cheese, I hesitated to use the word "moldy," but I was running out of synonyms for "rotten."

Friday's gag may have required a bit of work from readers, but rest assured it was also work for the cartoonist. We noted a couple of comments saying things like Speak English!, which might have been meant as a joke, but it's difficult to be sure. We make no apologies for assuming a healthy sense of curiosity in our audience. 

An invisible fence can be configured as a crate, but it's only effective with certain breeds. The outfit and makeup are optional, and a tip jar sometimes helps.


In last week's post, I mentioned that I'd spotted a coloring error in one panel.

The comic, of course, had already been released, but I fixed the copy in my archives. If a comprehensive Bizarro library is ever published, the corrected version will, I hope, be included. Undoubtedly, other undiscovered mistakes will surface.

That wraps up another week of laffs from our drawing table. Thanks for checking in.

I always recommend visiting Dan Piraro's blog for thoughtful commentary, informed musings, and a spectacular new Sunday page, but I should also remind you about his ongoing graphic novel, Peyote Cowboy. After decades of delivering knockout punches via single-panel comics, Dan (aka Diego) stretches out with this masterful long-form work. His storytelling and artwork are better than ever, and you can read it all online for free.

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Bonus Track

Phonograph Records
Scott-Textor Productions, Inc.
(Issue date unknown)

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It's been a while since I've shared a record from my vinyl archive. This one is a favorite, and the selection offered could be considered my theme song.

Scott-Textor Productions was a commercial music firm founded by Alan Scott and Keith Textor. Scott (lyrics) and Textor (music) composed several songs for Sesame Street. Textor also co-wrote the theme to Candid Camera, and recorded two great "space age bachelor pad" LPs for RCA's Stereo Action series.

Sounds Sensational (1962) Front Cover

Sounds Sensational (1962) Back Cover (Detail)
photos from the Bizarro Studios North Archives

In 1961 and 1962, RCA released around twenty albums in their Stereo Action series, with wacky arrangements and bouncy stereo effects meant to appeal to suburban hi-fi nuts. The LPs were issued in heavy cardboard covers, each with a die-cut window allowing a peek at a graphic on the inner sleeve. The inner sleeves themselves featured breathlessly nerdy technical notes detailing the microphones used to make the recording, and a "Guide to Listening," with a wordy paragraph describing every song. 

The entire series is interesting, and several of the albums are terrific. I highly recommend Esquivel's Latin-Esque, and Movin' 'n' Groovin' by the Three Suns. They're usually available at bargain prices.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

Yeah, You Rite

Today's post kicks off with a pipe pic from Bizarro CEO (Chief Eyeball Officer) Dan Piraro. It's a groovy shot of self-described "spiritual entertainer" Alan Watts, who Dan mentions as one of his favorite authors of the moment.

I'd heard his name before, but didn't know anything about him. Dan tells me that he was a genius, esoteric, spiritual philosopher from the mid-20th century, and was an Episcopal priest who was thrown out of the church and the first person to bring Buddhism to the West in a way we could understand.

During my childhood I was forced to attend twelve years of Sunday school at an Episcopal church, and I have the perfect attendance pins as souvenirs of my time served. So, I can appreciate someone who was thrown out of the organization, and I'll definitely add Alan Watts to my reading list.

Speaking of reading lists, here's a rundown of the latest shenanigans in Bizarro.

We started the week with a premise that makes as much sense as anything I heard in Sunday school.

The Laughing Cow mascot was already creepy, and I was pleased to find a way to make it even more off-putting by turning it into a bovine-serpent hybrid.

Here at Bizarro Studios North, we love to draw Frankenstein's monster. According to my cartoon database, he's appeared in about 20 gags since I started doing the daily panels in 2018.

Perhaps I'm still stewing because Santa never brought me a Big Frankie model kit.

We reached a meta-plateau on Wednesday, with a clown gag that doesn't actually show a clown. 

The question here is whether the caption refers to the sea creature's pride in appearance, or its favorite item of bedroom furniture.
A scene from the Hasbro Toy Company's in-house production of "Sweeney Todd." 
I just noticed a small coloring error in this panel. Award yourself a Jazz Pickle Eyeball merit badge if you find it. At least I counted the symbols correctly.

Although I never had a Big Frankie model kit, my siblings and I had plenty of Potato Head toys over the years. I clearly recall the cucumber character, and I have a vague memory of a bell pepper sidekick. Please note that this photo includes an impressive addition of three pipes.

We close out this batch with a bon mot from a lesser-known Victorian wit.

This week, we were saddened to learn that the great New Orleans cartoonist Bunny Matthews died on June 1 after an extended battle with cancer.

Bunny Matthews at his home office in Abita Springs, LA in 2016.
Photo by Keith Spera/Times-Picayune

I never met Mr. Matthews, but have enjoyed his work since first encountering it in 1983. He had a wonderful, individualistic drawing style and a sly sense of humor. His comics, particularly those starring Vic & Nat'ly Broussard, showed a deep affection for the quirky inhabitants of his hometown. 

The title of this week's post is taken from the cover of one of Bunny's books.

In 2009, I excitedly snapped this photo of a bread truck adorned with a giant image of Vic and Nat'ly.

Thanks for all the laughs you gave the world, Bunny.
RIP, f'sure.

Bonus Track

Since starting this post with the photo of Alan Watts, I've had the Kinks' song "David Watts" playing in my head. That's how the mind of a music nerd works.

"David Watts" originally appeared on the band's 1967 album Something Else by the Kinks. I love that bit of studio chatter at the beginning, where Ray Davies is heard saying, "Nice and smooth."
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Further Reading
Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog, where he shows off his latest magnificent Sunday Bizarro page, along with thoughts on the week's cartoons and other topics of interest.

Also, please consider subscribing to my free newsletter. It'll deliver a link to my latest blog posts directly to your email inbox, and it always includes an exclusive peek at a work in progress. Of course, you can unsubscribe at any time.

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Thanks for reading our comics and for visiting the blog.
Take care of yourselves, and take care of each other.