Saturday, November 20, 2021

Kaputnik, I Hardly Knew Ye

Greetings from Hollywood Gardens, PA, and welcome to the Bizarro Studios North blogging station, where we review (and occasionally over-analyze) our most recent cartoon output.

In last week's post, I mentioned that the vast majority of pipe pics I find on the web are of men in stiff, "serious author" poses. Here's the perfect example of this type of photo.

MAD cartoonist Dave Berg (1920-2002) had a pipe in his mouth in nearly every known photo and drawing of him, or of his comic alter ego, Roger Kaputnik. Berg's most famous creation was the feature "The Lighter Side Of..." Each installment included a series of strips on a particular topic, such as water, television, finances, relationships, etc. His drawings were quite well done, and often employed accomplished ink washes for a cartoony yet realistic look.

According to some of his MAD colleagues, he was also grandiose and self-important. Fellow contributor Al Jaffee described him as having a moralistic personality. Berg wrote a book called My Friend God, which gave the MAD bullpen plenty of material for razzing him.

Over the years, many readers found his comics had become repetitive, didactic, and stuffy. National Lampoon's 1971 MAD parody included a brutally funny skewering of Berg and his work.

Comic book and TV writer Mark Evanier's blog recounted a cringeworthy (and hilarious) encounter a friend of his initiated with Berg after the Lampoon piece was published.

He may have been a messianic fuddy-duddy, but there's no denying that Dave Berg was a masterful cartoonist, with a career of more than sixty years. I used to make fun of him when I was a smartypants teenager, but I learned from reading his work, too.

Let's see how well (or badly) I applied the lessons acquired spending countless hours reading MAD.

I kicked off the week with a silly gag, in the longstanding wiseacre tradition of making fun of something I don't quite understand.

The United Cartoon Workers of America requires its members to produce at least one desert island gag per year, so I'm just following the rules to remain in good standing with the union. My favorite incidental detail here was employing the Pipe of Ambiguity secret symbol as a periscope, although I'm sure Popeye did it long before Bizarro.

Wednesday's panel was a bit unusual in that the reader might miss part of the setup (the window sign) until after reading the punchline. We like to delay the payoff for a beat if possible, and I think this approach worked.

Redheaded Wayno & raven-haired J.R. Williams
Encinitas, CA, 1993 • Photo by Mary Fleener

The "Ken" cut wouldn't be my first choice. When it comes to plastic coiffures, I prefer the classic DEVO style.

Internet providers are the only utility that offers no proof that they've delivered the level of service you're paying for, and rates paid by different customers for the same "product" can vary wildly. Their plans all offer speeds "up to" a particular level, but no guarantee as to how often, if ever, they actually reach that particular speed. For the comic, I applied that standard to a tangible product.

When I look at the gag today, having written and drawn it months ago, it's my least favorite in this batch. It feels a little cranky, perhaps even, dare I say, Dave Bergian?

On the other hand, I'm still quite happy with Friday's panel, which combines two of my favorite subjects: cowboys and music. Three, if you count cowboy music. My mind's ear hears the cowpoke speaking in the languid voice of Sam Elliott as "The Stranger," in The Big Lebowski.

Saturday's panel provided an opportunity to create a new variant of the Flying Saucer of Possibility secret symbol. The version in this context is canonically possible, as both Cap'n Crunch and Quisp cereals are made by the Quaker Oats company.

That's the latest from Bizarro Studios North. As always, I thank you for reading Bizarro and visiting the blog. Speaking of blogs, Dan Piraro's weekly post is well worth reading, both for his commentary and for his glorious, widescreen Sunday page.

Bonus Track

Bing Crosby, with Victor Young and Orchestra
My Little Buckaroo
From Home on the Range
Decca LP DL8210, 1956
(Recorded in 1937)


A sentimental cowboy tune by singer, actor, and frequent pipe-smoker Bing Crosby, digitized by your cartoonist from a scratchy LP. All it needs is electric guitar and wah-wah.


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  1. The National Air and Space Museum posted a picture of astronomer Edwin Hubble today, to mark his b'day (1889). The iconic pipe immediately made me think of you and your campaign to push for pipiness generally.

  2. I was always Team Quisp in the Quisp vs Quake question. In fact, back in 2004, my best friend Brian commissioned comic artist Patrick Owsley to draw me a Quisp portrait.

    1. I'd love to see your commissioned Quisp portrait sometime.

  3. I didn’t get the “Ken” haircut joke until you explained it. I unconsciously saw “Barbie Shop” but my brain corrected it to “Barber Shop”.

    1. Our brains often play tricks like that on us.

  4. Loving the Riff Raff reference in the Currency gag!
    Reminds me of the Frank scene in MIB - as well of course to creator of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
    Well done!

  5. I'm embarrassed to say I didn't catch the barber shop window gag until you pointed it out here, and I'd already seen it once on Dan Piraro's blog! Well done, maybe the funniest gag in that cartoon.

    1. Don't be embarrassed! I'd hoped it would work that way.