Saturday, December 04, 2021

Young Man With a Corncob

This week, Santa made an early delivery to Hollywood Gardens, PA. On December first, I received an email from my brother containing this embarrassing but hilarious pipe pic of your cartoonist. It could easily be titled Portrait of the Artist as a Young Doofus.

Yes, that's me during my brief flirtation with pipe smoking, desperately trying to look cool and failing miserably. At the time, I was a terrible college student, with no interest in the engineering program where I was enrolled. Our urban campus, however, was ideally suited to the underachiever. The main floor of the student union was a huge lounge/cafeteria, with a lunch counter selling six-foot hoagies by the inch, and a couple dozen pinball machines. I spent far more time playing Spin Out than attending lectures.

It was the era before smoking restrictions, and people lit up just about everywhere. My fellow class-cutters and I rode public transportation to campus; our first stop each morning was a tobacco shop called The Briar Bowl, where we'd pool our funds for a pack of exotic imported smokes, and head to the student union for cigarettes, coffee, and multiple games of spades, before buckling down and hitting the pinball tables.

The area also had great little record shops (most of which sold underground comix), cheap restaurants and bars, and funky, overstuffed bookstores. My formal education never stood a chance.

Here's the uncropped print in all its adolescent glory.

Note that we extravagantly ordered the rounded corners. Unfortunately, our primitive camera couldn't capture fine details. I wish the image was clear enough to read those papers on the bulletin board. With the calendar alongside it, my teenage bedroom resembles a prison cell, which wouldn't be totally inappropriate. The following year, when our photographer began his college career, we commuted together by car, and soon learned the secret to maxing out parking meters by stuffing a penny and a pop tab into the coin slots.

I abandoned tobacco not long after this picture was taken, but I'm tickled that the photo has survived.

I like to think that my extracurricular studies prepared me for my eventual career in cartooning. Let's see how that worked out this week. 

Oh yes—I always forget to mention that clicking on any comic panel will link to a larger image.

The forecast for the next few days is occasional paisley with scattered gingham.

I pulled an Alfred Hitchcock move on Tuesday, and cast myself in the panel, along with my bandmates Dave and Tom. I took artistic license in portraying the upside down member of the group, who actually plays piano, not bass. I couldn't fit a piano into the panel, but to be fair, Tom provides the bass lines when we perform. In fact, we've given his left hand the nickname "Mo Bottom."

Speaking of a change in direction, I only had to make minor adjustments to the art to accommodate the strip layout. I think it works pretty well in both configurations.

Wednesday's panel is based on one of Aesop's more controversial fables, about an industrious ant turning away a hungry grasshopper in wintertime. Aesop cast the ant as a hero, but many interpret the grasshopper as a stand-in for artists and their contributions to society.

A friend of mine provided a succinct, perfect comment on this gag: "Everyone's a critic."

The AA battery pays tribute to Robert Crumb's Zap Comix, copying the title logo from Zap number 1. Now, that was an educational text.

I recently wrote several gags featuring "Subject P." Sometimes the writing process bestows extra gifts. We have three in the pipeline, scheduled over the next few months.
An enterprising businessperson finds alternate uses for tools of the trade.

My favorite element is this background figure. In yet another solipsistic indulgence, I drew a decade-old Bizarro comic on the front page, even though no one would know that unless I pointed it out. Oops.

That's the latest from Bizarro Studios North, and thankfully, we're nearing the close of this self-referential entry. Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog, where you'll see a new Bizarro Sunday page, and find out what's occupying his active mind of late. 

I also recommend catching up on Dan's epic graphic novel in progress, Peyote Cowboy. It's a wild and surreal western, which will eventually be published as a physical book, but we can read along online, for free, as it develops.

Bonus Track

Cliff Edwards a/k/a Ukulele Ike
"I'm a Bad, Bad Man"
from Bandit Ranger (1942)

Cliff Edwards (1895-1971) was the voice actor for Pinocchio's insect messiah in the Disney film, and was a popular performer in his own right in the 1920s and 30s. I believe that's a tenor ukulele he's playing in this clip. He was a good musician, but an unconvincing cowboy outlaw.

We have one Ukulele Ike record in our archives. Its cover caricature is a mashup of Edwards himself and Jiminy Cricket.

Ukulele Ike Sings Again
Disneyland Records, 1956
Cover art by Francis Xavier Atencio

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  1. The uke that Cliff Edwards is playing looks too big to be a tenor. I believe it is a baritone.

  2. You’re correct! I was trying to decide if it was a baritone uke or a tenor guitar, and I mistakenly typed tenor ukulele. Thanks for catching that!

  3. That's funny. I have a baritone uke. That started me on 4-strings. I now have 3 tenor guitars. A Blueridge acoustic/electric, an Eastwood Delta 4 (solid-body electric resonator), and a cigar box guitar with a handwound humbucker.

  4. I wonder how the criminal (s) got that stooge to put on the mask and put his feet in the water. I feel like I'm missing something here.

  5. I immediately recognized the style of the Zap battery name as one of my favorite underground comix titles. I still have two or three issues lovingly preserved in the closet. R. Crumb, along with Gilbert Sheldon and Mobius we're some of my favorite cartoonists back in the day. So glad to see you giving a "Hatlo hat tip" to that legacy.