Saturday, September 24, 2022

Fattening Frogs for Snakes

This is the regular dispatch from Bizarro Studios North, where I have been writing and drawing the Monday through Saturday Bizarro comics since 2018. My partner and friend, Dan Piraro, who created Bizarro in the late twentieth century, continues to do the Sunday comic from Rancho Bizarro in Mexico.

Wayno


 
Humor is just another defense against the universe.
Mel Brooks

I open today's entry with an expression of gratitude to all Bizarro readers who contacted papers in the Lee Enterprises group who dropped us along with many other comics. Lee's corporate bosses chose to make a standardized and heavily reduced comics page for all of their seventy-seven newspapers across the US. We're hoping someone up there will listen if enough readers express their displeasure. Meanwhile, we're trying to remain hopeful, and are working on more comics for you.

The quote at the top of this post (attributed to Mel Brooks, but who knows) expresses why we sometimes create jokes about things that scare us of make us uncomfortable. When sources of humor start disappearing, that's a danger to everyone's well-being. So, again, we thank all of you who read and support your favorite comics, whichever ones they may be.


 

Bizarro reader Dave J of Ventura, California sent us this pipe pic, rendered in autumnal colors.

 
The subject is British philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell (1872-1970).
 
This orange image has appeared in several places online, but I've been unable to find a credit for the illustrator who created it. If anyone reading this knows who's responsible for the art, please let me know, and I'll provide proper attribution.

I confess to being unfamiliar with Russell's works, but a search for quotes from his writings made me want to explore further. Here's one that seems rather timely:

The first step in a fascist movement is the combination under an energetic leader of a number of men who possess more than the average share of leisure, brutality, and stupidity. The next step is to fascinate fools and muzzle the intelligent, by emotional excitement on the one hand and terrorism on the other.

Thanks to Dave J for sharing the image, and prompting me to investigate Russell's works.


Now, let's see if any of this week's Bizarro comics might have provided any defense against the universe.

On a positive note, the house is completely free of mice.

Princes were a dime a dozen in those days, but a half-human half-frog could make a decent living in a traveling carnival.
 
Wednesday's dark panel references a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche, although I wasn't familiar with it until after I'd drawn the gag. In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche wrote:
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. 
My favorite aspect of this one was the play on the double meaning of "ruminate."
 
This scene is to be expected when Grandma comes to visit, no matter where you live.

Although I only had to draw half a panel for Friday's gag, the wallpaper pattern eliminated any time I'd hoped to save.
I was particularly pleased with the strip version, with the sheets of wallpaper echoing the look of a multi-panel comic strip. This is as close as I've some to a completely blank image serving as a gag.

Saturday's panel explores an interesting reading of the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution.
 
That's the latest from the Little Shop of Humor at Bizarro Studios North. Thanks for stopping by, and for reading the blog and the comic.
 
Please consider visiting these affiliated virtual locations:

Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog

Wayno's Bizarro Newsletter

Diego Piraro's Peyote Cowboy Graphic Novel


See you next week.

Bonus Track

Clarence Frogman Henry "Ain't Got No Home"
Argo Records single, 1956


Saturday, September 17, 2022

Out of My League

This is the regular dispatch from Bizarro Studios North, where I have been writing and drawing the Monday through Saturday Bizarro comics since 2018. My partner and friend, Dan Piraro, who created Bizarro in the late twentieth century, continues to do the Sunday comic from Rancho Bizarro in Mexico.

Wayno


 
Keep drawing those funny pictures.
Charles M. Schulz

The studio is a bit melancholy today. The National Cartoonists Society is holding their annual Reuben Awards weekend in person for the first time since 2019, and I couldn't make it to Kansas City for the event. I've been an NCS member for many years, and started attending the Reuben weekends in 2013, when it was held here in Pittsburgh.

The awards dinner is always a lot of fun, with everyone dressed in fancy duds, and the workshops are informative and interesting, but the best aspect of the weekend is hanging with colleagues and talking about what we do. We spend every other day of the year working alone at a drawing board and/or computer, and when we get together with others of our tribe, it's refreshing and energizing.

The cartoonist community is friendly, kind, and welcoming. Over the years, I've met and become friends with many artists I've admired since childhood. I miss them all today.

I wish all of the nominees the best of luck, and promise to be there next year, wherever the Reubens take place.

 



This week's pipe pic comes to us from Bizarro reader Antonio F, who snapped this photo of clay pipes at a market in Siracusa, Sicily.

Grazie mille a Antonio! (Thanks, Antonio!)

While I'm moping about missing all of my pals at the Reubens, I suppose we ought to review this week's Bizarro comics.

 
The whole book this story came from could benefit from judicious editing.

 


Sheep's clothing still requires some actual work, so the move to a poodle suit represents evolutionary progress.

 

I like the way this gag works, with the text referring to part of the drawing that you probably don't notice at first glance.


 
On Thursday, we traveled back in time to what may have been the first fly in the soup gag.

 

This twist on the pairing of a grizzled veteran detective with a clueless rookie provided the opportunity to draw a classic New York City Greek-motif coffee cup. I simplified the design, since comics are printed at such a small size in papers, but I think it's recognizable.

 
Here's a closer look.


We ended the week with a Saturday Switcheroo.

 


 

Vanishing Act


Monday morning, Lee Enterprises, a newspaper group which is majority-owned by a large investment firm, stopped running Bizarro and many other comics in their papers. Lee Enterprises owns more than 75 newspapers across the United States.

If you normally read Bizarro in your local paper and found that it wasn't there today, I encourage you to contact the editors and express your disapproval. The most effective catalyst for newspapers to make changes is demand from their readers.

Dan has more to say about this over on his blog.

 


 

Gridiron Graphic

I recently worked on a non-Bizarro project that might surprise our regular readers.

For the second year in a row, the Pittsburgh Steelers football team worked with local artists to create silkscreened posters for each home game, with proceeds from the sales going to local charities. I was asked to design a poster for the home opener, which takes place tomorrow.

CommonWealth Press, a great print shop I've worked with many times in the past curated the project and selected the artists. They're a union shop, and are passionate about printing. They partnered with WorkerBird, a friend and neighbor, who handled the scheduling and getting the designs reviewed and approved.

I know next to nothing about football, but did some homework regarding the team mascots, and filled up the space with iconic Pittsburgh imagery. The signs on the fence in the background feature a Pennsylvania keystone emblem, a "skyscraper" ice cream cone from Isaly's Dairy, the Pittsburgh coat of arms, a steel beam, the Roberto Clemente Bridge, one of the city's funicular "inclines," and a parking chair. The chair is an odd local custom, meant to reserve a parking space, although the practice is not technically legal.

The rubber duck represents a giant floating duck that signaled the opening of the city's Arts Festival several years ago, and the pierogi on the right is one of the area's favorite food items.

CommonWealth printed 200 of the 18" x 24" posters, using five colors of ink, which had to be signed and numbered.

Photo: Karl Roser/Pittsburgh Steelers

After the signing, I visited the team's training facility for a photo shoot with their official photographer. All in all, it was a surreal but pleasant experience. Tomorrow, I'll attend the game itself, to check out the shop where the posters will be sold. There's supposed to be a photo in the printed program, and some sort of announcement during the game. I'll be easy to spot in the stands: just look for the guy who has no idea what's happening on the field. 



 

That's the news from Bizarro Studios North for another week. Thank you for visiting. You might consider viewing these related sites for more of this kind of thing:

Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog

Wayno's Bizarro Newsletter

Diego Piraro's Peyote Cowboy Graphic Novel


See you next week.

Bonus Track

Buck Owens: "Hot Dog"
from the album Hot Dog (Capitol Records, 1988)


Buck first recorded this song in 1956, under the pseudonym Corky Jones, so as not to alienate hardcore country music fans.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Give the Drummer Some

This is the regular dispatch from Bizarro Studios North, where I have been writing and drawing the Monday through Saturday Bizarro comics since 2018. My partner and friend, Dan Piraro, who created Bizarro in the late twentieth century, continues to do the Sunday comic from Rancho Bizarro in Mexico.

Wayno


 
I told people I was a drummer before I even had a set, I was a mental drummer. Keith Moon
I told people I was a drummer before I even had a set, I was a mental drummer.
Read more at https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/drummer-quotes
I told people I was a drummer before I even had a set, I was a mental drummer.
Read more at https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/drummer-quotes
I told people I was a drummer before I even had a set, I was a mental drummer.
Read more at https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/drummer-quotes

It was an unusual week at our Little Shop of Humor. My spouse had some business travel, and I was here holding down the fort. This was the first time we'd been apart for more than half a day since the initial pandemic lockdown. It felt odd being on my own, but I don't think I went feral.

And, because cartoonists know how to have fun, I doubled down on Bizarro and managed to complete two weeks' worth of comics. 

I also had an interesting experience related to a recently completed side gig: a photo session with a professional photographer. One or more of the shots will supposedly turn up on the webs in a few days, and I'll be sure to share. I was a bit disappointed that the photographer didn't say things like "Sell it, baby!"

Our pipe pic for today is a portrait of Georges Simenon (1903 - 1989), a Belgian author who published nearly 500 books. Based on several image searches, he was rarely seen without a pipe in his mouth, but he managed to live to age 86.


He was even shown smoking in his portrait on a postage stamp.
 
A tip of the ol' porkpie to faithful correspondent, Bizarro reader, and pipespotter Andréa D, for bringing this dapper gent to my attention.
 
After the traditional pipe pic presentation, we like to review our most recent batch of cartoons, so let's get to it.
 
Oddly enough, this idea came to me at our local hardware store. Not as a cartoon, but as a service I hoped they might offer.

The guitarist used to play with Sting.
 
A Facebook friend called this one The Big Bad Breath.
 
Thursday's gag probably would have worked with the caption alone, now that I look at it again. My favorite detail is the inverted grounding prong opening to indicate which outlet is speaking.
 
This panel requires the reader to hear the dialog in the mind's ear, and inspired me to place the Keith Moon quote at the top of this post. 
 
Although the trio I make music with isn't a rock outfit, we're all fans of the Who, none of us more than our own drummer, Dave Klug. He's modest about his musical talent, but he regularly stuns us with his skillful and inventive playing.

Our final gag of the week is not autobiographical, but could
easily be.
 
And that covers yet another pile of Bizarro cartoons. Speaking of which, not too long ago, I drew the fifteen-hundredth cartoon since assuming the daily duties in 2018.
 
I store my original art in archival museum boxes to keep everything well preserved. Each box holds 150 pages of comic art (plus some sketches and rejects). When I close the lid on another box, it gives me a sense of completing a step in the ongoing work process. It's one of the rituals that keeps me motivated (that, and a weekly deadline).
 
In another four or five years, the pile will be taller than me. I hope to keep all of the art together, so some future comics scholar might stumble across it and wonder what the hell it's all about.
 
Thanks for dropping by to check things out. Please visit these associated virtual locations at your convenience:

Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog

Wayno's Bizarro Newsletter

Diego Piraro's Peyote Cowboy Graphic Novel


See you next week with even more of this nonsense.

Bonus Track

Tom Waits: "What's He Building"
from Mule Variations (ANTI-, 1999)


Saturday, September 03, 2022

Gag Me With a Spoon

This is the regular dispatch from Bizarro Studios North, where I have been writing and drawing the Monday through Saturday Bizarro comics since 2018. My partner and friend, Dan Piraro, who created Bizarro in the late twentieth century, continues to do the Sunday comic from Rancho Bizarro in Mexico.

Wayno


Although summer officially ends in about three weeks, the Labor Day weekend is when many people feel it's coming to an end. Kids are headed back to school (or have already started), and there's a whiff of autumn in the air.

Since many of you are probably firing up the barbecue and getting in some last-minute celebrating (or work), I'll keep this week's post brief, or at least do my best to stay on topic.

Today's oddball pipe pic was sent by longtime Jazz Pickle and good friend Jeff B. 

We're unable to confirm details, but it's purported to be a 1950s era photo of a beekeeper who was such a nicotine fiend, he smoked on the job. Not only does his protective netting have an opening for a pipe stem, but he also wore a jaunty tweed flat cap.

Thanks to Jeff, whom I have personally seen sporting some impressive headgear himself.

Now, as is our tradition, we review the week in Bizarro.

I showed an early sketch of Monday's gag to my friend and bandmate Tom Roberts to see if he had any suggestions. Tom is a piano player, composer, whistler, singer, historian, archivist, doggy-dad, and so much more. I figured he'd have something to add, and was right.

I wasn't sure if the gag should refer to Mozart, Bach, or someone else. After some discussion and pondering, Tom told me that "Mozart's stuff was already complex as a little kid, so go with Bach." 

I modeled the character in this one on a real person, and got some interesting wild guesses, including Dodo Marmarosa (who was a Pittsburgh-born piano player), and Mehmet Oz (who falsely claims to be a Pennsylvanian).

The drawing is meant to be a caricature of Glenn Gould (1932-1982), a Canadian classical pianist, known for his outstanding performances and recordings of Bach compositions.

His most famous album is probably his 1955 release of Bach's Goldberg Variations, a cycle of 30 compositions. Gould recorded them again in 1981.

My knowledge of classical music is laughably inadequate, but I know what I like, and Gould is a favorite here at the cartoon studio.


I recently ran across a reference to distraction therapy, which is a technique for helping patients manage pain, anxiety, or nausea, or to kick unwanted habits, such as smoking. For the comic, we took that idea to an extreme.

This strip is formatted vertically, because I wanted to show the entire image of the person juggling while riding a unicycle.

The art needed more tweaking than usual, but I was happy with the result.

Quite a few people found this one to be nauseating. If it's any consolation, I almost barfed while drawing the "kiddie pool" portion.

Once again, I tip my fedora to J.C. Duffy, creator of The Fusco Brothers, and king of fly in the soup comics.


Thursday's panel features the world's most efficient carny booth.

 
I'm embarrassed to admit that it's been over a month since my last clown gag.

Literally.

That's the type of humor we foisted on an unsuspecting public this week. Check in next time for robots, insects, the Big Bad Wolf, a kid with a report card (already?), and talking inanimate objects.

Don't forget to visit these fine resources, which I've described too many times in the past:

Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog

Wayno's Bizarro Newsletter

Diego Piraro's Peyote Cowboy Graphic Novel


Thanks for the attention of your eyeballs and brain. Your readership and support are the reasons we do whatever it is we're doing here.

Bonus Track

Jonathan Richman: "That Summer Feeling"
from Jonathan Sings (Sire Records, 1983)




Saturday, August 27, 2022

Copycat Crime

This is the regular dispatch from Bizarro Studios North, where I have been writing and drawing the Monday through Saturday Bizarro comics since 2018. My partner and friend, Dan Piraro, who created Bizarro in the late twentieth century, continues to do the Sunday comic from Rancho Bizarro in Mexico.

Wayno



Inspiration has always been born of recombination.
Gary Panter

Greetings once again from Hollywood Gardens, PA, the home of Bizarro Studios North. The above quote is taken from Gary Panter's 1980 essay, The Rozz-Tox Manifesto. I first encountered Rozz-Tox in a Ralph Records mail order catalog, and subsequently reprinted it (with Panter's permission) in Shake & Pop!, a music zine I co-published at the time.

We've talked about originality, inspiration, and creativity on the blog in the past, and will touch on them again today, but not before the traditional sharing of a pipe pic.

This one is a drawing by my Bizarro partner Dan Piraro, from his brilliant ongoing graphic novel, Peyote Cowboy.

PeyCow is a surreal adventure in a magical version of the old west. The artwork is brilliant, and the storyline is fascinating and original

I didn't tell him I was using a clip from Peyote Cowboy as this week's pipe pic, but I'm pretty sure he won't mind.

Now that we've set an unattainably high artistic bar with Dan's art, let's plummet back to Earth with a look at my recent comics.

I enjoy drawing pirates as much as clowns, cowhands, and cave dwellers, but need to find a synonym for "pirate" that begins with the letter c.

I must confess to taking a bit of pride in placing the O2 Secret Symbol on the captain's log document.

I've done a fair number of gags featuring floating ghosts draped with a sheet. Every time, I imagine it being one I can draw quickly, and then spend more time on it than any other panel for the week. In this case, I kept tweaking the pattern on the bandana.

Wednesday's comic raises the topics of originality and inspiration, with a reference to pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, who famously made paintings that were meticulously copied from comic book panels. Lichtenstein reproduced the work of poorly-paid, living artists while he became wealthy off their appropriated images.

In a 2007 interview, Art Spiegelman commented," Lichtenstein did no more or less for comics than Andy Warhol did for soup."

Russ Heath (1926-2018) created many of the panels that Lichtenstein copied for his paintings, and struggled financially throughout his life. In 2014, Heath did a comic about being a source for Lichtenstein's art, and some financial help he received from an organization called the Hero Initiative.

One can understand, appreciate, and support the concept of transformative fair use, which involves using an original work for purposes of criticism, satire, or education, or that builds upon the previous work, but it can at times be murky and ambiguous. 

If I were Russ Heath, I'd have hated Lichtenstein's guts, too.

For my comic, I researched photos of Lichtenstein to try to capture what he may have looked like as a young child. I found an early photo to work from, and was fairly happy with the result.

This reminded me of a page I created in 1993 for Heavy Metal magazine. I played with the idea of fine art created from "low" art, with a fictionalized version of myself as an unsuspecting outsider whose work inspired well known artists.

I used Howie Patterson, a character from my self-published minicomix as the subject of four imagined paintings.

The pieces parodied the art of (clockwise from top left) Andy Warhol, Mary Fleener (a good friend and a great cartoonist), Keith Haring, and Robert Williams. 

Click on the images for a closer view of the page and the introductory text.

The Heavy Metal page was a reversal of minicomix I published under the title Mondo Howie, where I invited fellow cartoonists to draw their own versions of the character.

This page was done by Michael Roden (1952-2007), a prolific minicomix artist, and one of my old self-publishing pals.

As someone who often uses pop culture references and familiar characters and images as comic fodder, I try to follow the legal and ethical guidelines of transformative fair use. I'm also constantly amazed (and angered) by the outright theft of cartoons all over the web, enabled by digital technology and the enormity of the internet.

With that extensive digression aside, we return to our usual review of the week in Bizarro.

That lowercase anarchy symbol is a dead giveaway.

This is what's known as "dropping knowledge."

Also, I know that lemmings don't actually jump off cliffs en masse. It's a familiar myth, and serves as a handy metaphor for some aspects of human behavior.


This batch concludes with my latest inanimate object comic, and a reminder that inside, we're all the same.

That's a wrap for this week, amigos. We'll be back next Saturday with more words about words and pictures. I recommend visiting Dan Piraro's blog, where he shares his latest Sunday Bizarro page, and interesting thoughts on other topics. 

You might also consider subscribing to my free newsletter, where I always preview an upcoming gag, along with a piece of art or design from my files.

Bonus Track

The Jam - "Pop Art Poem"
 


"Pop Art Poem" was o
riginally released in February 1981, as a floppy record attached to a British magazine called Flexipop.