Saturday, January 29, 2022

We Are the Walrus

Greetings from frigid Hollywood Gardens, PA, the home of Bizarro Studios North. Temperatures dropped to single digits over the past few nights, but I stayed warm beneath the desk lamp on my drawing table.

Today's blog entry includes some excellent contributions from Bizarro readers, so without further introductory blather, we'll proceed directly to a music-related pipe pic.

This photo of musician, songwriter, singer, and record producer R. Dean Taylor (1939 - 2022) was brought to my attention by Bizarro reader Dave J. The photo above appeared in an obituary in the Ontario edition of the Globe and Mail newspaper. Taylor's name was only vaguely familiar to me as someone in the music business. I learned from the obituary and further research, that he was a significant figure in the history of music, particularly with Motown Records and their subsidiary label, Rare Earth Records.

One of his most impressive credentials was co-writing with Motown's prolific hit-making team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland. He had a few minor hits as a singer, most notably, "Indiana Wants Me," a story song about an escaped criminal being tracked by the authorities, and he co-wrote "Love Child" for Diana Ross & the Supremes.

Thanks to Dave J for the lead on this photo, and for broadening my musical education by prompting me to look into the accomplishments of R. Dean Taylor.

We created a few pictures of our own, and added some words, in hopes of producing laughs. Shall we see if any succeeded?
Monday's panel includes what may well be our first French/English bilingual caption. The customer is shown paying with a five diego bill, which is scrip issued by Rancho Bizarro for all employees. It's only accepted at the Bizarro company store, so the vendor probably canceled this transaction.

Tuesday's panel was a rare Bizarro gag containing no secret symbols. I felt that with the minimalist drawing in this one, the presence of an eyeball or UFO would distract from the joke. Besides, everyone deserves an occasional day off. 

Before their career change, neighbors constantly complained about the horrible noise.

After nearly two years of locking down at home, many of us can relate to the walrus's seen-it-all attitude. I'd initially named the character "The Walrus of Indifference," but couldn't fit in into the caption box.

Rick Bach, a Pittsburgh-born artist whose work I've admired for many years, suggested that these two might enjoy a bucket of KFC (Kentucky Fried Clams). I wish I'd though of that.

In the past, prank phone calls were something of an underground art form. Today, we're constantly pranked by scammers who can spoof caller IDs as they attempt to steal personal information. It makes one nostalgic for the old "Is your refrigerator running" calls.
Prank telegrams delivered a delayed payoff, and posed a danger to messenger boys.

When you know you've moved to the perfect neighborhood.
That wraps up the latest batch of cartoons. I hope you enjoyed at least some of them. 
Be sure to visit Dan Piraro's blog for additional commentary, and to scope out his always-groovy Bizarro Sunday page.

We'll close as usual with an appropriate musical selection, but first, we have another reader contribution for your viewing pleasure.

Tattoo You

A few days ago, a California art lover known as "Boom Boom" tweeted a photo of their new tattoo, which is based on a 2021 Bizarro comic.

This body decoration boasts four secret symbols, and looks a little tender. I'm flattered that someone wants to wear something I've drawn for the rest of their life. Thanks to Boom Boom for sharing the photo and enduring the pain of adding the cartoon to their body. Sorry for all that shading.

The original comic had five secret symbols. Can you spot which one's absent from the tat?

Bonus Track

The Supremes: "I'll Turn to Stone"
Motown Records, 1967

Composed by R. Dean Taylor with Holland-Dozier-Holland.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Mediterranean Twist

Last weekend, the climate gods gifted us with eight inches of snow over a twenty-four hour period. We did three smaller shoveling sessions rather than wait for the huge job when the storm ended. Other parts of the northeast were hit harder, and so we were grateful to have had a manageable cleanup. After an hour's workout in sub-freezing temperatures, that first cup of coffee in a warm kitchen tasted mighty fine.

Of course, we wouldn't let a little snow interfere with our production of comics, or stop us from finding a pipe pic to share with you.

One of my recent posts included an old print ad for Pabst Blue Ribbon beer featuring the artist James Montgomery Flagg. It was one of a series of PBR ads carrying endorsements from artists, authors, actors, and sports figures, including this image of character actor and big galoot William Bendix, posing with a beer, a sandwich, and several pipes.

Bendix (1906 - 1964) was best known for the 1940s radio sitcom The Life of Riley, which was  adapted as a television series in the 1950s. Chester Riley was an early example of TV's bumbling father figures. His catchphrase, "What a revoltin' development this is!" entered the popular lexicon.

Although Bendix is mostly remembered for the comedic Riley, he was also an accomplished dramatic actor.

He played a gangster's sadistic henchman in the 1942 film noir, The Glass Key. In one scene, Bendix's character administers an extended, brutal beating to the protagonist played by Alan Ladd that's still difficult to watch eighty years later. Supposedly, during the filming, Bendix accidentally landed a punch and knocked Ladd unconscious.

One of my paintings for a 2008 art show was based on that scene, and was also used for the exhibit poster.
If you have an opportunity to see The Glass Key, I recommend checking it out, although you might close your eyes during the scene described above.

I don't think there's anything in our latest comics that might make you squeamish, but let's take a look to be sure.

These two finally realized that they could profit by working together. BB blows down the straw and stick houses, and the practical foreman builds a brick structure. 

The Infinite Monkey Theorem, in comic form. The probability isn't zero, but it's close enough.

The passenger was doing research for his upcoming book, The Stock Market for Dummies.

Some forms of voodoo cause confusion rather than pain.
My limited familiarity with opera comes almost entirely from Warner Brothers cartoons. Being of Italian heritage, I really ought to know and appreciate more about this art form. For the most part, I enjoyed the few operas I've attended, although I must admit that during The Barber of Seville, I was waiting for Bugs Bunny to shave Elmer Fudd's beard using a tiny lawnmower.

In decades past, most people had at least a passing familiarity with operatic plots and music, which is why they were regularly referenced in popular entertainment like animated cartoons, and even TV commercials.

I knew that some readers might not get a gag based on an opera, but figured this was accessible enough, with its pun on a title most people have at least heard mentioned. Plus, the opera is about a troupe of clowns, and I rarely miss an opportunity to draw a clown comic.

I liked this one enough to schedule it for a Friday, which is where I normally place the strongest gag of the week.

Although I'm happy with the panel, I somehow managed to leave the caption box off the strip version, leaving a joke with no punchline.

I was unaware of this error until a reader pointed it out online, for which I am grateful, although my embarrassment is at least equal to my gratitude. Here's the corrected strip.

My apologies to all readers who saw the strip and were left scratching their heads. It wasn't you, it was me!

Saturday's caption refers to the nonspeaking character, and is an example of what's called an unpaired word. These are words which ought to exist as the opposite of a familiar word, such as "whelmed" as an antonym of "overwhelmed."

That's the latest batch of drollery from Bizarro Studios North. Thanks for dropping by. As always, your comments are welcomed. Be sure to visit Dan Piraro's blog to see what he has to say about these gags, and to read his always-amazing Sunday Bizarro comic.

Also, if you'd like to be notified when I publish a new blog post, you can subscribe to my email newsletter, which also includes an exclusive sneak preview of an upcoming gag.

Bonus Track

Despite my lack of operatic expertise, I listen to quite a bit of music from Italy. I love many Italian film score composers (Ennio Morricone, Piero Piccioni, Nino Rota, Bruno Nicolai, Piero Umiliani, and others), as well as singers such as Paolo Conte, Vinicio Capossela, and Carmen Consoli.

Then... there's Giannetto.

I first saw this wacky 1963 short years ago on a compilation of Scopitone films. The title translates as "I Like Celentano," and refers to Adriano Celentano  an Italian singer, songwriter, musician, comedic actor, and filmmaker, who is said to have introduced Italy to rock and roll. That's a photo of Celentano behind the desk.

I'm not able to translate the lyrics precisely, but Giannetto (whose name in English would be something like "Little Johnny") complains about how school bores him, and that he doesn't want to study, he only wants to sing.

Everything about this little film is weird and wonderful: the stage, the kid's confidently hammy performance, and that pure 60s choreography. It never fails to bring a smile to my face. Scans of some of his record covers are out there on the web, and they're equally entertaining.

Ciao for now, bambini.

Support Your Local Cartoonist

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Hail to the Spud

We had a rather chaotic week here at the old cartoon shop. My drawing board and computer were temporarily under wraps while we had replacement windows installed. Any change from my routine can be stressful, but I got through it with less anxiety than expected, and only mild insomnia.

I maintained my cool by regularly viewing this week's pipe pic, a groovy portrait of jazz musician (and stylish dude) Earl "Fatha" Hines.

Hines (1903 - 1983), a key figure in jazz history, was born a few miles outside of Pittsburgh in Duquesne, PA. In 1927, he became the pianist for Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five, replacing Lil Hardin Armstrong. You've got to be a great player if you're taking over for the bandleader's spouse. Hines continued to perform until a few days before his death of a heart attack in 1983.

He was often photographed with a pipe, and in his later years, wearing an unapologetic toupée.

While filming a TV documentary in 1975, Hines said of himself:

I'm an explorer if I might use that expression. I'm looking for something all the time. And ofttimes I get lost. And people that are around me a lot know that when they see me smiling, they know I'm lost and I'm trying to get back. But it makes it much more interesting because then you do things that surprise yourself. And after you hear the recording, it makes you a little bit happy too because you say, "Oh, I didn't know I could do THAT!"

I sometimes become lost while drawing, unaware of my surroundings or the passage of time. Occasionally, I'll get lost in other ways, when a pencil or ink line goes where I hadn't intended. Sometimes I'm able to adapt these mistakes to work in my favor, and when I can't, I thank the technology gods for Photoshop, where infinite corrections are possible.

Now, let's spend a few minutes getting lost in the latest Bizarro cartoons.

Speaking of piano, we started the week with a musical comic. The gag relies on the reader understanding multiple meanings of three words in the caption. The most obvious interpretation is: 
Fugue (musical composition) [written] in [the key of] A minor.
This is how a reader's default mode network (DMN) would likely process the caption, given the nature of the drawing. It makes sense, but it doesn't result in a laugh. 

The punchline reveals itself only when the mind seeks out and applies these alternate meanings: 

Fugue (confused state of consciousness) in a (the indefinite article) minor (young person)

I was pleased with the triple wordplay, and our well-read audience had no trouble getting the joke.

This method never fails to weed out underage drinkers and send the adults home for their wallets.
After Tuesday's gag was published, a reader pointed out that Dan Piraro did a similar gag a couple years ago.
It's not uncommon for a cartoonist to come up with a gag someone else has already done. Still, it can be embarrassing—doubly so when the earlier comic was done by one's own partner and collaborator. Since I do read Bizarro every Sunday, there's no question that I saw Dan's comic in 2019. I try my best to check for priors, but missed this one.

Actually, Dan and I both forgot about it, since we both review the daily gags as I write each batch. I guess I should say "Great minds think alike" or something like that.

Of course, Charles Schulz did the same football gag fifty times, so I suppose we're in good company.

It will also serve to warn other peanut-folk against walking in the forest alone.
In the past, I wondered whether Mister Peanut is a one-of-a-kind creature, and finally decided that he must be part of a wider population of legume beings.
An obscure Lewis Carroll character, drawn with respect for, and apologies to, Sir John Tenniel.
Friday's comic is nothing more than a bit of wordplay, and was not meant to be political commentary. Of course, some readers took it as an invitation to twist the cartoon's intentions and voice their pet beefs. This happens to some degree almost every day, but a number of goofball ideologues were overexcited by this one.

The strip layout shows more of the furniture and window, and an extra family photo, with the two flags brought into the foreground.
Luckily, I was able to plan for this when drawing the original analog art.
After scanning the drawing, I assembled the panel in Photoshop, keeping the flags on a separate layer, which made it easier to reposition them for the strip. I knew that drawing the bunny in that tiny picture frame would require significant cleanup, so I drew it digitally at high magnification. I sometimes note which secret symbols I've placed in the art, as can be seen along the bottom of the drawing.
By the way, that flag on the right includes a rare triple-nested secret symbol: O2, inside a crown, in front of an inverted bird. 

Saturday's panel addresses the controversial topic of bark modification.

That's the latest from Bizarro Studios North. Do yourself a favor and visit Dan Piraro's blog, where you can get his take on these comics, and check out his latest widescreen Sunday page, which I promise not to repeat as a daily in the future.

Bonus Track

Ben Vaughn: "I Dig Your Wig"
From Vaughn Sings Vaughn, Volume 3
Manymoods Records, 2007

One of many great songs written and performed by my friend Ben Vaughn. He also hosts one of my favorite podcasts, The Many Moods of Ben Vaughn, which I listen to every week while drawing.

The blog and newsletter are always free,
but gratuities are welcomed.

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Post Nasal Droop

Hollywood Gardens, PA had its first snowfall of the year this week, and your cartoonist spent Friday morning outside the studio, laboring in frigid conditions. It reminded me to appreciate the fact that I normally work in my own comfortable surroundings, writing jokes and drawing funny pictures.

In addition to making comics, I regularly seek out new pipe pics to share with you. This one is an antique print by James Montgomery Flagg, which may have been an ad for a tobacco company. It depicts either a giant pipe and tobacco pouch, or a tiny human, and the caption reads, "What more do you want?"

Flagg (1877 – 1960) was an American artist, comics artist and illustrator. He is best known for his political posters, particularly the "I Want YOU" army recruitment poster featuring Uncle Sam. While researching Flagg, I learned that he appeared in a beer advertisement in 1949, showing him at work in his studio.

Except for the paints, canvases, and easel, this looks exactly like most cartoonists' studios.

Before I send my assistant to fetch another PBR, I'd like to share our most recent comics.

Mister Fantastic doesn't snap back the way he did in the Silver Age. 
Note: This comic is part of our ongoing "Ridiculing Superheroes" series.

Some characters have the kind of face people just want to punch. Incidentally, this is our first clown gag of the New Year; we held out as long as we could.

As a human who lives with a couple of feline family members, I'm sure these unearthly visitors eventually found themselves acting as kitty butlers, too.

The contractors carry tarps for the job in their back pockets, and the customer added a "no whistling" clause to the agreement.

It's always fun to watch a kitchen fire flinch and then laugh in response to one of these novelty extinguishers.

We ran two clown comics this week, but it's okay, since it's been a couple of months since the last one. Let's hope we don't experience another dry spell that long.

The sign on stage is actually a "note to self."

That's the latest from your shivering cartoonist. Drop by next week for more comics and comments, along with a fresh pipe pic. In the meantime, don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog, to discover what's on his mind, and to admire his newest Bizarro Sunday page.

Here's hoping the New Year treats you well.

Bonus Track

Elvis Costello & the Attractions
"Pump it Up" (1978)


The blog and newsletter are always free,
but gratuities are welcomed.

Saturday, January 01, 2022

Now We Are Four

Happy New Year, dear readers. Let us hope for a better year ahead, marked by peace, unity, and civility.

Today is a milestone here at Bizarro Studios North. It was exactly four years ago that my tenure as Bizarro's daily cartoonist began. Although I'd been writing, coloring, and occasionally filling in as Dan Piraro's guest cartoonist at various times since 2009, I still can't quite believe that this is my job now. Dan has been an absolute dream to work with, and leaves me plenty of leeway to do the comic in my own way, while offering perfect suggestions when needed to make each panel the best it can be.

On this anniversary, I'm filled with gratitude for the many readers who follow the comic each day; those who comment here, on Comics Kingdom, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter; and the hardy souls who subscribe to my weekly newsletter. Connecting with Bizarro's literate and engaged readership is a perk I hadn't anticipated, but now treasure.

Thanks to every one of you who reads these words. Each comic panel takes several hours to write, draw, color, edit, format, and upload, and most are read in under seven seconds. Your responses on various platforms make it worthwhile.

Our inaugural pipe pic of 2022 is also the first fan art to pop up in this spot. It's a delightful sketch by my longtime friend and colleague Doug Erb

Doug is an outstanding illustrator, designer, painter, and art director, (not to mention a cool dad, and all-around sweet human) who I've known for almost 30 years. We both worked with Rhino Records back in the late twentieth century. This drawing was on the back of a greeting card I received from him a couple days ago. Doug's greeting cards and original art can be viewed and purchased at his Etsy shop.

Now, let's see how I closed out Year Four and kicked off my fifth year at Bizarro.

Monday was Punday once again, with a goof on Pygmalion playwright George Bernard Shaw.
The perpetrator ran and ran as fast as he could, leaving a ginger dead man for the authorities to find.
This gag prompted a wag on Instagram to coin a clever original comment: "OK Boomer." I swear, some people are witty beyond words.
Dreams can be quite vivid when one sleeps hanging from a cave ceiling.

I'm not averse to using the cliched New Year and Old Year characters in a comic, and I'm happy to say "So long, don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out" to 2021. I'm grateful to have been vaccinated, boosted, and tested, and I wish those holding out would step up and take a momentary poke for their own good and to benefit their fellow humans. Maybe it'll happen this year, but I'm not laying money on it.
In the corporeal world, one's inside voice is softer, but in the afterlife, it's the opposite. This eternal youngster is learning the trade from an experienced veteran.

That's the latest in Bizarro cartoons. Thanks for sticking with us through another year. Be sure to visit Dan Piraro's blog to see what he has to say as we look back on the last twelve months of wackiness, and check out his latest gorgeous Sunday page.

I wish you health, happiness, peace, and prosperity in the coming year, and hope that the loonies among us come to their senses or decide to secede from the planet.

Take care of yourselves, and take care of each other.

Bonus Track

"Cole Slaw" by Jesse Stone (1949)

Jesse Stone (1901-1999) was a musician and songwriter who wrote the classic "Shake, Rattle, and Roll," among many it as performed by composer Jesse Stone until a few years ago, and now think that it even tops Jordan's take.

I love this song so much that my musical group worked up an arrangement of it. Our version is more laid back than Jesse Stone's, and the instrumental break requires some fancy harp work.

The song is a staple of our live sets, and we hope to record it next time we're in the studio. 
Who knows, maybe we'll even get to do some live shows in 2022.

See you next week with more comics and stuff.


The blog and newsletter are always free,
but gratuities are welcomed.