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.


  1. The 'Fugue' gag would work even better in French, where, aside from the musical meaning, fugue also means "to run away" or "to abscond". A "fugueur" is a runaway, and generally refers to a minor, in fact (for an adult, they'd use 'fugitive' instead).

    So now you know. Keep up the most excellent work!

    1. Thanks for reading, and for the kind words.

  2. Been reading your Bizarro cartoons for a while now. I must say I think they keep getting funnier and better(I don't know which word to use, sharper? wittier?). I enjoy reading them along with Dan Piraro's and your comments!

    When I read the "Fugue" gag I first thought of the french meaning another commenter pointed out (to run away). It's only when I read your explanation of the word that I realized I hadn't understood the joke properly.

    1. Thanks so much! Yes, I guess that’s not a terribly common word in English!