Saturday, March 26, 2022

Sealed In

This is the weekly communiqué from Bizarro Studios North, where I (Wayno®) 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.

Greetings from Hollywood Gardens, PA, where we're welcoming Spring with our fingers crossed. There's a possibility of snow tonight, but we're cautiously optimistic that it won't amount to much. As is our custom, we're kicking off the blog with a pipe pic, and today's has a fascinating connection to a well-known artist.

Thanks are due to Bizarro reader Mike L for sending us this double portrait of illustrator, artist and printmaker M.C. Escher, which was done as a linocut by Escher's friend Bas Kist.

The image on the left is Kist's original. Escher revised it by cutting away the border and leaving part as a wisp of smoke.

Escher's own art was often packed with detail in every square inch, so it's a little surprising that he chose to simplify his friend's work by removing the border, rather than filling it with tiny patterns.

I understand MC's instinct. When I see my own published work, I usually notice details (or words) that I wish I'd removed. 

Let's see what could've been edited out of this week's Bizarro comics.

Punday Monday toyed with dual meanings of the word hex. A hex wrench (or hex key, or Allen wrench) is a tool for driving a bolt with a hexagonal socket. The other meaning of hex referenced here is a magic spell or curse.

I learned from a reader's comment that the magical definition of hex is related to the German word, Hexe, meaning witch.

Perhaps the young Reaper's implement might be used to harvest the souls of plush toys.
In my initial sketch I called it a wiffle scythe, naming it after those plastic baseballs and bats. Wearing his editor's hat, Dan Piraro wondered if readers would recognize the term, and whether I might want to change it to Nerf. I thought the word Wiffle sounded funnier sound Nerf, but a soft, spongy scythe could make for a better visual.

Web research revealed that the Wiffle company is still in business, but its annual sales are a fraction of Nerf's ($2.5 million versus $400 million), so it was clear that Nerf was the way to go.

Wikipedia also mentioned this incident involving a Gary Larson cartoon:

In his 2003 book The Complete Far Side, cartoonist Gary Larson reproduces a letter he received after including a "wiffle swatter" in his cartoon. The letter contains language from Wiffle Ball Incorporated's attorneys: "In the future, when you use the brand name WIFFLE, the entire brand should be capitalized, and it should only be used in reference to a product currently manufactured by The Wiffle Ball, Inc."

I'd love to have received a letter like that.

Wednesday's gag adds a comma to the opening line of a classic novel, and suggests an entirely new scenario. My apologies to Melville. And to Ahab.

We followed up with another literary reference, this time to good ol' Edgar Allan Poe.
Friday's panel casts the familiar image of a seal balancing a beach ball on its nose as an apt representation of the cruelty of removing an animal from its habitat for human entertainment.

Remember, kids: clowns choose to perform in circuses, but sea lions, elephants, apes, and other animals do not.
This one's an inside joke for music lovers, tweaking the fact that sooner or later nearly every pop/rock singer ends up interpreting "The Great American Songbook." Never one for understatement, Rod Stewart made five albums of standards between 2002 and 2006.

When I drew the comic last December, I gave the guitarist a green wool hat as a nod to Michael Nesmith, who had departed our plane of existence that month, and whose musical accomplishments both preceded and followed his fine work with The Monkees.

That's the latest from your cartoonist. Dan Piraro also recaps the week's gags on his blog, where he displays his latest Bizarro Sunday page. It's always worth a visit.

Thanks for stopping by. See you next week, with a new batch of cartoons, including the eagerly-awaited April Fools' Day Bizarro.

Bonus Track

Michael Nesmith
Some of Shelly's Blues
from Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash
RCA Records, 1973

This is my favorite recording from Nesmith's post-Monkees output. It always sounds fresh to me, and I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Brown Shoes Don't Make It

This is the weekly dispatch from Bizarro Studios North, where I (Wayno®) write and draw the Monday through Saturday Bizarro comics, having assumed that role in 2018. My esteemed partner and good friend, Dan Piraro, who created Bizarro in the late twentieth century, continues to do the Sunday comic from Rancho Bizarro in Mexico.

Greetings once again from Hollywood Gardens, PA, where we're anticipating a few noisy days in the coming week. Our home, which was built in the late 1940s, is in need of roof replacement. As far as I know, it's all original, so this is probably overdue. With no leaks or structural problems, it'll be a simple project for professionals who know what they're doing. 

My workspace is on the upper floor of the house, which means I'll find out how well my noise-cancelling headphones stand up to overhead hammering and sawing.

Of course, given the conditions people endure in many parts of the world (not to mention some of the more oppressive states in this country), I can't complain about a little noise as I sit in safe surroundings drawing cartoons.

Before we look at the latest Bizarro comics, please enjoy this terrific pipe pic of left-handed blues musician Albert King.

A sharped-eyed reader alerted me to the CD below. I love the cover photo of Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan, but couldn't find a high-resolution version that would work as a preview image for the blog, so I poked around the Internet and found the jaunty photo above. 

A grateful tip of the ol' porkpie to our reader Scot G for leading me to these cool pipe pics of a great musician.

Earlier this century, I illustrated around 150 ink portraits of musicians and singers as part of a project for Rhino Records. Many of the drawings were exhibited in a 2009 art show, File Under: Pop. I also experimented with color prints of a few of them, including the Albert King portrait above. I only wish I'd drawn him with a pipe.
Now, we present this week's gags.

The first of two Saint Patrick's Day gags depicts the legendary laptop at the end of the blockchain.
The revolt of the machines might have succeeded if they'd managed to radicalize the Roomba. 

My favorite part of this panel is the phrase "retrofuturist gulag."
In this family, all campfire stories are scary.

Who wouldn't want to be honored by an annual display of public regurgitation?
It was almost three weeks since our previous clown gag, so you probably knew one was coming soon. My original text for the thought bubble was "Weirdo," but the word "Freak" felt more righteously contemptuous. Plus, it's shorter.
We closed out the week with a simian pun, which I now notice we also did last Saturday. My excuse is being born in a Year of the Monkey. 
I hope this batch of words and pictures gave you a few chuckles. Thanks for stopping by to check them out. Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog, where he'll have more to say about these gags, and will share his newest Sunday Bizarro page, which is always a thing of beauty and hilarity.

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Bonus Track

Elvis Costello & the Attractions
(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes

Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ (1978)

Elvis is still king.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Mitch, Zombo, Bob & Me

Dateline: Hollywood Gardens, PA. This is the weekly dispatch from Bizarro Studios North, where I (Wayno®) write and draw the Monday through Saturday Bizarro comics, having assumed that role in 2018. My esteemed partner and good friend, Dan Piraro, who created Bizarro in the late twentieth century, continues to do the Sunday comic from Rancho Bizarro in Mexico.

A few days ago, I was looking through some of my old sketchbooks, hoping to generate gag ideas. While browsing these ancient texts, I rediscovered a wonderful drawing by the terrific and prolific Mitch O'Connell, and I'm pleased to share it as this week's pipe pic.

Mitch was in Pittsburgh in 2007 for a one-man art show at Zombo Gallery, which was a haven for oddball artists. During Mitch's visit, my good pal and the gallery's owner, Michael "Zombo" Devine, organized a lunch gathering for a bunch of local cartoonists and artists, and we had a grand time eating, drinking, and drawing. I suspect the above image is a self-portrait.

Wayno with the lovely Mitch O'Connell at Zombo Gallery

Even if you don't know his name, it's likely you've seen Mitch's work somewhere. He's done just about everything one can imagine, from comics, illustrations, clip art, logos, and paintings to LP/CD covers, and more.

Follow @mitchoconnellart on Instagram, and visit his densely-packed website and shop to gaze in wonder at his amazing art. Your eyeballs will thank you.

Also, check out Zombo's current band, The Polkamaniacs. Zombo is always involved in multiple amazing projects, and his energy and enthusiasm have always inspired me.

Here's another long-forgotten sketchbook page: a drawing of the late jazz musician Curtis Fuller, done in 2011, which Mr. Fuller graciously autographed.

For many years, I volunteered at the University of Pittsburgh's annual jazz seminar and concert. Each year, an impressive lineup of musicians came to town to hold educational workshops at local schools, speak at a series of lectures/seminars, and wrap up the week with a musical performance. In my position as stage manager, I rarely saw the concert, as my duties kept me behind the scenes, letting each performer know when they should be ready to go onstage (the concert consisted of multiple combinations of players, ending with an all-star finale.) I also escorted musicians around town, and provided introductions for some of the seminars.

Over the years, I met and hung out with dozens of legendary musicians. I gave James Moody a copy of Amy Winehouse's Frank CD, which included her cover of his famous number, "Moody's Mood for Love. Mr. Moody hadn't heard it yet, and was delighted by her version.

My most memorable moment was crashing a wedding reception with Joe Lovano during the concert's intermission, so we could have a drink together. 

My ongoing volunteer gig was a music lover's dream come true, and I was truly fortunate to have that experience.

Thanks for indulging my nostalgic detour through old stuff. Here's some recent work, in the form of this week's Bizarro comics.

A touch of varnish and a lemon oil massage would do him wonders.

All but one of the client photos in the background are characters from old animated cartoons. Pictured left to right, they are: 

Captain Huffenpuff ("Uncle Captain") from Bob Clampett's witty series Beany and Cecil
Fred from Channel One, a bizarre hybrid of animation and puppetry, who appeared on Captain Kangaroo, interacting with human performers
Tom Terrific, a Terrytoons cartoon that also ran on Captain Kangaroo
Chumley the walrus, dimwitted sidekick on the Tennessee Tuxedo TV series
Flebus, who starred in a brilliant 1957 short directed by Ernest Pintoff
Underground comix character Mickey Rat, creation of Robert Armstrong, a personal favorite of your cartoonist
Gandy Goose, another Terrytoons character, who appeared in over 50 shorts between 1938 and 1955, and who does a cameo here as Bizarro's inverted bird secret symbol

I watched cartoons on TV for hundreds of hours throughout my childhood, but I have absolutely no memory of Gandy Goose. I became aware of the character in the 1970s, via this page by Robert Crumb, from his comic book, Mister Natural.

Robert Armstrong, a contemporary of Crumb's and a member of his band, the Cheap Suit Serenaders, created Mickey Rat as a t-shirt design. The Rat later starred in an underground comic book.
As a smartass teenager, I wore my Mickey Rat shirt until it fell apart. Shirts are still available from the artist's online shop.

Although we haven't met in person, I've corresponded with Mr. Armstrong over the years, and I have long enjoyed his music as much as his art.

This gouache painting of western swing pioneer Milton Brown appeared as an illustration in Tower Records' Pulse! Magazine. I later purchased the original art from Robert, and it holds a place of pride in my home, where I see and appreciate it every day.

Apparently, those online security challenges are universal.
Before completing the art for Wednesday's gag, I took a reference photo of my hand twisted into this uncomfortable position so I wouldn't unknowingly depict a fracture.
I never tire of drawing Frankenstein's monster, but I still can't decide whether he'd consider getting the cold shoulder to be positive or negative. Also, I'm just noticing that the Pie of Opportunity looks awfully tiny in this panel.

His penance was twelve Hail Marys in a 375º oven.
We closed out the week with a simian pun, because, well, why not?

That's the newest batch from your faithful cartoonist. As always, I recommend visiting Dan Piraro's blog, where you can see his latest glorious Sunday Bizarro page, and read his comments on the week's cartoons, along with anything else that's occupying his active and curious mind.
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Bonus Track
"Cat's Whiskers"
Robert Armstrong with Sourdough Slim
Live in Sutter Creek, CA

Bob is a master of many instruments, and this number showcases his impressive steel guitar chops. He's a snappy dresser, too.

Saturday, March 05, 2022

Exclamatory Inquiry

It's time for another dispatch from Bizarro Studios North. March has come in like a mutant lion-lamb hybrid, and in a couple weeks we'll be resetting our clocks for reasons no one can remember or explain.

This week's bucolic pipe pic comes to us courtesy of faithful Bizarro reader Glenn S. It's a portrait of country music star Dave "Stringbean" Akeman, taken at his home in March, 1962.

Photo: Jack Corn/The Tennessean

Stringbean (1915-1973) was regarded as one of the best claw-hammer banjo players of all time, and had a long career as a musician and comedian before becoming more widely known as a cast member on Hee Haw, a TV variety show featuring music and corny humor. The program ran from 1969 to 1971 on CBS, and in syndication through 1993.

As a star of the Grand Ole Opry, Stringbean exaggerated his gangly appearance with wacky outfits that made him resemble a funhouse mirror image.

Thanks to Glenn for the great photo, and for pointing me toward some excellent music to explore.

That picture of Stringbean on stage makes the human anatomy in my drawings look almost normal. Speaking of which, here's my latest comic output for your review.

Monday's protagonist is either a pastry lover or an arms enthusiast.

Another tragic interspecies love story. Just wait till Wolfie whispers, "I'd like to try on your clothing."

On Wednesday, we looked at the mundane side of life in the Marvel universe.

The panel and the strip each contained four secret symbols, but not the same four.
Long before adopting his pen name, little Eric Blair created an early draft of one of his best known works, though at the time, he called it Edible Farm
Our second superhero gag of the week features The Inexplicable Interrobang, a character I'm hoping will spawn a lucrative movie franchise for Bizarro Studios.

Inty's costume was pretty much in place in my initial sketch, but the gag felt a little weak. I eventually hit on the job fair idea, which gave me an opportunity to draw a few more imagined crimefighters.

In case you're curious, an interrobang is a punctuation mark combining a question mark and an exclamation point. I thought it was a fitting name for this oddball character.

For Switcheroo Saturday, we presented a sympathetic portrayal of the much-maligned monster under the bed.

And that wraps up another week in Bizarro comics. Thanks again to Glenn S, and other readers who've suggested pipe pics for the blog. I can't guarantee that I'll use every one that comes in, but I appreciate seeing your discoveries.

Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog, where he has more to say about these gags, and whatever else is on his mind this week. His weekly post also features his newest Sunday Bizarro page, which is always a wonder of comic art.

Bonus Track

"Little Snack Bar"
composed by Berto Pisano
from the film Interrabang (1969)

Pisano (1928 - 2002) was an Italian composer, conductor, arranger and jazz musician. The Interrabang soundtrack is the only work of his that was familiar to me. Friday's superhero reminded me that I have the CD in my collection. I hadn't heard it in a long while, and on this listening, "Little Snack Bar" was my favorite selection.