Saturday, April 30, 2022

Observation, Perception, & Puppetry

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.

Like many people, I dislike hearing my own speaking voice. Nevertheless, a few days ago, I did an interview for The New Yorker Caption Contest Podcast. It was an honor to be added to their list of guests—a who's who of cartoonists I admire. The hosts were knowledgeable and welcoming, and I hope I did a passable job. 

When the episode is posted, I'll most likely hear only mistakes and annoying verbal tics, and will think of much better responses to every question.

My sincere thanks to podcasters Beth Lawler, Paul Nesja, and Vin Coca for letting me blab for an hour. I'll share a link when it's available, unless I go into hiding after listening to it.

Our pipe pic for today is a drawing rediscovered in a forgotten corner of my computer.

This was created for a quick & dirty art show consisting of 4" x 6" pieces mailed to my friend and neighbor Worker Bird. It was a stream of consciousness drawing, and it included The Pipe of Ambiguity more than a year before its introduction as one of Bizarro's secret symbols. I've no idea what's going on with that canister vacuum cleaner. Like a lot of my work, it may have been inspired by music I was listening to while drawing.

Don van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart
Trout Mask Replica photo session, 1969
photo by Ed Caraeff

This picture appears on the cover of the boxed set, Grow Fins: Rarities 1965-1982, by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. Around 1961, the future Captain had a brief career as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman, and is said to have sold one to writer Aldous Huxley.

No vacuum cleaners were harmed during the production of this week's cartoons, as can be seen in the following recap.

The order clearly specified, "Hold the garlic." This panel includes a tiny callback to a project from ten years ago, when I had the privilege of designing boxes for a wonderful pizza shop in my neighborhood.
Sometimes, we all feel down in the troughs.

At least she didn't say, "It's okay, he's friendly."
The strip layout of this gag swapped one secret symbol for another, and features dramatic lighting effects. This variation is part of a failed strategy to get readers to subscribe to multiple newspapers so they can read both the panel and strip every day.

Thursday's comic revealed Sasquatch as an outsider artist. Many online commenters interpreted the character as an ape, which will remind me to strive for a more recognizable drawing of Bigfoot if the creature's feet are out of frame.

I enjoyed making pop art versions of our secret symbols, and created an extra one for the strip.
A character we love to parody makes yet another appearance, depicting a philosophical thought experiment contemplated by puppeteers through the ages.

We rounded out the week with a reversal of a familiar idiom. Bizarro's Inverted Bird symbol rarely wears anything other than a hat, but dressed as a stereotypical mobster for this panel.

Thanks for viewing our pictures and reading our words. We appreciate your eyeballs more than we can say. Drop by next Saturday for more comics and commentary.

If you'd like to be informed when a new blog entry is uploaded, and get an exclusive peek at an upcoming Bizarro panel, plus a dusty image from my illustration archive, you might like to sign up for my weekly newsletter. It's free, and you can of course unsubscribe at any time.

And don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog, for the latest news & views from Rancho Bizarro, along with a fresh Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track

Robert Johnson
"Hell Hound on My Trail"
Recorded June 30, 1937
in Dallas, Texas

Robert Johnson was the earliest popular musician with the dubious honor of being included in "The 27 Club," a pop-culture catchall for performers who died at the age of 27. It's statistically insignificant, but remains a pop culture trope.

Johnson's brief career resulted in recordings of just 29 songs, but his influence can't be overstated. 

Had they been contemporaries, one wonders if Weird Al Yankovic would have recorded a parody number called "Hell Hound on My Lap."

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Here's the Thing...

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.

Early this week, I stepped away from the drawing board for a half hour Zoom talk with a History of Illustration class at New England College. The course is taught by my friend and fellow cartoonist, Mike Lynch, who runs a great blog on the art and business of cartooning. I'm not sure how interesting it was for the students, but I enjoyed the break from my usual routine and the chance to blab about myself.

I've done several teaching workshops over the years, and have always found them to be rewarding experiences. One of the best was a session to help Girl Scout Cadettes earn their comic artist merit badges. Not only was it encouraging to see a group of kids interested in comics, but on top of that, I was paid in cookies.

Who knows? Maybe Professor Lynch will send me some maple syrup or whoopie pies.

This week's pipe pic comes from a Fantastic Four comic book, showing the immodestly named Mister Fantastic, with two of his teammates and a glowing pipe. 

I found this image on the web, and don't know exactly where it originally appeared, but I simply had to use it, for reasons that will become obvious a bit later. Reasons in addition to the pipe, that is.
Let's jump into the latest Bizarro comics, and see how many pipes turn up.
Running a holiday comic the day after the holiday is a wise move, isn't it?
Sometimes, you need to change lanes. Go ahead and read the funnies without shame, professor.
Since I'm immersed in comics during the workday, and start each morning reading many daily comic strips and panels, my after hours reading usually consists of nonfiction, with an emphasis on biographies of musicians, or music journalism. However, I'm currently in the middle of a powerful and harrowing comics memoir, Chartwell Manor, by Glenn Head. It's anything but funny.
I've known Glenn's work for many years, and his early 1990s comic, Avenue D, is an old favorite. Chartwell Manor is a major achievement, and shows the fruits of the years of work he's put in to developing his craft. I'm taking my time reading it, and am knocked out by his storytelling and art. The phrase "brutally honest" may be overused, but it certainly applies to this book.
Wednesday's panel prompted me to share the Fantastic Four pipe pic at the top of this post. Some readers wondered if the Thing would have the dexterity to play guitar. It's a legitimate question, but nobody plays a B♭ demolished chord like him.

It must have felt great to turn in those shorts.

I often flip through old sketchbooks in search of something to develop into a fresh comic. A word or phrase might provide something to work with, and occasionally I find a drawing that becomes a gag.
I rediscovered this sketch from ten years ago. It wasn't enough to stand as a comic on its own, but I reworked the idea into a panel that I was happy with.

Again I say: Throw away nothing.
You get what you (virtually) pay for.
Alternate dialog: "It's about more than the cheese."
The transformation from frog to prince is rarely as complete as one might hope.
That's the latest from your cartoonist. We know you have other comic options, and we thank you for choosing Bizarro

I also send out a weekly newsletter that links to the latest blog entry, and includes a peek at an upcoming comic along with some vintage art or design from my archives.

Of course, Dan Piraro, the man who started this Bizarro thing, has his own regular blog, which showcases an entire week of comics, including his latest magnificent Sunday page, along with whatever else is currently occupying his active mind.

Bonus Track

Charles Mingus: "Oh Lord Don't Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb on Me"
from Oh Yeah
Atlantic Records, 1962

Friday, April 22, 2022  was the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Charles Mingus. I have a lot of his music in my collection, and am in awe of his unpredictable, complex, eclectic, and inspiring work. You can hear the passion in his playing and his vocals, both as a singer and a leader, urging his musicians to push themselves ever further.

Charles Mingus in Green and Pink (2009)
Acrylic on Bristol board; 14" x 16"

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Beans (Garbanzo & Jelly)

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.

We managed to survive an internet outage the other day. Internet service is an odd sort of utility, where the consumer must do most of the troubleshooting and repairs, and the product may or may not be delivered in the "quantity" being paid for. Anyway, we're back in business here, and grateful for our modern conveniences.

One of this week's comics involves a lighthouse, so our pipe pic is a portrait of Ontario, Canada's last lighthouse keeper, Pete Coletti (1935-2020).

According to an obituary in The Hamilton Spectator, Coletti was a colorful pirate-like character, who had not one, but two parrots. They were named Foghorn and Gasbag.

Pete's assistant, Chris Mills, said, "He decorated life. That’s what Pete did. He was one of a kind."

That's a rather fine way to be remembered. Based on this second photo, I imagine I'd agree with Mr. Mills.

Now, let's look over our recent comics, including the aforementioned lighthouse gag, and see how we decorated the funny pages.

Self-medication for superheroes.

I've done a few gags with this familiar character. Each time, comic book fans let me know that his suit is actually made of a gold-titanium alloy, and not iron. 

That's his story, anyway. If he didn't want to be the subject of magnet jokes, he should have chosen a different name.

My image reference search for this panel led me to the photos of Pete Coletti shared above. 

The night light photos I used are less interesting—or, so I thought.

At times, I learn  something from the online comments.

This one is a Middle Eastern version of an old Italian fable, "La Principessa e il Cece."


Thursday's panel imagines fusion cuisine for the holiday, with a caption in the form of a streptonym. At this restaurant, the pot stickers are filled with marshmallow chicks.

My friend and fellow cartoonist Marjorie Rishel offered a prediction:

In five years or less, jellybeans deep-fried in a crispy wrapper will become the newest fad in food, and people will wait outside donut shops for three hours to buy one.

I predict that Bizarro will run another Easter gag, the day after the holiday, so be sure to check in on Monday.


We scored a daily double on Good Friday, with a clown gag that's also wordless. Well, mostly wordless, since the changing table items are labeled.

I believe this is the first time I've included Olive Oyl rather than the easier-to-draw O2 SecretSymbol in one of my panels.


He's known for writing brief biographies.


That's the latest batch of drollery from Bizarro Studios North. Thank you for visiting. If you crave more of my commentary, I invite you to subscribe to my weekly newsletter. I send one whenever the blog is updated. Each installment includes a sneak preview of a future gag fresh off the drawing board, along with a comic, drawing, or design from our archives.


You should also check out Dan Piraro's blog, where he always has something interesting to say, and shares his latest Sunday Bizarro page.




They Might Be Giants

"Birdhouse in Your Soul"
with Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Band

April 30, 1990



A great song from the TMBG album, Flood. The lyrics mention both night lights and lighthouses. I remember awaiting this performance on The Tonight Show and videotaping it from the TV.


Saturday, April 09, 2022

Almost Amazing

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 once again from Hollywood Gardens, PA. The day after our last blog post, we celebrated a personal comics milestone, which I'll discuss a little later in this entry.

This week's pipe pic is a screen grab from a 1969 BBC report on pipes as a fashion accessory.

The video is a groovy and goofy time capsule of Swinging London. The middle section, with gents at a pub expressing their opinion on women smoking pipes is hilarious, and could easily fit into a Bonzo Dog Band or Monty Python routine.

Speaking of time capsules, this past Sunday was the thirteenth anniversary of my first Bizarro gag.

I'd met Dan Piraro at an event in Pittsburgh in 2008, and a few months later, I started submitting ideas to him.

A search through the bowels of my email turned up the first batch I sent as possible Bizarro comics. I hadn't seen these for years, and am sharing this on the blog for what I believe is the first time ever.

Dan's drawing was quite an improvement over my inept faux New Yorker panel. Between 2009 and 2017, I wrote more than 150 gags for Bizarro, spent three years coloring Dan's beautiful art, and did a couple of week-long stints as guest cartoonist before taking over the dailies in 2018.

Working with Dan continues to be a dream collaboration. I'm beyond grateful to him for leaving the side door unlocked, and allowing me to display my work in the gallery he built 37 years ago. 
Let's see if my art has progressed at all since that initial submission package.
Our favorite monster returned to the panel on Monday, getting a little trimmed off the sides.
Apparently, it's still possible to write a desert island cartoon. The rescue boat was quite happy to leave this know-it-all character in place.

It's not widely known, but when bitten by a slightly radioactive spider, a person only get six limbs, but this guy makes the most of the situation on his morning commute.
I enjoyed constructing the phony comic book cover, but the elements required some serious rearrangement for the strip configuration.
The most troublesome piece to fit in was the thought bubble. No matter how I broke up the text, the thought bubble crowded out the drawing. Eventually I switched to a speech balloon. It changed the feel of the gag just a bit, but since the character was looking at his phone, it worked out all right.

A scene at the offices of Jacoby & Meyers & Silver.
As regular readers know, I usually schedule my favorite gag of the week in the Friday slot. Puns don't often rise to the top, but I liked the simplicity of the caption, along with the silly image.
The opening act was three ducks playing French horns.
This could easily take place in Pittsburgh in April.
And that wraps up the week in Bizarro. Thanks for popping by.
Be sure to visit Dan Piraro's blog, where he'll offer further insights on these gags. While you're there, you can learn check out his latest Bizarro Sunday page, and find out what else is occupying his inquisitive mind these days.

If a double dose of bloggery doesn't satisfy your cartoon appetite, you can subscribe to my weekly newsletter as a supplement. It always includes a sneak preview of an upcoming Bizarro panel, and something pulled from my illustration & comic archives.
Oh, yes, and Dan also published an amazing midweek blog showcasing his drawing process for his epic graphic novel, Peyote Cowboy. It provides a detailed look at the work of a master cartoonist.
Bonus Track
Roxy Music: "Ladytron" 
Old Grey Whistle Test, 1972

Roxy Music, live on BBC television fifty years ago. The song opens with a haunting oboe introduction by Andy MacKay, though, to be fair, almost any oboe music can be described as "haunting."
A great performance, culminating in a wild guitar versus electronics freakout by Phil Manzanera and the ultra-glam Brian Eno. 
I've been a fan of Roxy Music since hearing their first record. I've been told that I look a little like singer Bryan Ferry. What do you think?

Saturday, April 02, 2022

Trust No One

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.

I hope you survived April Fools' Day without sitting on a whoopee cushion, getting joy-buzzed, or lighting an exploding cigar. I slipped a little trick into the April 1 panel, but explain it fully in today's post.

Last week, we opened with a double pipe pic of artist M.C. Escher. We're topping that with this violent triptych from a 1960s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents comic book.

A respectful tip of the fedora to longtime FOB (Friend of Bizarro) Steve D for the scan of this wonderful sequence from a mostly-forgotten comic book series.
The superhero team's acronym stood for "The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves," and some issues featured art by the great Wally Wood. I have no idea who created the art shown here, but I'm delighted that Steve found it and sent it our way.

Without further introduction, we present a review of the week's comics. No fooling.

This caption is a form of adjacent metathesis, or the interchange of two phonemes within a word. 
Adjacent metathesis often appears as a nonsensical mispronunciation, such as "foilage" for "foliage." It's something I've used as a punch line in the past, as in this panel, but with the interchange producing an actual word rather than a meaningless misspelling. 
I'd never considered this type of construction to be a pun exactly, and recently tried to find a name for it, eventually discovering adjacent (or local) metathesis. I now happily share that bit of useless knowledge with you.

To fill up the strip layout, my original art included the elephant and the makeup counter as separate images, although neither appears in full in either configuration.

Sometimes, I remember to make the strip conversion a little easier.

An online reader said that our pale pachyderm should apply blush sparingly, or risk being mistaken for a pink elephant. After reading that comment, I recalled this old commercial, and had the song stuck in my head for a day or so.

If you have ever wondered how a kangaroo might sit on furniture designed for humans, it's probably not as shown in this illustration.
This was known as the Deepbreathing Horizon disaster.
Remember, Big Mother is watching you.
For April Fools' Day, we paid tribute to a classic TV series, and employed adjacent metathesis for a second time in one week. In the spirit of the holiday, I placed a bogus Secret Symbol tally in the signature, but added the actual total as the calendar page tacked to the wall.

The number 1,332 was a joke, but it wasn't a random choice.
Each of my original drawings for Bizarro is marked with a sequence number, and this was number 1,332. As you can see from the date stamp, I was working on Christmas Eve. Call me Cratchit.
"Improbable," a favorite X-Files episode, originally aired in April of 2002, and starred Burt Reynolds as God. The soundtrack included several terrific songs by Karl Zéro, which contributed to the episode's eccentric atmosphere. Also, it features a criminal improbably named Wayno, which creeped me out the first time I watched it.
We wrapped up the week with another animal-themed gag, in a familiar Bizarro setting. I may have written this while thinking about the change to Daylight Saving Time.
Fun With Infringement
A fellow cartoonist shared this altered Bizarro comic on his Facebook page, without realizing that it had been tampered with.
As soon as I notified him, he removed it, which helped maintain my faith in my colleagues. However, I was disheartened that he thought I'd written such clumsy dialog. I found a few other copies of this on FB, and had them removed for violation of intellectual property. 
I'm intrigued and baffled by the name Mark Christopher in the bottom left corner, and welcome any information on the source of this theft.

Here's the original cartoon for comparison.
By the way, I have no beef with banjos, bagpipes, or accordions. Stealing and altering cartoons is another matter.

That's all for this week from Bizarro Studios North. As always, I thank you for stopping by, and again send my gratitude to Steve D for the Noman comic book scan. Don't forget to check out Dan Piraro's blog for his thoughts on the week's cartoons, and to see his latest magnificent Sunday Bizarro
See you next week, with more words and pictures. If you'd like to be notified when a new blog entry is posted, you might like to subscribe to my newsletter. Each newsletter includes an exclusive peek at an upcoming Bizarro gag, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Bonus Track

Clifton Chenier
"Zydeco Sant Pas Sale''
Live, 1969

If that bastardized comic panel hadn't turned up, prompting me to write about accordions, I might not have found this terrific video of the great Clifton Chenier, so that's something of a silver lining.