Saturday, May 28, 2022

Holy Mackerel

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.

Every joke is a tiny revolution. ~George Orwell

It's been one of those weeks when current events are so horrifying that pursuing humor as a profession can feel hollow. Orwell's Newspeak has come truer than he imagined. The group that identifies as pro-life wants to put deadlier murder weapons into more people's hands. So-called conservatives oppose any form of conservation, and "the party of Lincoln" is doing everything possible to maintain and expand codified inequality.

One has to remind oneself that humor communicates ideas. Understanding humor requires thought, and totalitarians fear a thinking populace. We hope that our comical words and pictures provide moments of relief, but also assurances that free thought will persist.

Apologies for the heaviness of this week's introduction, but the country's atmosphere has been particularly toxic, as you well know. I'll try to maintain our usual tone for the rest of this post.

I chose a pipe pic for the week that elevates my mood.

It's a wonderful portrait of jazz musician Doc Cheatham (1905-1997). Cheatham was a devoted disciple of King Oliver and Louis Armstrong, whom he described as "an ordinary-extraordinary man."

In the mid-1990s, he recorded a beautiful album with his much younger friend and fellow trumpeter, Nicholas Payton. Their version of "Save It, Pretty Mama," one of Armstrong's signature tunes, is a favorite of mine.

Let's review the week's Bizarro comics, and see if they bring you a chuckle or two.

The drawing of the musician in Monday's panel was based on the late Lemmy Kilmister of the English band Motörhead. The comic isn't specifically about Motörhead or Lemmy, but when I think of heavy metal musicians, he's the default image in my head. Supposedly, Motörhead holds the record for the loudest live performance of any band in history.

The protagonists of Detectorists, a British TV series, inspired the other character. Detectorists is a low-key comedy about rival bands of metal-detecting nerds in rural England. The two main actors are Toby Jones, who you'd recognize from many serious roles, and MacKenzie Crook, who also created and directed the series. It moves at a slow, almost hypnotic pace, and has a uniquely odd style of humor. These characters, which you might initially laugh at (almost looking down on them), turn out to be weirdly endearing and exhibit a quiet dignity. That's an inadequate description, but the best I can do. If you get a chance to check it out, I highly recommend it.

Nothing too fancy on Tuesday, just some medical wordplay.
I love to draw classic movie monsters, and I'm always pleased when I come up with a wordless comic, so Wednesday's rumble behind the castle was doubly rewarding.

I believe this is the first time I've published a comic using the trope of a big fish eating a small fish. Most readers probably recognized the literal depiction of a familiar phrase, and others may have detected some commentary on a frequent context for that phrase. The reader can decide if this is a case of ichthyology or, "Ick. Theology."
This vendor should consider charging by the foot.

The strip layout works almost as well, despite a small coloring error by the cartoonist.

I'd wager that this isn't the weirdest grant proposal ever submitted.

In order to make all of the Secret Symbols visible in the strip version, I tucked part of the fumetto (word balloon) behind the edge of the desk. I could have made the balloon shorter, but the text needs some space around it for easier reading. I'd just completed a batch of gags playing with speech balloons and thought bubbles, and I believe that freed my thinking to come up with this solution.

That's the latest from your humble cartoonist. Thank you for reading my words and pictures. Please drop by Dan Piraro's blog, too. He has much to say about various topics, and even comments on these very gags.

Also, I invite you to check out my weekly newsletter. It's free, and you can unsubscribe at any time. Each mailing features a sneak peek at a future Bizarro cartoon, and something from my archives.

Bonus Track

XTC, "Melt the Guns"
from the double LP English Settlement
Virgin Records, 1982


Thank you, Andy Partridge and XTC.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Fumetti & Cumuli

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.

Tuesday was Primary Election Day here in Pennsylvania, and I ventured out of the studio to get an "I Voted" sticker. The Raving Maniac Party in our state presented a slate of reality deniers who worked tirelessly to outdo each other's lies about the 2020 election, and trampled each other to stand out as the most extreme religious fanatic. Thankfully, I don't watch commercial TV, and was at least spared their ads.

Our pipe pic model for the week is Theodore Seuss Geisel, more popularly known as Dr. Seuss.

The photo was taken in the Seuss's La Jolla, California home in 1959. His shiny corncob appears to be sprouting a plant, and he's watched over by his 1940 sculpture of a creature he called the Blue-Green Abelard.

This week's comics are thematically related, and in one way or another treat speech balloons and thought bubbles as props within the panels. The title of this post refers to the cartoonist's names for the devices we use to convey speech and thought. 

"Fumetti" is the Italian word for "bubbles," and is also the word for "comic strips." "Cumuli" comes from "cumulus," the fluffy type of cloud, and is another word for thought balloons. I learned these terms from Mort Walker's 1980 book, The Lexicon of Comicana

Mort was the creator of the still-running comic strip Beetle Bailey. His Lexicon was based in part on research, but he also invented many of the terms for comic devices. It's a classic book, long out of print, and I'm lucky enough to have a copy in my home library.

Comic strips with continuing characters sometimes riff on a gag idea for a full week, and I wanted to try something along those lines with Bizarro. Let's see how it worked out.

We kicked off our series with a fairly straightforward entry. In order to draw a person squinting to read text, I had to take a selfie for reference.

The premise of the gag forced me to think of an unconventional layout for the strip, with the word balloon—excuse me, fumetto—centered between the two characters. This version might work a little better than the panel, since it's clearer that the balloon is a physical object that they can see.

This one uses a fumetto/cumulus hybrid to illustrate a common expression. Even now, the image momentarily confuses me, and I drew it.

Daxter Slater, a friend and fellow cartoonist, commented that this gag aligned perfectly with his experience as a member of the Deaf community. I was glad it made him laugh, and I appreciated the reminder that this scenario depicts an aspect of real life for many people. Daxter's comment made me see the comic from a different perspective, for which I am grateful. 

Check out Daxter's work on his art site.

Apparently, some police departments still use cassette tapes to record interrogations, so the drawing isn't as anachronistic as one might think.

The recorder in the strip version of this gag needed a longer cord, and we switched out a Secret Symbol.

I'm not exactly sure what that string of emoji means, but it isn't complimentary. 

This panel incorrectly indicates a total of six Secret Symbols, but there are actually seven. This error got past me, Dan Piraro, and our editors at King, but it originated here. I feel like such a 🤡.

We wrapped up Balloon Week with a visit to the doctor.

A couple years back, we did a panel that foreshadowed this week's theme.

I had fun doing this batch of gags, and I hope you enjoyed them. Thanks for your readership and support.

If you'd like to read different words, sign up for my weekly newsletter. It's free, and you can unsubscribe at any time. Every one features a sneak peek at a future Bizarro cartoon, and a dusty old drawing or design from the archives.

Don't forget to pop by Dan Piraro's blog to see what he has to say about these comics, and other topics on his mind. While you're there, pause to admire his latest Bizarro Sunday page, which is always a thing of beauty and hilarity.

The People Want to Know

Regular Bizarro reader Danielle A asks:

Is it harder to draw for a vertical or horizontal publication?

I don’t  think either format is inherently harder to draw for, if a comic is specifically designed for one or the other. However, it's almost impossible to draw a gag that will work in both formats without significant tweaking. The process of switching from one to the other is where the difficulties lie. I always compose my sketches in a vertical panel, but I try to keep in mind that it'll eventually have to be fit into a widescreen strip.

If you've ever wondered about the process of making Bizarro, or anything else, send your queries to me at You never know; it may turn up here on the blog. 

Bonus Track

Bob Dylan
"Subterranean Homesick Blues"
From Bringing It All Back Home
Columbia Records, 1965

One of my favorite Dylan numbers, which seemed to go well with our current comics.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Spanish Acquisition

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 all survived Friday the Thirteenth. It's the only one this year, so even if it is unlucky, we're good until January.

Bizarro blog readers occasionally ask why I only post the Monday through Saturday comics here, while my partner in humor, Dan Piraro, shares the entire week on his weekly blog posts.

I have the pleasure of reading Dan's Sunday pages when they appear on Sunday, the same time as everyone else. My posts are published on Saturday morning, with discussion of six comics I've been familiar with for months before they're printed. I prefer to have time to consider my commentary, rather than throwing out an opinion on something I'm seeing for the first time. 

Also, Dan's art is always so spectacular that mine pales in comparison.

Joking aside, I recommend visiting both blogs for the unique content each has to offer. And I'm happy to enjoy the Sunday Bizarro as a fan and reader.

I hope that clears up the question, and I appreciate having the chance to talk about it here.

This week's pipe pic is a sketchbook page from 2011.

The subject is Bertel Bruun (1937-2011), coauthor of the classic guidebook, Birds of North America. I sometimes warm up by sketching a photo from the newspaper. This was based on the image accompanying Bruun's obituary in The New York Times.

I might see if our local library has a copy of Birds of North America. Perhaps I'll find inspiration for varying the Inverted Bird secret symbol.

Let's see how many birds appear in this week's Bizarro comics, or at least the Monday through Saturday panels.

Castaways on an island without even a single palm tree can be particularly cranky and territorial.
As I review these panels, I find this one to be the least satisfactory. I'd been toying for a while with the words "silverfish" and "goldfish," and trying to work them into... something. The words are constructed similarly, but the animals they name are very different from each other. An early sketch referenced gold, silver, and bronze Olympic medals, but didn't gel as a gag.
Scale is a major problem with this sketch. A silverfish would be much tinier next to even the smallest goldfish. Readers would have to make a mental leap to recognize the goldfish and silverfish, and then see a connection to the nonexistent "bronzefish," finally relating it to Olympic medals. It's too convoluted and too exhausting to be funny.
The published panel might have been improved if the dialog read, "If not for the great coaches who believed in me, I'd still be a silverfish." That moves the payoff word to the end of the sentence, but it sounds stilted. Let's just say I won't submit this one for any awards.
Possibly the next evolutionary step for this species.
When I wrote this back in January, I didn't know that by the time it was published, our country would be spiraling toward becoming a repressive,  ultra-orthodox theocracy. 
Also, I wish I'd drawn the self-satisfied corporate bro to look like Elon Musk.
I'm curious about experiencing an isolation tank, but terrified that this is how it would go for me. When things are too quiet, those self-critical voices can really shout.
We ended the week with a pun, and an excuse to draw three bagpipes, being played with varying degrees of incorrectness. As I've stated before, I have no beef with bagpipes, banjos, accordions, or any other musical instrument, but certain ones are generally considered to be annoying or unpleasant, so they're rich fodder for humor.
As it turns out, I neglected the Inverted Bird this week. I'll try to pay it more attention in the future, although it's tough to compete with the Flying Saucer of Possibility.

That's the latest from Bizarro Studios North. Thanks for stopping by to see what I've been up to. Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog to check out his comments and his latest glorious Sunday page. I do it every week myself!

If you crave even more words, with different pictures, sign up for my weekly newsletter. It's free, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Bonus Track

Tom Lehrer: The Vatican Rag
Live in Copenhagen, 1967