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.


  1. Anonymous11:05 AM

    Great Dylan video. What’s a “man whole”?

    1. Bob Dylan's playing with words. Better to be a Man Whole (a whole man) than go down into a manhole. Fits in with the subterranean theme, I think.

    2. I think TCZARNIK1 answered it well.

      This shows why Dylan was deservedly awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition."

  2. Anonymous2:44 PM

    Yes, regarding the “hard of hearing” or “deaf” issue, my husband is hard of hearing and relies on reading lips as part of trying to figure out what someone is saying. If I’m not facing him when I talk to him, he can’t understand what I said. And, of course, with people wearing masks, he can’t make out what they are saying at all.

  3. ever considered putting 02 or K2 in the word balloon?

    1. Hmmm.... probably not, but who knows what the future may bring?

  4. Anonymous4:12 PM

    Loved all the Funetti/Cumuli themed offerings this week! The Mort Walker book sounds awesome!

    1. It's a great book. Out of print, and the prices online are outrageous!

  5. In the Tuesday (conference room) panel, I thought we were seeing Alfred E. Neuman in a rear-of-head view, in the first seat on this side.

    1. I can see the resemblance. It was unintentional, but MAD was a big influence.

  6. I teach about people's primary (not solitary) system of interacting with their world. It generally falls into 3 broad categories, although there are others.
    Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic.
    Visual people usually talk fast, love images, graphs, pictures, and prefer them when they learn. They often need to slow down and listen, smell, taste, and touch the roses.
    Auditory people usually want to speak about an email or issue, love to hear themselves talk, and think aloud, as that process engages both their thought and their hearing simultaneously. They often need to hear directions 3 times for them to stick.
    Kinesthetics want to physically engage in the world and with others. They are huggers and often are close-talkers. They usually don't read instructions, watch a video, or ask for directions - they just DO things - although they may get better results if they did do those things.
    The point is, we all have our preferences. We also tend to use that primary system to share things with others. So imagine a V interacting with an A or K using only V-type communication styles. You can see the breakdown in communication very quickly.

    I LOVE how you captured this, Wayno!!! 💗

    1. Bud -- Thank you for the lovely, informative comment. I wasn't familiar with that way of characterizing the way individuals interact with the world, but find it fascinating. I can see aspects of all three in myself, which I suppose is common. That's quite interesting!

  7. Right -- "Try hard, get barred, get back, write [B]raille". I always thought that the song lyrics hardest to memorize were the ones to "The Waters of March", but maybe "Subterranean Homesick Blues" is even tougher.
    Still enjoying the continuing saga of switching layout formats. Why is it that you always begin vertically?

    1. I suspect that Dylan was, at least in part, inspired by Chuck Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business," too.

      I think of the vertical panel as the primary format, and that's the one I prefer. My brain is wired to conceive of the gag in that way. I suppose I could start with the strip and change it to a panel, but now I'm set in my ways, and would have to learn a whole new process.

  8. Anonymous7:32 AM

    Fascinating collection this week, and new challenges to the fourth wall.

  9. I think these were brilliant and applaud the full week theme full of such variety.

    Just as I learned to whistle because of Naima by Coltrane, I learned, as it were , a full song with Subterranean Homesick Blues. Great theme run.

    Here's the new video of that original. Much changed but Bobby Neuwirthand Ginsberg still walk away, Renee...

  10. Anonymous8:22 PM

    Love the blogs because they always provoke some pondering along the way. This week for me the evergreen tug ‘o war twixt “Aloud” v. “Out loud”. Although it’s an old war, likely long forgotten by the auditory, kinetic and whatever the other ine was, it’s still…

  11. Anonymous2:22 AM

    I once met "Spirit" drummer Ed Cassidy at a guitar shop in Torrance and he told me all about his interest in UFOs... They were hanging out in Venice (CA) back then and were featured in a movie, Cassidy was basically a jazz drummer and Randy California worked with a lot of bands, even Hendrix...