Saturday, June 25, 2022

Pepperoni Pie

This is the weekly communiqué from Bizarro Studios North, where I 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.


Take your time, dig it, man.
Lee "Scratch" Perry (1936 - 2021)


Summer officially began on Tuesday, the summer solstice. Each day will now be a little shorter than the one before it, until winter solstice arrives in December. In my adult years, I've come to prefer these naturally occurring events (solstices and equinoxes) to many human-made holidays. They're not commercially celebrated, but offer a reminder of time's passage, and a reason to pause and appreciate the presence of those we choose to be with, rather than those we're obligated to be with.

Photo © Peter Simon
This week's pipe pic is a portrait of reggae great Peter Tosh, by the late photographer Peter Simon. I've been listening to reggae while working over recent days, in part because it helps hot summer days feel less oppressive, but also because I just reread Reggae Bloodlines, by Stephen Davis and Peter Simon.

I owned this book in the late 1970s, when I was first becoming familiar with reggae. My copy is long gone, but I was happily surprised to find it at the library. I'd forgotten everything about the book other than the fact that it contained dozens of wonderful photos of Jamaican musicians, ordinary citizens, cities and countryside. I must confess to presupposing the text would have become dated, but it holds up well. Davis and Simon traveled to Jamaica to educate themselves on the music and the culture, and the book serves as a snapshot of a country and its people at a specific time in history.

As mentioned above, it prompted me to reach for the reggae in my collection. My favorite styles are echo-laden dub mixes (particularly anything by Lee Perry and Augustus Pablo), and early ska, with its raucous horns and insistent dance rhythms.

Lee Perry's Ape-Ology compilation was in heavy rotation here, and it's close at hand as I write this post.


Lest I forget the reason for the blog, let's check out the Bizarro gags that ran during this solstice week.

I rarely have the urge to see a film in a commercial theater, having been spoiled by streaming at home. A (streamed) documentary about the mating rituals of the manakin bird inspired this gag.

With rare foresight, I considered how this panel could be reconfigured as a strip when I first sketched it.

That pre-planning helped when it was time to do the conversion. In fact, this one might even work better in its horizontal layout.

The Slow Food movement can take unexpected forms.

Paradoxically, it was a stirring eulogy.
Last year, while searching for a reference image to draw one of these odd devices, I learned that they're called air dancers (or tube men), proving that cartooning can be educational.

As is our practice here at Bizarro Studios, I placed my favorite gag in the Friday slot. This one made both Dan and me laugh, and provided yet another opportunity to employ inanimate objects as protagonists.

I almost violated my rule against anthropomorphizing objects by sketching them with legs, but I came to my senses when drawing the finished art.

Is it still valid to set a comic in a physical office with employees working together in person? Is this nostalgia or fantasy? Who can say? All we know for certain is that there was no pie in the office.

That's the latest from our Little Shop of Humor. Thanks for stopping by and indulging my rambling digressions. Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog, where you can read more about these gags, discover what's on his mind of late, and admire his latest stunning Sunday Bizarro page.

Please feel free to subscribe to my newsletter, too. It always includes a sneak peek at an upcoming Bizarro cartoon, and a look back at an old illustration or design from my archives. It's easy to subscribe, and to unsubscribe, so you have nothing to lose.

Bonus Track

The Skatalites: "Independent Anniversary Ska"


Island Records released two volumes of Intensified! in 1979. These compilations were my first exposure to this raw and joyful precursor to reggae music. This Beatles cover by Roland Alphonso & the Skatalites never fails to make me smile.


Saturday, June 18, 2022

Reverse Mycology

This is the weekly communiqué from Bizarro Studios North, where I 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'm not sure, but I'm almost positive that all
music came from New Orleans.

Ernie K-Doe (1936 - 2001)

The month of June is packed with celebrations and events. This coming Tuesday is officially the first day of summer, as well as the summer solstice, although we've already experienced high temperatures close to one hundred degrees. I celebrated a birthday early this month, and my sweetie and I marked our anniversary a couple of days ago.

Our pipe pic comes to us courtesy of Bizarro reader Carol W, and is a WWII-era photo of her late father Ray. Since tomorrow is Father's Day, we're pleased to feature Carol's dad.

I zoomed in to show off Ray's friendly smile, as well as the shadow the pipe cast across his shoulder, making for an interesting photographic composition. Here's the full picture.


Carol tells us that Ray was stationed in Italy, and served in the Army's motor pool. He worked in construction, was a volunteer fireman, loved to fish and camp, and was a master of the barbecue rotisserie.

Thanks to Carol for sharing the photo and memories of Ray.


Monday is also Juneteenth, which was recognized as a Federal holiday just last year, though it's been observed since 1866. Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, and should also remind us of how far we as a country have to go toward achieving equality and eliminating racism.

Juneteenth is also observed by celebrating African American culture. The contributions of Black writers, artists, poets, entrepreneurs, jurists, activists, scientists, cartoonists, political and social leaders (and every other category imaginable) cannot be overstated.

As a lifelong music lover, I'm well aware that the overwhelming majority of music that enriches my life was directly created by Black artists. The human race itself originated in Africa two million years ago, so the late Ernie K-Doe, as quoted at the top of this entry, wasn't far off the mark.

If music is your thing, check out a Black artist, maybe one you haven't heard before. I can heartily recommend Sun Ra, Julius Eastman, Little Richard, Dave Bartholomew, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Nina Simone, John Coltrane, Burning Spear, Little Willie John, Miles Davis, Shuggie Otis, Funkadelic, Louis Jordan, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Guitar Watson, The "5" Royales, Curtis Mayfield, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Robert Johnson, Prince, Aaron Neville, Barrence Whitfield, Mavis Staples, Eddie Bo, Wendy Rene, Betty Davis, Mary Lou Williams, Duke Ellington, Ornette Coleman, James Brown, Clifton Chenier, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, Billie Holiday, Sonny Sharrock, Lee Morgan, Lee Perry, Eric Dolphy, Jelly Roll Morton...

You get the picture. The list could go on indefinitely.

We're all part of the same species, despite any ridiculous claims to the contrary.


Now, I invite you to check out our latest comics, most of which were drawn while I listened to the glorious music of some of the artists named above.

Monday's panel was a simple reversal of  the overly common statement made by exiting public figures. More than a few readers interpreted it as an attack on their sports idol of choice, and proceeded to pontificate in the comment fields.

Tuesday's gag featured a rebellious portobello.

Several sharp-eyed readers asked if I'd miscounted the Secret Symbols in this one, assuming that Holmes's pipe was Bizarro's Pipe of Ambiguity symbol.

The answer is no, we don't count an unambiguous pipe smoked by a character as a Secret Symbol. It's practically mandatory to draw Sherlock Holmes with a pipe, so while working on the panel, I checked in with Dan Piraro. He confirmed that a pipe smoked by someone falls into the same category as a character wearing loafers, which wouldn't count as the Lost Loafer symbol.

We do occasionally count incorrectly, so those queries weren't unreasonable.


Mechanical moms and dads often refer to that awkward conversation as "the nuts and the bolts."

I apologize to my cartooning colleagues for revealing a trade secret.

It would have been a better idea to place the speaker on the left, to make the strip conversion a little easier.

I had to swap the characters' positions and redraw the cartoonist's head for the horizontal layout, but it wasn't too difficult.

If only feng shui had been common knowledge when I was a kid, I could have minimized my consumption of overcooked canned veggies...

That's the latest from your cartoonist. Remember to check out Dan Piraro's blog for more pithy commentary, and to read his latest widescreen Bizarro Sunday page, which is always a visual feast.

You might also consider subscribing to my weekly email newsletter, where you get a preview of an upcoming cartoon, and some pre-Bizarro relic from my flat files. You can easily unsubscribe at any time, though I might pout if you do.

Bonus Track

Wendy Rene: "Bar B Q"
Stax Records 45, released 1964


An absolutely perfect summer record by an unjustly underappreciated artist.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Fresh Garbage

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

Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.
Søren Kierkegaard

Greetings from verdant Hollywood Gardens, PA, where I recently stumbled upon the above quote from the Danish philosopher-theologian, and wrote it in my sketchbook. I can't claim to know what he had in mind when he wrote this for his book, The Concept of Anxiety, but it resonates with me as an apt description of the psychology of making art. 

The creation of any type of art usually begins with... nothing. Or, perhaps more accurately, with everything. A blank canvas presents almost no constraints, and is a place of unlimited possibilities and freedom. I think ol' Søren recognized that a certain amount of anxiety is a normal and necessary part of the creative process. Once the artist discovers and defines the direction of a piece, overcoming that initial anxiety becomes a motivation to proceed, although anxiety often reappears until (and even after) a project is completed.

A pithy quote encapsulating a familiar feeling or experience is reassuring, and I'm glad I found this one, whether or not my interpretation is correct.

Our pipe pic was suggested by two Bizarro readers, so I offer a tip of the summer porkpie to Jazz Pickles Helen D and Kenton. The smiling smoker is author and humorist David Sedaris.

Photo by Anne Fishbein, via NPR
Although he may not have actually smoked it, Sedaris posed for several photos with this pipe. One showed him bent over an old typewriter, which was also a fun image, but this one, taken in the Los Angeles County Library, was available in a higher resolution, so I chose it for the blog.

I guarantee that no small amount of anxiety went into the writing and drawing of this week's Bizarro comics. Let's hope they don't produce any anxiety in readers.

In addition to the rearview mirror hanger, my favorite part of this panel is the indifferent look on the raccoon's face.
In the sketch phase, I tried two different captions before eventually settling on "air putrifier," although I still like the sound of "stenchener."

I wonder how kings from a checkers game would rank in relation to chess pawns. There are no doubt additional gags to be done using various game pieces as characters. Maybe in a future Bizarro, who knows?

Or, he could have been quarantined on a cruse ship since the spring of 2020.

On Thursday, we offered a look at the mundane existence of superheroes when they're not saving the universe. I quite enjoyed drawing Captain America in a ribbed tank undershirt, like a film noir detective in his dingy apartment. 

Two weeks passed between our last clown gag and this one. The world's balance has been restored.

Continuing our practice of assigning sentience and motives to inanimate objects, we imagine a rivalry between home improvement tools. The mind of a cartoonist can be mysterious. And weird.

That's it from the Little Shop of Humor until next week. Thanks for visiting, and for your comments. Pop by Dan Piraro's blog to see what he has to say about these panels, and to gaze in wonder at his latest Sunday Bizarro page.

You're also welcome to subscribe to my weekly email newsletter. Each one includes a preview of an upcoming cartoon, and a non-Bizarro relic from the archives. Of course, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Bonus Track Update

I mentioned that last week's bonus track, Ian Dury's "Billericay Dickie," was planted in my brain by one of the panels in the blog. Readers submitted several good guesses, but nobody made the connection that led me to include the song.

The culprit was Tuesday's one-armed bandit gag, and the lyric that became an earworm for me was this:

You should never hold a candle
If you don't know where it's been
The jackpot is in the handle
On a normal fruit machine

As I said, the mind of a cartoonist can be weird.

(Unambiguous) Bonus Track

Spirit: "Fresh Garbage"
from the album Spirit (Ode Records, 1968)


A classic and catchy heavy hippie rock selection, which provided the title for this week's post. I remember hearing this song as a wee lad, on a trippy radio show hosted by a character called Brother Love.

Brother Love aka Ken Reeth (1938-2005)

I surreptitiously absorbed his teachings via the FM dial, knowing my parents would disapprove, and discovered a musical world beyond the pop music charts. Thanks, Brother Love, wherever you are.


Saturday, June 04, 2022

Music & Memories

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

Music improves the human condition.

Over the past few weeks, we've attended two gatherings to remember friends who died. As Memorial Day weekend approached, we learned that another lovely person we know departed this plane. This experience becomes more common the longer we exist, and reminds us to be grateful for the people who enrich our lives.

The quote at the top of this section is something my good friend Tim has said many times in the years I've known him. Tim's wife Deb is the friend who left us this past week. 

Through a mutual love of music, we met and got to know the couple, their extended family, and many friends. Yesterday, June 3, would have been Deb's birthday.

Deb and Tim have been the most passionate and generous music lovers I've ever known. They held concerts in their home and their backyard, and promoted shows at local venues, introducing friends and family to music they loved. They always made sure that the performers were paid fairly, and that everyone felt welcome.

They invited traveling musicians to stay with them while passing through town, providing comfortable sleeping quarters, home-cooked meals, friendship, and support, all of which are rare treats for touring performers.

My combo was lucky enough to be part of a backyard music series they sponsored a few years ago, called Pay It Forward. The description on their concert page shows one of the ways they shared their love for music and musicians.

Deb's published obituary included this request:

In lieu of flowers, donations, food, whatever, please honor Deb by gathering some friends to go out for a beverage or meal, and leave your servers a huge tip in her memory. While you are at it, go see some local music, fill up the tip bucket and buy a CD and some merch.

Although most of you reading this entry didn't know our friend, I hope you'll consider joining us in honoring her as someone who enjoyed and savored every aspect of life: family, friends, food, music, and much more.

This week's pipe pic is a vintage toy tie-in to my King Features Syndicate stablemate, Popeye the Sailor Man.

"Syndicate stablemate!" I still can't quite believe that I'm working as a syndicated cartoonist, the career I wanted since childhood. I'm now more than halfway through my fifth year at Bizarro, and hope to be at it for a long time to come. 

It's too bad we haven't licensed a Pipe of Ambiguity toy for young Bizarro readers, but, hey, we can still dream.
Let's take a look at the stuff we delivered to the syndicate over the past six days.
This is how Porcus Rex spoke, but I wonder if it should properly be called Pig English?
A friend asked if this one-armed bandit's payout is accompanied by a "bing, bing, bing" sound.
About ten years ago, I sketched an early version of this panel, with the same caption, and similar dialog. I can't locate a copy of it, but I'm glad I waited until now to publish the gag. As I recall, my old sketch showed what the protagonist was seeing, rather than what's actually there. It's much better to leave the character's hallucination in the mind of the reader, and funnier for us to see him responding to the cacti.

Who needs an IRA when you can sink your money into a low-resolution jpeg of a poorly-traced cartoon animal, while wrecking the climate?

Friday's panel featured the Monster's offspring at the village beer distributor. As regular readers know, I love to draw Frankie, and quite enjoyed imagining this family member.
The strip layout showed less of the counter, and more of the six packs displayed in the cooler.

The selection of brews includes a secret shout-out to my friend and fellow cartoonist Jim "JimmyHo" Horwitz, who creates the Watson comic strip. Watson is like Jimmy: sometimes dark, sometimes sweet, always a little weird, and lovable. 
Jimmy also wrote many gags for Dan Piraro at the same time I was pitching jokes to Bizarro, which is how we met. Check out Watson and see what you think.
We wrapped up the week with a leporine real estate scenario. I tried to fit a "for sale" sign into the panel, but ultimately decided it wasn't needed. The sales agent's clipboard and name tag, along with the dialog, were sufficient to establish the setup.
That's the latest from Bizarro Studios North. We're hard at work on more comics for you, and we appreciate your readership. Be sure to visit Dan Piraro's blog, which is always smart, entertaining, and thoughtful. While you're there, you can also admire Dan's latest magnificent Bizarro Sunday page.
Thanks for dropping by. See you next week.

Bonus Track

Ian Dury, "Billericay Dickie"
from New Boots and Panties!!
Stiff Records, 1977

When my trusty local record dealer started importing product from the UK, I religiously collected everything I could find on the Stiff Records label. It was the home of Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, The Damned, Wreckless Eric, and on and on. Dury was one of the unlikeliest of pop stars, and one of the most entertaining.

I chose this tune because one of the week's comics reminded me of part of its lyrics, and it's been lodged in my head for days. See if you can find the connection and send me a comment.