Saturday, August 27, 2022

Copycat Crime

This is the regular dispatch 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.


Inspiration has always been born of recombination.
Gary Panter

Greetings once again from Hollywood Gardens, PA, the home of Bizarro Studios North. The above quote is taken from Gary Panter's 1980 essay, The Rozz-Tox Manifesto. I first encountered Rozz-Tox in a Ralph Records mail order catalog, and subsequently reprinted it (with Panter's permission) in Shake & Pop!, a music zine I co-published at the time.

We've talked about originality, inspiration, and creativity on the blog in the past, and will touch on them again today, but not before the traditional sharing of a pipe pic.

This one is a drawing by my Bizarro partner Dan Piraro, from his brilliant ongoing graphic novel, Peyote Cowboy.

PeyCow is a surreal adventure in a magical version of the old west. The artwork is brilliant, and the storyline is fascinating and original

I didn't tell him I was using a clip from Peyote Cowboy as this week's pipe pic, but I'm pretty sure he won't mind.

Now that we've set an unattainably high artistic bar with Dan's art, let's plummet back to Earth with a look at my recent comics.

I enjoy drawing pirates as much as clowns, cowhands, and cave dwellers, but need to find a synonym for "pirate" that begins with the letter c.

I must confess to taking a bit of pride in placing the O2 Secret Symbol on the captain's log document.

I've done a fair number of gags featuring floating ghosts draped with a sheet. Every time, I imagine it being one I can draw quickly, and then spend more time on it than any other panel for the week. In this case, I kept tweaking the pattern on the bandana.

Wednesday's comic raises the topics of originality and inspiration, with a reference to pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, who famously made paintings that were meticulously copied from comic book panels. Lichtenstein reproduced the work of poorly-paid, living artists while he became wealthy off their appropriated images.

In a 2007 interview, Art Spiegelman commented," Lichtenstein did no more or less for comics than Andy Warhol did for soup."

Russ Heath (1926-2018) created many of the panels that Lichtenstein copied for his paintings, and struggled financially throughout his life. In 2014, Heath did a comic about being a source for Lichtenstein's art, and some financial help he received from an organization called the Hero Initiative.

One can understand, appreciate, and support the concept of transformative fair use, which involves using an original work for purposes of criticism, satire, or education, or that builds upon the previous work, but it can at times be murky and ambiguous. 

If I were Russ Heath, I'd have hated Lichtenstein's guts, too.

For my comic, I researched photos of Lichtenstein to try to capture what he may have looked like as a young child. I found an early photo to work from, and was fairly happy with the result.

This reminded me of a page I created in 1993 for Heavy Metal magazine. I played with the idea of fine art created from "low" art, with a fictionalized version of myself as an unsuspecting outsider whose work inspired well known artists.

I used Howie Patterson, a character from my self-published minicomix as the subject of four imagined paintings.

The pieces parodied the art of (clockwise from top left) Andy Warhol, Mary Fleener (a good friend and a great cartoonist), Keith Haring, and Robert Williams. 

Click on the images for a closer view of the page and the introductory text.

The Heavy Metal page was a reversal of minicomix I published under the title Mondo Howie, where I invited fellow cartoonists to draw their own versions of the character.

This page was done by Michael Roden (1952-2007), a prolific minicomix artist, and one of my old self-publishing pals.

As someone who often uses pop culture references and familiar characters and images as comic fodder, I try to follow the legal and ethical guidelines of transformative fair use. I'm also constantly amazed (and angered) by the outright theft of cartoons all over the web, enabled by digital technology and the enormity of the internet.

With that extensive digression aside, we return to our usual review of the week in Bizarro.

That lowercase anarchy symbol is a dead giveaway.

This is what's known as "dropping knowledge."

Also, I know that lemmings don't actually jump off cliffs en masse. It's a familiar myth, and serves as a handy metaphor for some aspects of human behavior.

This batch concludes with my latest inanimate object comic, and a reminder that inside, we're all the same.

That's a wrap for this week, amigos. We'll be back next Saturday with more words about words and pictures. I recommend visiting Dan Piraro's blog, where he shares his latest Sunday Bizarro page, and interesting thoughts on other topics. 

You might also consider subscribing to my free newsletter, where I always preview an upcoming gag, along with a piece of art or design from my files.

Bonus Track

The Jam - "Pop Art Poem"

"Pop Art Poem" was o
riginally released in February 1981, as a floppy record attached to a British magazine called Flexipop.


Saturday, August 20, 2022

Shell Game

This is the regular dispatch 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.


Summer is approaching its end, and students are returning to the classroom, but on the drawing board at Bizarro Studios, it's nearly Halloween, thanks to our advance publication deadlines.

We're still working to get a little further ahead of schedule, so this week's post will be briefer than usual.

Bizarro reader Matt P provided our pipe pic of the week. It's a screen capture from the 2012 movie Lincoln, showing actor Gulliver McGrath portraying Lincoln's son, Tad.

If I had a stovepipe hat, I'd tip it to you, Matt. Thanks for the excellent image.

Now, let's take an honest look back at this week's Bizarro cartoons.

Imagine if everyone expected you to have all the answers.

An unexpected joint replacement at the market.

If you're a 3D printing expert and happen to make a life-size fire hydrant, please send us a photo.

When a Bizarro panel includes three characters, I try to avoid having the one in the center speaking. That can make the strip conversion difficult, because word balloons in the strip have to be placed beside the speaker, as there's not enough overhead space for them.

Fortunately the diagonal arrangement of characters gave me enough room to make it work. 

Both panel and strip feature an invader from Planet Goober as a Secret Symbol.

The worker in the t-shirt is known as a bouncer, so named for bouncing patrons on his knee.

We wrapped up the week with a pun, accompanied by my amateurish attempt at a popular, if grotesquely cute, drawing style.

That's the latest from Bizarro Studios North. Thanks for dropping by, and please visit again next week.

Also, check out Dan Piraro's blog for more colorful commentary, and Dan's always-spectacular Sunday Bizarro page.

There's no musical bonus track this time around, so feel free to choose a song that reminds you of one of these gags. Post your selection in the comments if you like.

See you in seven days.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Beyond the Pale

This is the regular dispatch 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 sincerely think that humor will help save humanity from the swamp into which it is sinking. Today we can’t afford to be pessimistic, so let’s try to keep a sense of humor bolted on to our hearts, soul and spirit!
Jean-Jacques Perrey

Greetings from Bizarro Studios North, the little shop of humor nestled in Hollywood Gardens, PA.

Today's pipe pic should've run last week to go along with the B.B. King cartoon. I missed that opportunity, but it's too good not to use, even if it is a bit late.

I'm guessing this shot was taken in the early 1970s, judging by those groovy polyester slacks.

Jean-Jacques Perrey (1929-2016), quoted above, was a pioneering electronic composer and performer. With Gershon Kingsley, he formed the duo Perrey-Kingsley, who were among the first musicians to issue recordings using the Moog synthesizer. Many of their recordings were used in Disney films and theme parks.

Monsieur Perrey and I became pen pals after I drew a caricature of him for Cool & Strange Music Magazine.

We exchanged several letters and photos, and I believe I may have sent him the original art for this cover, as I'm unable to locate it in my files. He was a kind and generous correspondent. I wish I'd had the chance to meet him in person, but am grateful to have his notes and pictures, along with a ton of joyful music.

I did my best to bolt some humor onto every one of our recent Bizarro cartoons. Let's see if they held of shook loose.

It's no surprise that music finds its way into many of my cartoons. I've been an enthusiastic music lover since childhood.

Peter S., one of my pals who's also deeply into music decided that this guy's act could be named 21st Century Schizoid Band, which I simply had to share here. A tip of the summer straw hat to Peter!

Tuesday's gag had a modest total of four Secret Symbols, but the panel was crowded with eight characters.

My initial sketch didn't make it clear that the buffet was set up for guests to pick insects off the apes on the table, so I added the partygoer filling his plate. I just now realized that it's a little disturbing to note that the host and guests are clothed, while the buffet gang are naked.

Wednesday's gag generated some chatter from the online bleachers:

There’s a drawing error. The white chalk line in front of the third base coach is correct, but it should continue in a straight line out towards left field, not make a 90 degree turn at third as it does in the drawing. The baseline between second and third is not chalked.
I won't dispute the opinions of experts. My limited knowledge of baseball comes mainly from the 1946 Looney Tunes short, Baseball Bugs

In the classic cartoon, white lines mark all four bases.

This one was easier to execute in color than in black & white. I tried a few different techniques for shading the character, with mixed success.
I turned to technology for a solution, and used Photoshop's airbrush tool in "dissolve" mode.

The disk jockey goes by the name Emcee Squared.
Ventriloquist/dummy gags are almost always layered with sadness, and this one is a prime example. However, your cartoonist did enjoy the challenge of drawing a dummy that looks like a younger version of the ventriloquist.

That wraps up another week of words and pictures from me. Be sure to visit Dan Piraro's blog, for a look at his latest Sunday Bizarro page, and to find out what else is on his mind.

Earlier this week, Dan shared a heartbreaking story about the unexpected loss of a beloved pet. 

Along with the entire Bizarro community, we send our love and condolences to Dan, Christy, and Monita. We're grateful that Jemima and Dan found each other, and that she had a loving home with her family.

Thanks for stopping by. See you next week.

In the meantime, if you share your home with an animal companion, give them some extra attention, praise, and comfort in Jemima's memory.

Bonus Track

Jean-Jacques Perrey: "The Percolator"
from Moog Sensations
Original release date: 1971, CD reissue: 2001

Saturday, August 06, 2022

Life of Riley

This is the weekly dispatch 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.


We all have idols. Play like anyone you care about but try to be yourself while you're doing so.
Riley "B.B." King (1925-2015)

B.B. King, who appeared in a Bizarro cartoon on Friday, is quoted above on inspiration and originality, themes we touched on in last week's blog entry, and will no doubt revisit in the future. Although blues music might appear to be rigidly constrained, it can also be a space for an artist to shine.

Our pipe pic is a dignified portrait of another American original, broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite (1916-2009). The photo was taken in 1970.

From 1950 until 1980, he delivered the news on CBS Television. During his career and after retiring, Cronkite was one of the most trusted figures in the country. When he anchored the CBS Evening News, he signed off with the line, "...And that's the way it is," followed by the date.

For a brief period beginning in 2003, he wrote a weekly opinion column, which was syndicated by King Features. Bizarro also joined King in 2003, balancing the gravitas added by Cronkite.

Nineteen years later, we're still producing cartoons every day. Let's take a look at the most recent bunch.

The hobbyhorse would be more fun at a party.

This is what I imagine it feels like to draw in-person caricatures. I have several friends who regularly do caricature gigs, and I admire the bravery required for that sort of job. I'd be nervous drawing someone while they're sitting in front of me, and terrified of how they might react.

The most difficult part of making this cartoon was selecting the terms in the text. I'd also considered "raveled," "tethered," and at least a couple others I've now forgotten.
This gag references the lyrics of "Oh, Susanna," composed by Stephen Foster, who was born in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood, and is now buried there.

The panel includes fourteen Bizarro Secret Symbols, which is probably the most I've placed in a cartoon, despite claims made in April Fools' Day gags.

The strip layout also has fourteen symbols, with the Lost Loafer replacing a K2.

The strip's word balloon partially obscures a shout-out to a great coffee shop in Stephen Foster's old neighborhood.

In 2010, not long after EAM opened for business, I designed a mascot, who has appeared on t-shirts, gift certificates, signage, and espresso cups. 

Friday's caption employs some weird wordplay, and a bonus pun on one of King's best-known recordings, "The Thrill is Gone."

The iconic musician opened B.B. King's Blues Club in Memphis in 1991, and it eventually expanded to several other cities. Its menu includes a variety of barbecue dishes.

There's also an official barbecue sauce available throughout the country, and now, a Bizarro cartoon about B.B.

The final gag of the week illustrates a not so great moment in animation history. I'm a fan of the classic Warner Brothers animated cartoons, but always thought that Porky Pig, the studio's first breakout star, has one  of cartoondom's least creative names, second only to Harvey Comics' Richie Rich.
My drawing of the studio boss was based on a photo of Jack Warner, who was the president of Warner Brothers.

We'll be back next week with another avalanche of words and pictures. Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog to view his always-magnificent Sunday Bizarro page.

And that's the way it is... from Bizarro Studios North, on Saturday, August 6, 2022. 

Bonus Track

B.B. King, appearing in the March 18, 1977 episode of Sanford & Son, "Fred Sings the Blues."