Saturday, January 28, 2023

The Maltese Mackerel

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 created Bizarro in the late twentieth century, and continues to do the Sunday comic from Rancho Bizarro in Mexico.


Write drunk, edit sober.

A few days ago, our hard-working Bizarro editor caught a typo in one of my comics. It was an obvious error that I'd missed, and I said that it looked like I must have been drinking on the job. She replied with the comment above this post, which is often attributed (incorrectly, it turns out) to Ernest Hemingway.

In a purely metaphorical sense, it's got some merit as advice for cartoonists. I wouldn't suggest literally being drunk while writing, but letting go of logic and rules sometimes helps generate ideas, which can then be edited (or refined) in a clear-headed and methodical way to hammer them into something usable.

After the work's completed? Now, that's a good time for some liquid reward, if one is so inclined. What the hell, today's the twenty-eighth; even if you're doing Dry January, it's nearly over.

I may have a nip this evening, and if I do, I'll raise a glass to our editor, JB, who catches and corrects my goofs before they can make their way out into the world. Thanks, JB!

Speaking of alcohol, this week's pipe pic offers a surprising use for vodka, as seen in a 1964 magazine article.

For those brave enough to give it a try, here's the full image, showing the recommended brand of hooch.

A tip of the old porkpie to Bizarro reader Steve D for sending us this oddball image.

Now, let's check the week's comics for evidence of cartooning under the influence.

At some level, we can all relate to Monday's gag.

Alexa's latest software update includes enhanced attitude. Unlike the smart speaker, I have no beef with opera.
Despite being woefully uninformed, I have in fact enjoyed operatic performances and recordings. What little I know about the art form, I gleaned from Bugs Bunny cartoons.

I got carried away with the Secret Symbols, and placed a dozen in this panel. I nearly included them all, but after several attempts to cram the Fish of Humility into the frame, I gave up.

We followed with a simple palate cleanser of a gag.

I made some adjustments to the server's posture to fit him into the strip layout.
This revised body language resulted in an unexpectedly improved drawing.

The introduction of a new character can significantly change a familiar story.

I enjoy hard-boiled 1940s crime cinema as much as I enjoy sushi, so this panel was like dinner and a movie to me.

This caption employs adjacent metathesis, which is the transposition of sounds within a word, or words within a sentence. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "I put in a different order." I occasionally use adjacent metathesis as a way to create a surprising balloon or caption for a comic.

We wrapped up with our second gag of the week employing inanimate objects as protagonists. They're a close-knit family.

That's the latest in words and pictures from Bizarro Studios North. If you enjoy this blog, I also recommend these related Bizarro locations:

Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog
Dan's always-gorgeous Sunday Bizarro, plus other thoughts from Rancho Bizarro World HQ in Mexico

 Wayno's Bizarro Newsletter
A supplement to the blog, with a peek at an upcoming Bizarro gag, and an illustration or design from the archives

Dan Piraro's epic, award-winning, surreal western graphic novel

Bonus Track

Frank Gallop, "Got a Match?"
ABC-Paramount Records, 1958


A vinyl gem from the Bizarro Studios North collection.

Copyright© 2023 by Wayno®






Saturday, January 21, 2023

Party Like It's 4721

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 created Bizarro in the late twentieth century, and continues to do the Sunday comic from Rancho Bizarro in Mexico.


The gag itself comes first and is the more difficult than the drawing part of cartooning.
Ernie Bushmiller

Sunday, January 22 is Lunar New Year 4721, a Year of the Rabbit, so I'll take another opportunity to wish all of you health, happiness, peace and prosperity throughout the year.

For a period of 24 years, I sent Lunar New Year cards as promotional pieces to drum up illustration work. I figured that a card sent to potential clients in January or February had a better chance of being noticed than if it arrived with hundreds of other pieces in December. And it was fun to set up a premise for creating a card featuring a different animal each year. I even did a set of twelve paintings for an art show back in 2007.

Our opening quote is from Nancy cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller. In general, I agree with Ernie's assertion that writing a gag is tougher than drawing it, although there are exceptions. Last week, I drew a gag showing Scrabble tiles on the game board, and I labored over it more than any other cartoon in that batch. Piano keyboards give me headaches, too.

Bill Griffith, creator of Zippy the Pinhead, has completed an illustrated biography of Bushmiller, which will be published sometime this year. I'm one of the many fans of Griffith and Bushmiller who are anxiously awaiting this book.

This week's pipe pic is a groovy shot of lap steel guitarist Freddie Roulette, who died on Christmas Eve 2022 at the age of 83.

Freddie had a long career, recording and performing for more than sixty years. Click on the photo to watch a great live performance of "End of the Blues."

Thanks to faithful Bizarro reader Andréa D for bringing Freddie’s obit to our attention.

Let's take a look at what I wrote and drew for this week's Bizarro comics.

These used carriage salesmen have come to a Grimm realization about their latest deal.

I've seen quite a few cartoons involving bowling balls and pins showing the ball as an aggressor, and I've done one myself. For Tuesday's gag, I flipped the trope to consider the ball as a sympathetic character.

This vessel is particularly effective at abducting law enforcement stereotypes.


I thought this is what's meant by religious indulgences.

On Friday, we nodded to Gene Wilder's performance in Young Frankenstein for an automotive gag. I rarely use the exclamation point in a cartoon's dialog, but felt it was warranted in this instance.

We ended the week with a slightly naughty take on the aquatic-to-terrestrial transition of vertebrate organisms in the late Devonian epoch. 

That's the latest from my Little Shop of Humor. Again, I wish you a happy Year of the Rabbit. If you seek further enlightenment, check out these other convenient Bizarro locations:

Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog
Dan's Sunday page, accompanied by his musings on a wide variety of topics

Wayno's Bizarro Newsletter
A weekly preview of a future Bizarro gag, along with an old piece of art from my archives

Dan Piraro's epic, award-winning, surreal western graphic novel

Bonus Track

Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five
Decca Records
Recorded in New York, April 23, 1947

A prime Louis Jordan number with a spectacular solo by an unidentified steel guitarist.

Copyright© 2023 by Wayno®

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Prickly Parker

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 created Bizarro in the late twentieth century, and continues to do the Sunday comic from Rancho Bizarro in Mexico.


A pun is the lowest form of humor—when you don't think of it first.
Oscar Levant

The New Year is chugging along, and we're still making comics for you. I hope your year is off to a good start.

Our opening quote comes from astoundingly multi-talented Pittsburgh native Oscar Levant (1906-1972). Wikipedia describes him as a "concert pianist, composer, conductor, author, radio game show panelist, television talk show host, comedian and actor. He was equally famous for his mordant character and witticisms, on the radio and later in movies and television, as for his music."

"Mordant character and witticisms" is wiki-speak for "razor-tongued smartassery." When asked what he wanted to be as a child, Levant replied, "An orphan."

Puns can be a solid form of humor as long as they're surprising. I also believe that they usually require another layer or a strong setup to make for a satisfying gag, and can't normally stand on their own. Of course, I may be proved wrong at any time.

This week's pipe pic is a relic from my illustration archives, created in 2002 for the New York Press, a snotty alternative to the Village Voice that lasted from 1998 to 2011.

Most likely, this was drawn for Sign Language, a weekly horoscope column by Caeriel Crestin. I illustrated the column for several years. When Caeriel emailed his column to the NYP editors, he'd copy me and I'd come up with a drawing related to whatever the first horoscope was about that week. I was given free rein to do whatever I wanted for the column and the Art Director never once asked for a change. The pay wasn't great, but the gig was steady and fun.

My current gig is even more fun (and a lot more work). Let's see what emerged from my Little Shop of Humor for the week of January 9, 2023...

Not every nerd has the good fortune to be bitten by a cool radioactive animal.

One of our favorite pastimes is making fun of comic book superheroes. If you enjoy them, more power to you. Here at Bizarro Studios, we like to focus on the ridiculous aspects of the genre.

Ten days into the year, we finally have a clown gag. It's a shot of the Ringling Brothers Hook & Ladder Company responding to a four-slide-whistle fire.

Arctic citizens have fantasy lives, too.

Clearly, he didn't read the updated Terms of Service.

My colleague Dan McConnell suggested this caption, and I accepted the challenge to make it into a cartoon panel. I'll take any excuse to feature an accordion in a gag.

I enjoy nature documentaries, although I sometimes drift into slumber when watching them. A recent one planted the term "bait ball" in my subconscious, eventually resulting in this panel.

That closes out another week of cartoon antics from Bizarro Studios North. Thanks for dropping by. As usual, I recommend taking at look at our affiliated sites:

Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog
The latest Sunday Bizarro, and deep thoughts from mi amigo en Mexico

Wayno's Bizarro Newsletter
More chatter from me, a preview of a future Bizarro gag, and a vintage graphic from my files

Dan Piraro's epic, award-winning, surreal western graphic novel

Bonus Track

Barrence Whitfield & the Savages
"Oscar Levant"
from Dig Thy Savage Soul
Bloodshot Records, 2013

Former pipe pic model Barrence Whitfield is one of my all-time favorite live performers. He's been  singing, screaming, and shouting high-octane rhythm & blues since the late 1970s, with no signs of slowing down.

I saw the Savages at Pittsburgh's long-gone and much loved Decade club in 1985, and at another venue in 2015. I hope I don't have to wait thirty years longer to hear them again.

Copyright© 2023 by Wayno®

Saturday, January 07, 2023

I Got Them Old Empty Can Blues Again, Mama

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 created Bizarro in the late twentieth century, and continues to do the Sunday comic from Rancho Bizarro in Mexico.


Ambiguity is okay. Ask the reader to meet you halfway.
Bill Griffith

Happy 2023, friends. 

I feel as if I started doing the Bizarro dailies just a few weeks ago, yet here we are starting the sixth year. Time flies when you have unending deadlines, and I mean that in a positive way.

This post kicks off with a quote from my friend and hero Bill Griffith, creator of Zippy the Pinhead, among many other memorable works of comic art. It's taken from a Sunday Zippy page titled Griffy's Top Ten List on Comics and Their Creation. I regularly consult Bill's rules, and this item, number six on the list, is one I think about often. Part of humor's appeal is the small, surprising discoveries, revealing a joke or observation that isn't spelled out in large block letters.

Item ten is also a favorite:

Never listen to anyone else's advice on cartooning.

That's worth remembering, particularly when we share our work on social media. It enables us to reach an audience beyond readers who seek out comics online or in print, but that's not always a plus. Most comments from random accounts are complaints, misguided "expertise," or unrelated rants, which led to my own eleventh rule:

Never respond to ridiculous comments or questions.

We do comics for people who get the concept of meeting in the middle. You know who you are, and we appreciate you.

Our first pipe pic of the New Year shows a happy mid-century American family admiring their new popcorn popper. It comes from Paul Nesja, one of the hosts of The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest Podcast, which is available on the usual podcast platforms. If you're a fan of single-panel cartoons, you might enjoy the podcast's in-depth discussions of caption writing. I listen to it every week.

Paul has a keen eye for vintage graphics, and he recently sent me a scan of this beauty from his collection of printed ephemera, which I'm happy to share here.

Paul and his spouse Christy own and operate Nesja Press, an art and design studio specializing in letterpress printing. They offer a selection of attractive cards and prints, including a collaboration with New Yorker cartoonist Drew Dernavich.

Now, let's assess the ambiguity levels in this week's Bizarro comics.

The year's first panel required a crane shot to deliver its trashy gag.

And, the strip layout called for some creative shuffling of the art.

Sometimes, Whatever is enough.
Simple trickery helped the panel become a strip. I only had to add walls on both sides to  turn the counter into a service window. That's another trade secret revealed as we continue to demystify the cartooning process.

Management says the quiet part out loud, or perhaps more accurately, enlarges the fine print.

I've now used about half of what I remember from high school Spanish class. The other bit I retain is the teacher's frequent exclamation, "¡Cierren sus bocas!"

The text in Friday's gag was wordier in my initial sketch:


The final version is punchier, and employs the Rule of Three, making for a more satisfying payoff.

If these characters combined their star signs and Chinese zodiac animals, I'd have drawn them as a tigerfish and a two-headed monkey.

That's a wrap for the first week of 2023. Thanks for joining us for another spin around the sun.

For additional insight into the minds behind Bizarro, check out our other convenient storefronts:

Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog
Marvel at Dan's latest Sunday Bizarro, and his thoughts on non-cartoon topics

Wayno's Bizarro Newsletter
A weekly supplement to the blog, with a preview of an upcoming gag, and a graphic artifact from my past

Dan Piraro's surreal western graphic novel

Going Legit

You may recall that in November, I was one of many cartoonists who celebrated the centennial of Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts. The project was initiated by cartoonists Robb Armstrong (JumpStart), Patrick McDonnell (Mutts), and Patrick's wife, Karen O'Connell.

When the National Cartoonists Society notified members about the project early in 2022, they mentioned that there would probably be an exhibit of the comic art at some time in the future, and in early December, The Charles M. Schulz Museum sent letters expressing an interest in acquiring the original art.

I was thrilled to imagine my art residing in the Schulz Museum, and happily shipped my donation to them.

I don't normally include balloons or lettering in my hand-drawn originals, but I knew in advance that this one would probably hang in an exhibit someday, so I added them, along with a signature, crop marks, and title.

More typically, I consider my originals to be production pieces rather than finished comics. The drawings are raw material, crafted into comics after they've been scanned. When I take them into the digital domain, I remove the pencil lines and date stamp, and clean up the black & white art. Then I'll add panel borders, balloons, text, copyright info, and signature. I digitally draw in some of the Secret Symbols after the panel is laid out, when I can see spots where they might be placed.

Here's an example to make things clearer.

Finished Bizarro panel, 11/24/26

Original art, 9/22/22

Since every panel will also be reconfigured as a strip, I often separate individual elements in the original art, to allow for moving and resizing later, as needed. The original drawing might also include pieces that don't appear in the final comic, like the family portrait on the wall in the image above.

That's your peek at how the cartoon sausage is made at this particular delicatessen.

If you happen to see my drawing at the Schulz Museum someday, you'll know a little extra about what was behind its creation. I hope to see it there myself. The Museum is a terrific place to spend time, and I sincerely appreciate them giving this piece a permanent and prestigious home.


Bonus Track

Wire: "I Am the Fly"
Harvest/EMI Records single, 1978

Copyright© 2023 by Wayno®