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®


  1. Anonymous1:35 PM

    ¡Imán! ¡Imán! ¿Dónde estás Imán? My favorite first year Spanish class rememberrie from a 7th grade text… “Imán” was the name of the kid character’s dog - “magnet”. I always thought magnet was a great name for a dog… but I digress. (A lot…)

    1. You were obviously a better-behaved student than I was...

  2. Paul Nesja2:34 PM

    Thanks for the Nesja Press shout out, Wayno!
    Just to clarify, my Random Graphic of the Day posts are almost always taken from my personal collection of vintage ephemera. I’ve been accumulating these odd little images for years and now my wife and I are using them to spark our imagination for some of the things we create on our presses.

  3. Ah! Thanks, Paul! I'm going to amend the post. Much appreciated!

  4. Anonymous10:15 AM

    I posted this on Comic Kingdom about the guy at the paint store: "Special BOGO offer: if he buys Slacquer, it comes with a can of DisStain."

  5. Anonymous2:48 PM

    That pipe pic looks exactly like the popcorn popper I grew up with in the 60s.

  6. Anonymous12:44 PM

    Just spotted this one and thought of Bizarro:

  7. Anonymous12:58 PM

    #3 is my favorite in “fly in my soup”