Saturday, February 25, 2023

Measure for Measure

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.


Honour thy error as a hidden intention.
Brian Eno & Peter Schmidt

Believe it or not, it's already time to look back on another short stack of Bizarro comics. In the studio, I was happy to have completed another week of new work in less than seven days, while many distractions presented themselves.

We're replacing two computers in our house, and (with the help of a knowledgeable consultant) the oldest one was decommissioned a couple of days ago. It's our "household" machine, and was on its last legs. I'm awaiting delivery of the new business Mac, which has me a little nervous. My current model is six or seven years old, and it's starting to act weird. I'm confident that the software and file transfers will work, but there's always the concern that the third-party peripherals (scanner, printer, tablet & stylus) might have to be replaced.

I also ventured out a few times. Twice to have a meal or a drink with old friends I haven't seen in a while, and once just to walk in some ridiculously pleasant February weather. On Thursday, here in Pittsburgh, we had a sunny high of seventy degrees. I barely even fretted about deadlines.

The quote at the top of the page is from Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt's Oblique Strategies cards. They're meant to be chosen at random to suggest ways to tackle creative problems. They don't strictly give advice, but can disrupt rote thinking and set the mind off in an unexpected direction. This is one of the more direct cards, and one of the more profound.

When people ask for tips about cartooning, one thing I always say is to draw every day, by hand, with a pen or pencil, not a mouse or stylus. When there's no "undo" option, unexpected marks on paper can sometimes grow into useful ideas. 

I had a vague awareness of this concept, but had never articulated it until I attended one of Laurie Rosenwald's How to Make Mistakes on Purpose workshops in 2007. It wasn't specifically about cartooning; Laurie's lessons apply to any creative work. She emphasized the importance of the accidental in making something new. Several of the workshop activities involved doing a large number drawings in a short burst of activity, encouraging stray lines or "happy accidents" to occur. If you have an opportunity to attend one of Laurie's workshops, don't miss it.

Rosenwald and Eno are both people I admire. They're interesting thinkers who make inspiring art. Eno is responsible for much of my favorite music, too.

This week's pipe pic was discovered in the wild by my friend and bandmate Dave Klug.

Dave snapped this picture at his favorite flea market. I showed restraint by not asking him to buy the book for me, and was content to have the photo to share on the blog.

Now, let's take a look at what may have resulted from some happy accidents at my drawing board this past week.

Comics about animals are sometimes comments on the human condition, such as this illustration of the adage, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." Of course, an exploding chew toy is even more dangerous.

I've been writing a lot of snowfolk gags, despite the fact that our winter has been alarmingly mild this year.

When a snowperson wears this hairstyle, their sense of smell is heightened.

I'm no longer a kid, but I relate to the kid in the comic. When someone calls my phone, which is its most basic function, I feel a little anxious and perturbed at the "interruption." When I answer and speak with a friend, it's always rewarding, but the ringtone still induces dread. At least I can channel my irrational fear into a comic.

Maybe a new Oblique Strategies card could read, "Honor thy neuroses as hidden jokes."

Actual experts admit when they're stumped, while uninformed know-it-alls are always sure of themselves.

When this cowpoke pokes a cow, the cow stays poked.

Saturday's gag has the week's highest Secret Symbol count, and the highest protagonist.

Thanks for dropping by the cartoon corral, buckaroos. Mosey on over next week, and we'll drink some virtual joe around the digital campfire.

Mardi Gras Bonus Track

Huey "Piano" Smith and the Clowns
Would You Believe It (I've Got a Cold)
Ace Records 45, 1959


February 21 was Mardi Gras. Less that two weeks before Fat Tuesday, Huey "Piano" Smith died at the age of 89. Smith was one of the greats of early New Orleans R&B, but like many musicians of his time, he was often cheated out of money, and had to work other jobs throughout his life.

His music was pure fun and joy, and he recorded many New Orleans classics, such as "Don't You Just Know It," "Rocking Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu," "Little Liza Jane," and "Don't You Know Yockomo."

"Would You Believe It" is a lesser-known number, with a delightful vocal by Bobby Marchan. My band used to perform this song, but we haven't for a few years. It might be time to bring it back into the repertoire.

Even More Bizarro Stuff

Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog
The latest Sunday Bizarro page, and thoughts on feline saliva

 Wayno's Bizarro Newsletter
If the blog doesn't fill you up, sample the newsletter. You'll see a clip from a future gag, and a graphic artifact from my files

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

Copyright© 2023 by Wayno®

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Golly, Wally

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 only thing I knew how to do was to keep on keeping on...
Bob Dylan, "Tangled Up in Blue"

Last week, I paused briefly to look at the work I've done (so far) as Bizarro's daily cartoonist. I'll elaborate on that later in the post. 

I selected a fragment of a Dylan lyric as the header for today's entry. It's taken out of its original context within one of Bob's epic tunes, but these words, on their own, resonate with me in regard to spending years on a body of work. 

I try not to think about how many gags I'll have to write and draw in an upcoming month or year, and focus on the current batch of six. When that's finished, the process starts over. Looking further ahead can become overwhelming.

The only thing I know how to do is to keep on keeping on.

Another part of my routine is sharing a pipe pic. It's a weekly nod to Bizarro's Pipe of Ambiguity Secret Symbol, which was launched on New Year's Day 2021.

Today's example is a generic illustration that could have been clipped from any American magazine or newspaper of its day. Like most of the images I share in this section, it was the result of idle googling when I should have been at work on comics. 

Although most readers consume Bizarro online, I still enjoy seeing comics and photos on newsprint, in glorious, grubby halftone dots. I tip my hat to the anonymous art-monkey who created this smiling smoker.

The personal milestone I mentioned above was closing the lid on the latest box of original art. 

Each one of these archival storage boxes holds the drawings for 150 Bizarro panels, plus some sketches and other materials.

The stack contains over five years of work and 1,650 comics, more or less. One or two originals were sold to collectors, three were donated to the Charles M. Schulz Museum, and a couple went to charity auctions. There are probably three or four in here that were never used for one reason or another.

Each filled box provides a bump of motivation to keep working.

I shared the photo and description on Instagram, and was asked about unused cartoons. I posted and discussed one of these in a 2021 blog entry, but here's one that I haven't shown before.
I knew this one was too naughty for the mainstream funny pages, but I had to at least sketch it and show it to Dan Piraro. We both laughed about it, and then shelved it.
We did publish this somewhat risqué gag obliquely touching on the same topic around the time we spiked Prince Midas, which made my inner adolescent happy.

Now, let's confirm that none of my recent panels crossed any lines.
This guided meditation session employs a watchdog. My spouse and I do a guided meditation most mornings, and although I usually fail to quiet my brain, I believe I benefit from the practice.
For Valentine's Day, we offered a comic about one of the purest forms of love.

I regularly reference surrealist art, and feel that cubism deserves equal time.

I have a good friend who has done actual courtroom art, including some high profile cases. I couldn't handle that pressure, or achieve a serious likeness. There's not much call for courtroom cartoonists.
A reader informed me that the dog on the right is in fact a Labrador Deceiver.
Nursery rhymes often have a dark side.

The popular Where's Waldo? character and "you are here" information kiosks often appear in Bizarro, so it's only natural that their Venn diagrams overlap today.
While searching for a reference to draw from, I learned that he's only called Waldo in the US, and in the original British books his name is Wally.
The strip version has added existential despair.
That wraps another week of gags from your humble cartoonist. Thank you for sticking with us over the years. We'll be back next Saturday with more comics and comments.

Bonus Track

The Impressions, "Keep on Pushing"
from the album Keep on Pushing
ABC-Paramount Records, 1964


Musical inspiration from Curtis Mayfield and company.

Other Bizarro Locations

Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog
Dan's latest Sunday Bizarro page, and some sobering thoughts on artificial intelligence

 Wayno's Bizarro Newsletter
More miscellany from the studio, a preview of a future gag, and an archival image

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

Copyright© 2023 by Wayno®



Saturday, February 11, 2023

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

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.


Another Saturday has rolled around, which means it's time to take a nostalgic look at the week in Bizarro, but not before we share a pipe pic, as is our tradition.

Today's offering is an isolated comic book panel drawn by the prolific and influential Jack Kirby (1917-1994), a pioneer of the superhero genre, who was nicknamed The King of Comics.

If the website where I found this is correct, the panel was taken from a story titled "It Fell From a Flying Saucer," which appeared in Tales to Astonish #31, published in May 1962.

Kirby was often photographed smoking a pipe, or more frequently a cigar, so the image may have been something of a self-portrait.

No pesky children interfered with the creation of the following comics panels, although I may have paused a few times to attend to our feline family member's request for a scratch behind the ears or a refill of his food bowl.

There's a self-styled philosopher on every jobsite.
An online commenter asked if the wigs shown in the top drawer were based on Moe, Larry, and Shemp of the Three Stooges. They weren't, but I do wish I'd thought of it.

If this panel took a minute to land with you, you're in fine company. When Dan saw my sketch, he said, "The football gag totally confused me until I spotted the pirate, which is good!"

The pirate character was based on an image in the old Art Instruction Schools ads. I'm sure I copied that face a few times when I was a youngster.

I don't believe I've ever done a gag based on Star Wars before this one. I saw one or two of the films when they were initially released, but never became a fan. Many films have appeared in the interim, of which I have no knowledge, so those characters aren't really part of my cultural vocabulary. I felt confident that I could pull off this simple pun without violating the canon, but that notion was misguided. Less than thirty minutes after I posted it, an Instagram user informed me that "This is of course impossible!"

The title of today's post is taken from the novel of the same name by Douglas Adams. It's the second book in his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. Over the years, I've enjoyed the Guide in various incarnations. I read the books, listened to the radio series on LP, watched the 1981 TV series and the 2005 film. I like Douglas Adams's universe much more than George Lucas's.

Old-world craftsmanship isn't dead.

I normally place the week's strongest gag in the Friday slot, with the next best on Monday and Wednesday. Jokes that I'd grade a little lower are slotted on Tuesday and Thursday, and whatever remains runs on Saturday. Although I didn't think this was the funniest gag of the bunch, I enjoyed making the drawing and still like the look of it.

That's the latest in humorous rectangles from Hollywood Gardens, PA. Thanks for dropping by. Please come back next week for more stuff and nonsense.

Bonus Track

Tim Souster, "Journey of the Sorcerer"
from the BBC Television Series T
he Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

This catchy tune was used as the theme to both the original radio plays and the television series. It was a perfect fit for both.

Until I searched for this video clip, I didn't know the name of the composer. After some additional surfing, I learned that Tim Souster (1943-1994) was an innovative and respected composer, producer and music critic. For a time, he lived in Berlin and served as teaching assistant to Karlheinz Stockhausen, a giant of electronic music.

I'll be on the lookout for more of Souster's recordings, and as I type this entry I'm listening to his 1994 album Equalisation for Brass Quintet and Live Electronics. It's challenging, in the very best way.

Department of Corrections

"Journey of the Sorcerer" was in fact composed by Bernie Leadon of The Eagles, and the song appeared on their 1975 album One of These Nights.  John, a knowledgeable blog reader, pointed out in the comments that the original Eagles version was used as the theme for the Hitchhiker's Guide radio series. When the radio programs were later released on LP, if featured the cover version arranged and recorded by Tim Souster.

Apparently, Leadon's bandmates hated the song, which caused or intensified disagreements among the members, and Leadon eventually left the band.

In my defense, I didn't have to opportunity to hear the series when originally broadcast on the BBC, but that's no excuse for sloppy research.

I'm horribly embarrassed by my mistake, and truly grateful to John for setting me straight. We're fortunate to have a smart and helpful community of readers.

I remain indifferent toward The Eagles, but must admit that "Journey of the Sorcerer" is a pretty cool instrumental.

Other Bizarro Locations

Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog
The chief's newest Sunday Bizarro page, plus news of some other projects he's got in store for us

 Wayno's Bizarro Newsletter
Semi-random musings, a clip from a future gag, and an archival illustration or design

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

Copyright© 2023 by Wayno®


Saturday, February 04, 2023

Culinary Surrealism

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.


When no one can tempt you with heaven or hell
You'll be a lucky man

Alan Price, from the song "O Lucky Man!"


I've been revisiting and reevaluating my record collection with the intention of thinning it out. One item that will always be part of the archive is Alan Price's soundtrack to Lindsay Anderson's 1973 film O Lucky Man! 

I've only seen the film a couple of times, and have spotty memories of it, but I recall Price and his band appearing several times to play the songs, as a Greek chorus. Price's songs are concise gems, with an undercurrent of cynicism that fit well with the plot.

The title track, quoted above, is a particular favorite, and seems especially timely today.

As a music lover and a fan of mid-century graphics, I'm naturally fond of our latest pipe pic.

This 1955 EP by Andy Griffith is a fine example of cartooning and design rendered using two-color printing. It was brought to my attention by my old pal Jim, who owned one of Pittsburgh's greatest record stores for around twenty years. 

In the early 1980s, I lived about a hundred yards from Jim's store, and spent a lot of time (and money) there. We had many adventures together, publishing a music zine, starting an independent record label, and playing together in a band. He moved from the area many years ago, but we're still friends, and he's still unearthing cool records.

Thanks for another discovery, ol' buddy!

It's doubtful that any of this week's Bizarro comics are as stylish as that record cover, but I'm sharing them anyway.

We opened the week with an art history pun.

I was surprised and gratified to receive a compliment on this gag from the great Bill Griffith, a colleague, friend, and inspiration.

Griffy surely made my Monday.

Some have speculated that Tuesday's panel was autobiographical, but in reality, my partner and I both indulge and adore our feline family member.

Such was not the case for American painter Edward Hopper. I recently stumbled upon an article about Hopper's habit of making cartoon-like drawings expressing his peeves, and leaving them around the home for his wife Jo to find. Apparently Hopper was quite jealous of the couple's cat Arthur, based on this drawing.

Status Quo, 1932
Graphite on paper, 8.5" x 11"


Even the most talented individuals can be cranky and passive-aggressive. Sheesh.

They also have difficulty recognizing the difference between a thumb and a nose.

He may be a double dipper, but he's not a liar.

There's a new boss and a new dress code.

Readers of my newsletter saw a sneak preview of the tuba in this panel a few weeks ago. I mentioned that it wasn't a hundred percent accurate, but was close enough to reality to work in a cartoon.

That closes the lid on another week of Bizarro comics. I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I did making them for you. Drop by again next week for more funny words and pictures.

Bonus Track

Andy Griffith, "The Fishin' Hole"
Songs, Themes And Laughs From The Andy Griffith Show
Capitol Records LP, 1961

Former children of the Television Age are probably familiar with Earle Hagen's catchy theme music from The Andy Griffith Show, with its memorable whistling and finger-snapping arrangement. Fewer have heard this vocal version, sung by Griffith himself.

For the truly adventurous, give a listen to Lorne Greene's vocal rendition of the Bonanza theme.


More Bizarro Goodness

Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog
Dan's sumptuous Sunday Bizarro page, and his "What I Did on My Vacation" report

 Wayno's Bizarro Newsletter
A supplement to this blog, a preview of a future gag, and something artsy from previous careers

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

Copyright© 2023 by Wayno®