Saturday, March 25, 2023

Veni, Vidi, Abduxi

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.


All your children are poor unfortunate victims
Of lies you believe
A plague upon your ignorance
That keeps the young from the truth they deserve

Frank Zappa


The lyrics above are from "What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body?" from the 1968 Mothers of Invention album, We're Only in It for the Money

Two months after Money, Zappa's first solo release, Lumpy Gravy was released. I saved my school lunch money and bought both LPs after seeing an eye-catching psychedelic ad in Not Brand Echh, a Marvel comic book that parodied the superhero genre. The music and graphics on those two records simultaneously thrilled me and freaked me out.

That lyrical passage has stayed with me over the decades and is particularly resonant in the strange times we've been experiencing in recent years.

I still listen to both albums regularly. I had them playing while working this week, prompted in part by my photo research for today's pipe pic, a promotional shot of Hugh "Lumpy" Brannum (1910-1987). Brannum was a composer, arranger, singer, actor and musician.

Between 1948 and 1950, he narrated a series of children's records as "Uncle Lumpy," accompanied by Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians. Brannum hosted a local kids' TV show called Uncle Lumpy's Cabin in 1951, and in 1955 he began a thirty-year run on Captain Kangaroo playing Mr. Green Jeans, the role for which he was best known.

Lumpy's friendly mug served as the model for a character in one of the week's Bizarro panels, which we'll now review.

The green-skinned stranger goes by the nickname The Composite Kid, and travels as a line worker for Western Electric.

Even rodents like to feel fancy.
The farmer trying to pull a fast one was modeled after our friend Lumpy.

The pets worked out their differences, and now the parrot announces when the litter box needs changing.

Multiple VFO sightings were reported in the vicinity of the Seven Hills

The formerly evil queen went to medical school and developed an insomnia treatment for cartoon characters.

Beer Here!

Last week, Dan Piraro mentioned in his blog that I'd designed quite a few beer labels over the years, and several of you asked to see them, so I'll feature them here in upcoming weeks.

This one, from 2010, has an interesting history.

The brew was originally called Eye Opener, but the Federal agency that reviews alcohol labels rejected that name, saying it constituted a health claim. We changed the name to Coffee Porter, illustrated with a rebus that decodes as "eye opener." They saw through our ruse and bounced it back for another redesign.


We decided to separate the drawings, and offer the beer with two different labels, which the Feds finally approved.

If you visit Pittsburgh, I recommend checking out East End Brewing Company. They make excellent beers, and have two locations serving them, along with wines, soft drinks, and a pizza of the week. Their new taproom just opened in my neighborhood, which makes me very happy.

Bonus Track

Captain Kangaroo: "The Horse in Striped Pajamas"
Golden Records single, 1959


The song is usually performed by a child and an adult, with the kid pointing out the animals, asking "Hey there Daddy, do you see..?" In Captain Kangaroo's version, the child's part is awkwardly played by Mr. Green Jeans. It's not easy to hear without cringing.

And, yes, the record is in my collection. But it's never played.

More Bizarro Stuff

If you've read this far, you might enjoy additional cartoon goodness from our alternate locations.

Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog
Dan's Sunday Bizarro page, comics commentary, and even a bit of poetry

 Wayno's Bizarro Newsletter
A weekly supplement to the blog, with a peek at an upcoming gag and a graphic artifact from my digital files

Dan Piraro's epic, award-winning surreal western graphic novel
Please drop by here again next week. Thanks for your ocular attention.

Copyright© 2023 by Wayno®


Saturday, March 18, 2023

March Plaidness

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.


Work expands to fill the period of time available for its completion.
Cyril Northcote Parkinson


Greetings, with a tentative sigh of relief from your cartoonist. The long-awaited installation of my new computer was completed early this week, with relative ease and less expense than anticipated. I was pleased to find that all of my peripheral devices worked with the latest operating system. I have a very good Mac expert who helped me out by transferring everything to the new machine from my external backup drive. It went smoothly, until we discovered that my daily work files had been moved to a deeply buried invisible folder. Searching was fruitless, until I tried opening a recent spreadsheet, and Excel detected the file's location.

I'm back in business, but lost a day of work, so in an attempt to upend Parkinson's Law, today's post will be briefer than usual.



Today's pipe pic comes to us from Bizarro reader Wally T, who snapped the photo at an estate liquidation shop in Key West, Florida.

If you hurry, this oddly dapper ape might still be available. Thanks for the shot, Wally!

Now, let's review the week's cartoon output.

This visitor arrived in a button-flying saucer.

Tuesday's gag features a character based on actor, comedian, and emcee John O'Hurley, who has been a frequent host of the AKC's National Dog Show. To the best of my knowledge, there is no "National Kennel Club."

I offer apologies to friends in the craft beer biz, with thanks for the inspiration. I have no doubt that at least one of these names has been used for an actual beer label, probably in hard to read, psychedelic lettering.
When visiting Canada years ago, I tried poutine, and thought it seemed a perfect product for America, but I realized that it was probably a bit too healthy for this market. Maybe it could succeed if it were topped with a layer of bacon.

We normally try to use as few words as possible in a gag, but sometimes a lengthier setup works better.

The strip turned out to be a pleasing composition in a different way than the panel. I think the wider view of the landscape, and the dark sky around the characters' heads reinforces the length of their hunt.

We ended the week with the third occurrence of red tartan fabric, and the first appearance of a most elegant logger.

That's the latest from our cartoon lab in Hollywood Gardens, PA. Drop by again next week for another round of comics and commentary. Who knows, there might even be more plaid flannel.

Bonus Track

Joni Mitchell with The Band: "Coyote"
Recorded live in 1976 for the film The Last Waltz


A wonderful performance by a group of Canadian musicians.
This is a prime example of Joni Mitchell's amazing, otherworldly songwriting. I can happily watch the entire film any day of the year.

More Bizarro Stuff

Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog
The Sunday Bizarro page, with Dan's thoughts on the week's comics and living with beloved canine family members

 Wayno's Bizarro Newsletter
Delivered to your virtual inbox, with a link to the latest blog post, a clip from an upcoming gag and a graphic artifact from my digital files

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

Copyright© 2023 by Wayno®


Saturday, March 11, 2023

Poe Boy

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.


Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity.
Charles Mingus


A Jazz Pickle thanked me last week for posting a comic on social media, because he wasn't able to read the version printed in his local newspaper. Newsprint is already a low-quality medium, and in this paper, the black & white panel was severely reduced, and squashed from a portrait-oriented rectangle into a 1 7/8" square. That's the size of a Triscuit cracker.

To see what that might look like, I resized a comic, and my heart sank when it came off the printer. 

I couldn't help thinking about it as I worked on the comics this week. My approach has always been to remove nonessential elements in illustrations and cartoons. Since coming on board with Bizarro, I still try to work that way, but it's counterbalanced by a sprinkling of Secret Symbols along with my preference for drawing objects and animals in a (relatively) realistic style.

When comic panels are printed at less than two inches per side, with the aspect ratio significantly altered, some will be impossible to read on newsprint, no matter how simple the drawing may be.

I won't alter my work to adjust for tiny reproduction, and will hope for the best, while encouraging readers to find the comics online if they have trouble reading them in print.

King Features has a reasonably priced subscription plan for their Comics Kingdom site, which includes access to all of their comics, including archives going back for decades.

Cartoonists can't control how newspapers print the comics, so it's best for each of us to continue to make art the way we see fit.


Our pipe pic for today is a Zippy the Pinhead comic, originally published on this date in 2015.

Copyright © 2015 Bill Griffith

Zippy's creator, Bill Griffith has been one of my heroes since the 1970s. In my youth, I spent a lot of time (and money) in record stores, many of which also carried underground comix, where I discovered Bill's work. His art and writing flipped my wig and rewired my brain from the get-go.

In the years that followed, Bill and I became pen pals and eventually friends and colleagues, but he remains above all an inspiration and role model. I'm eagerly awaiting publication of Three Rocks, Bill's upcoming graphic biography of Ernie Bushmiller.

Your cartoonist, in the presence of greatness back in 2018.

Although he's been a huge influence, Bill Griffith bears no responsibility or blame for my comics, which we'll now review.

We at Bizarro Studios are well aware that  "never mind" is properly spelled as two separate words. We chose to spell it as a single word in this panel to echo the raven's repeated "nevermore" in Poe's famous verse.

The employee's not wrong. His annual performance reviews do acknowledge incremental improvement.

As a child, I tried to clear an Etch-a-Sketch screen many times. Who knew I was actually working toward enlightenment?

For the strip, I reversed the characters and background. The word balloon and caption box had to be on the same side of the layout, to leave room for the art. It at least gives newspaper readers a fighting chance at getting the joke.

Surprisingly, I received only one online complaint from someone who didn't know how to find the meaning of an unfamiliar word.

This panel might seem applicable to a recent high profile trial in South Carolina, but that's pure coincidence. It was inspired by the aphorism "A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client." 

A loyal Bizarro reader once referred to the miscellaneous topics I cover in my blog and newsletter as "triviata," and that invented word stuck with me. I imagined it as the title of an opera staged in Bizarroville, and came up with this gag. I tip my favorite fedora to Ralph H. for the seed of this gag.

Just for cynical laughs, here's a comparison of the squashed version of this panel and the full-sized file:

It's possible that the text suffers even more than the art.

One should pursue a career that incorporates their passion.

That's the latest output from the Little Shop of Humor here in Hollywood Gardens, PA. Be sure to visit us again next week for more comics, commentary and maybe a bit of triviata.

Bonus Track

The Kirby Stone Four: "Raven"
Cadence Records single (1957)

The Kirby Stone Four recorded just one album for the Cadence label (Man, I Flipped... When I Heard the Kirby Stone Four), but it's their best. 
Their brilliant, Poe-inspired faux beatnik number did not appear on the LP. 
This video was digitized from the original vinyl here at Bizarro Studios North.

Other Bizarro Locations

Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog
Dan's latest Sunday Bizarro page, and an embarrassing episode from the past

 Wayno's Bizarro Newsletter
A weekly email linking you to the latest blog post, plus a peek at an upcoming gag and an illustration or design from my previous life

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

Copyright© 2023 by Wayno®



Saturday, March 04, 2023

Mobster Mash

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.


You really don’t need musical notation for rock and roll. I always said it was all hand signals and threats.
Elvis Costello
Today's post opens with a wise observation from Elvis Costello's book, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink. The quote comes to mind when my musical group practices or performs. 
Our pianist, who also sings, whistles, and plays a mean kazoo, is a bona fide musical genius. Tom has written film scores and original music for silent movies (including F.W. Murnau's classic Nosferatu), and he's transcribed music by Dr. John, James Booker, and many other great piano players of the past. He recently shared a video of an amazing piece by Luckey Roberts that was generally thought to be impossible to notate. He knows his stuff. 
In our group, Tom works with two aging punks who can't read music and whose eyes glaze over when he explains compositional and rhythmic concepts, not unlike an alien from an advanced civilization discussing quantum physics with a pair of Neanderthals.

Dave, our drummer, and I scribble made-up terms in the margins of the lyric sheets we during rehearsals. Things like "quiet up-and-down part," "tinkly piano noodling," and for some forgotten reason, "the growth." Yet, our collaboration works. When we play live, we all keep our eyes on each other, and communicate with nods and hand signals, although most of the gestures I make serve to direct myself rather than my bandmates.

Fortunately, no threats are involved, but the potential always exists.

Our pipe pic for today is a self-portrait of illustrator and cartoonist Harry Haenigsen (1900-1990).
Haenigsen was best known for Penny, his comic strip about a teenage girl, which ran from 1943 to 1970.
His comic art was bold and stylized, and he was skilled at placing areas of solid black within the panels. The title character's father was usually shown smoking a pipe.

Thanks to Bizarro reader J.P. van G, who sent us several fun pipe images, including the Haenigsen drawing. It sent me off on a search for examples of the cartoonist's work. The Hogan's Alley magazine site has a nice overview of Haenigsen's life and career, written by cartoonist and comics historian Ed Black.
Speaking of comics, this is a good time to look at the week's Bizarro gags.
These spudfellas might well be the source of the expression "I'm going to rearrange your face."
Only the most sophisticated imaging equipment was able to locate the source of the patient's sharp abdominal pains.
I believe this configuration is actually possible using a standard Scrabble game. Writing the caption was the easiest part of producing this panel. I made a list of possible words to include, and then experimented with how they could be played during a game. 
While studying a Scrabble board, I realized for the first time in my life that the double/triple word and letter squares are color-coded with shades of red applying to words, and blue tones for letters. In addition, each square has two or three arrows on each edge corresponding to double or triple scores, so they can be identified when they're covered by a tile.
The strip layout deleted the word "spawn," but it contains the same three Bizarro Secret Symbols at the panel.
This gag also prompted the Ridiculous Comment of the Week:

So we're allowing plurals in Scrabble now?

I typed several replies, but deleted every one without posting it. The experience did make me wonder how many points the word "knucklehead" might score.

As an esteemed friend and colleague said, "It's all downhill once you start walking."

We present a rare example of mammal-marionette symbiosis.
Saturday's gag affectionately tweaks furry fandom. As a Pittsburgher, I have fond respect for the community. Every summer, my hometown hosts Anthrocon, an annual convention for furries. The gathering provides a boost to the local economy, and downtown businesses welcome its attendees, who are known to be gracious guests. The convention adds color and fun to our city, and each year its members raise money for a Pennsylvania animal charity. For the 2023 convention, Anthrocon is providing support to Rabbit Wranglers.

Thanks for browsing this week's blog. Drop by next Saturday for another jumble of vowels and consonants.

Bonus Track

The Velvelettes
"Needle in a Haystack"
VIP/Motown Records single (1964)

Even More Bizarro Stuff

Dan Piraro's Bizarro Blog
Dan's widescreen Sunday Bizarro, and musings about our connection to, and disconnection from nature

 Wayno's Bizarro Newsletter
Up for more shoptalk? Check out the newsletter, where you'll also get a Bizarro sneak preview, and some of my old art and design work

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

Copyright© 2023 by Wayno®