Saturday, March 30, 2024

Habeas Lepus

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.


I’m a great believer in conversation as part of the artistic process.
Pete Townshend

I was delighted to find this quote from a favorite musician in a recent New York Times interview.

I'll keep today's intro brief, and offer thanks to Mr. Townshend for justifying my penchant for talking about the ins and outs of making comics. Oh, and gratitude to all who read the blog and newsletter. Your comments and questions are always welcome.

I don't remember where I found today's pipe pic, but Easter weekend is the perfect time to share it.

I believe the image came from a children's book. If you recognize it and know the source, please send a comment so I can credit the artist. And let me know if they're about to play tennis or go snowshoeing.

UPDATE: Some knowledgeable readers (see the comments section) have identified the artist as Lowell Hess (1912-2014). Hess was a prolific illustrator with an appealing mid-century Little Golden Book style as exemplified by the charming bunnies shown above (from the book My Christmas Treasury). While searching for examples of his work, I also found several wonderful two-color images that remind me of some Charley Harper illustrations. He was no slouch when it came to caricatures, either.

Thanks to the Bizarro community for hipping me to Lowell Hess.

Let's see if any bunnies turn up in this week's gags.

The childhood hours I spent watching Fractured Fairy Tales cartoons paid off with this gag, although it's more of a reality tale.

The Amazon Prime business model's influence continues to expand.

Ben Franklin said, "[i]n this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes," so Death paying taxes seemed a likely occurrence.

Side effects of this treatment may include hallucinations and a 1960s earworm.

Your cartoonist was on an Easter egg roll when writing gags in February, as evidenced by the second bunny panel in a row

In fact, we pulled off an Easter Bunny hat trick with three consecutive rabbit gags. You know how they multiply.

And that wraps up another round of cartoons from yours truly. Thanks for your kind attention. 

Please stop by next week to check out our April Fools' Week offerings.

Bonus Track

Wendy Rene: "Bar B Q"
Stax Records, 1964

The arrival of sunny spring weather makes me think of outdoor cooking and this catchy number by soul singer Wendy Rene.

Looking for more Bizarro? Here you go.


Saturday, March 23, 2024

Welcome to the Working Week

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.


No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.
Sonny Rollins

Our colleague Mark Parisi, cartoonist of the award-winning panel Off the Mark, recently started a lively social media discussion after hearing an interview with a writer who said, "Don't try to find ideas. Wait for ideas to find you." Naturally, people who meet regular deadlines disagreed with this advice, poetic as it might sound.

I didn't hear the interview myself, and I wonder if they provided context about an idea being a starting point that may or may not lead to creative work, but taken on its own it sounds like a plan for accomplishing nothing.

The words of master musician Sonny Rollins make more sense. Creating anything of value requires effort and persistence. They're not called works of art for nothing. The idea of lying around waiting for the heavens to drop something into one's lap is laughable.

Each part of Rollins's sentence is important.

No matter how you feel
When you work on deadlines, other people depend on you. If your output stops, they can't do their jobs. Deadlines don't care if you're depressed or hung over or have the flu. You have to keep feeding the frogs. It's important not to just meet deadlines, but to get ahead of them, so you can have sick days or take a vacation.

Get up
A regular routine trains your body and brain that it's time to be productive, whether you're facing a deadline, or are working on a novel or other project with no due date. It might be even more important for an open-ended situation.

Dress up
We're not talking about a uniform or a suit and tie, but just as your pajamas gently tell your body to wind down and prepare to sleep, your daywear signals that it's time to be productive. Again, it's about being active instead of passive.  
Show up
Choose a location (or locations) where you can explore ideas and let your mind do its thing. Showing up also means getting to work, whether it's a tiny scribble, a word or phrase you've overheard or seen, or another undeveloped bit. The point is to start with something and move on from there. Creative works of any kind (visual art, recipes, poetry, prose, etc.) rarely emerge from the mind fully formed

Unlike a blank canvas, a small fragment can be edited, expanded, refined, erased, polished, twisted, and beaten into shape.

Successful farmers don't wait to see what grows in their fields. They select and plant crops with intention and nurture them to produce a useful harvest.

I'm confident in the quote's authenticity, as it comes from the recently published Notebooks of Sonny Rollins, edited by Sam V.H. Reesentary, who had access to the musician's archives. Since the notebooks were physical journals, the words were presumably handwritten by Mr. Rollins.

We're grateful for Sonny Rollins, who is still with us at age 93, for his music and wisdom.

We found today's perplexing pipe pic on eBay:

The listing was titled "German Toy Head with Pipe." I'm fascinated by that continuous line of hair and beard encircling this character's cranium.

Now, let's get up, dress up, and check in on the latest Bizarro cartoons.

We kicked off the week with a reconfiguration of a panel I sketched last October:

I decided at the time that the snowblower nightmare wasn't a great gag in that form, so I set it aside. When I looked at it again, I realized that the real joke was the snowperson removing their eyes to go to sleep, and redrew it for this week's batch.

That sketch also inspired a recent James Bond snowman gag, since I was thinking about things that might scare a snow-being.

I'm still learning not to fret if a gag doesn't work the first time, because it may eventually turn into a usable joke, or more than one.

Unfortunately, I might have jinxed us weather-wise by running the sleeping snowman in March. We'd been having lovely spring weather until Monday when temperatures dropped and we had snowfall.

The real challenge is finding those tiny keyboards.

The drawing and dialog were reverse-engineered from the caption.

Drawing this triggered a memory from my childhood. Charlie, a kid from our neighborhood adopted a phrase that he drove into the ground over an entire summer. His go-to insult was "You're a cumbersome mass of plasmatic gel." 

Every time he said it, which was maddeningly often, he'd smugly walk away as if he'd just destroyed an opponent with his bon mot.

Charlie, if you're still around I nominate you for a Golden Glob.

We all recognize someone we know here. Don't be that person.

As with the Golden Glob panel, this one resulted from my eye for words, particularly pairs of nearly identical words. That's probably a product of my daily routine of working the crossword, Wordle, and Spelling Bee in The New York Times, plus a few other verbal puzzles and games.

Note: This cartoon is not a critique of the actual musicians. They're passionate about their belief in justice and human rights, and put their money where their collective mouth is. 

This one even made me a little queasy. 

That's it for another round of cartoons from yours truly. Thanks for showing up.

See you next week with more words, pictures, music and whatnot.

Bonus Track #1

Sonny Rollins: "Alfie's Theme"
Impulse! Records, 1966

The musician's original score for the 1966 film. The album has six tracks running just over thirty minutes and is a favorite here at Bizarro Studios North.

Bonus Track #2

Elvis Costello: "Welcome to the Working Week"
From My Aim is True, Stiff Records 1977

The Sonny Rollins quote reminded me of this song from Costello's first album.

Welcome to the working week
I know it don't thrill you, I hope it don't kill you
Welcome to the working week
You gotta do it till you're through it so you better get to it

When I bought this from Jim's Records in 1977, I played it nonstop for several days, and have done so regularly ever since. Every note of it is etched in my memory.

Even More Bizarro for You


Saturday, March 16, 2024

Late For the Apocalypse

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.


 I only take a drink on two occasions—when I'm thirsty and when I'm not.
Brendan Behan

It's the weekend of that annual holiday of public urination and viridescent projectile vomiting.

Since St. Patrick is celebrated for ridding Ireland of "snakes" (code for non-Christians), there's supposedly a church-authorized pause in Lenten sacrifice for believers to get blind drunk in his honor. 

Irish culture is vibrant and involves much more than the frat party that's as close as many people get. That reminds me that I ought to revisit Brendan Behan's autobiographical novel Borstal Boy.

The holiday does, however, provide rich fodder for cartoonists.

Today's pipe pic is taken directly from one of this week's Bizarro panels.

Leprechauns are often depicted smoking inverted clay pipes, and according to a cursory web search, people might do that for several reasons: It's more easily lit in rain and winds, and the rain doesn't extinguish the tobacco. Of course, it would have to be tightly packed.

With that bit of knowledge in our heads, let's check out all six of this week's Bizarro cartoons.

An online expert informed me that the horseman's helmet wasn't "historically accurate." I'm still processing that one.

He's going to need a bigger net.

MacD is on to the workings of the Deep Farm.

Nutrias are notoriously uncooperative witnesses.

This is what happens when people are forced to return to the office.

The tickling sensation is the body absorbing antioxidants.

Pot o' Cartoon Gold

As a break from Lent, here's a feast of Saint Patrick's Day gags from the past, including a couple of old WaynoVision panels.

If you observe the holiday, please celebrate responsibly. I'll be here at home and may partake of a Guinness or two.

See you next week with more shenanigans.

Bonus Track

The Undertones: "Teenage Kicks"
Originally 45 released in 1978 by Good Vibrations Records

Legendary BBC disk jockey John Peel said "Teenage Kicks" was his favorite song of all time. It's a choice that's hard to argue with.

A Whole Lotta Bizarro


Saturday, March 09, 2024

Absurd is the Word

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.


Oh, tell me what could be
Holier than absurdity
Neil Innes

Neil Innes (1944-2019) was recognized here in the States (if at all) for his collaboration with the Monty Python troupe, or for being a member of The Rutles, an alternate universe parody of The Beatles. In addition to playing Ron Nasty, the John Lennon surrogate, he wrote all of the Rutles' music, which sounded Beatlesque without copying their songs.

In Britain, he was beloved as a member of the wonderfully absurd Bonzo Dog Band, where he served as co-leader with the quintessential English eccentric Vivian Stanshall (1943-1995). Side note: any article about Stanshall must refer to him as a "quintessential English eccentric."

I first encountered the band during high school, when I bought the double LP History of the Bonzos, which I'd been looking at and wondering about during frequent visits to a downtown Pittsburgh record store. I unwrapped it and pored over the booklet inside the record's gatefold sleeve on the bus ride home. After listening to it several times, I became a lifelong fan, collecting every LP and 45 I could find.

Innes released his first solo album, How Sweet to Be an Idiot, in 1973. I listen to How Sweet more often than any of the Bonzos' records, as much as I love them. The couplet quoted at the top of this entry comes from his song "Immortal Invisible." I interpret the lyric's meaning as stressing the importance of having a sense of absurdity rather than exhibiting absurdity, which can be positive or negative. 

Recognizing the absurd, especially in oneself, is a rare gift. Innes had that gift and he used it to celebrate human behavior at its best and call it out at its worst. His work remains rewarding and continues to reveal truths in a humorous, deeply human way.

I listened to How Sweet to Be an Idiot while drawing this week, and it sounded sweeter than ever, providing a respite from the horrific absurdity so frequently displayed by human beings.

Today's pipe pic is an antique postcard showing a rock formation on a mountainside near Napa California.

According to the Napa Valley Historical Society, someone added the metal pipe in 1911. A sharp-eyed Bizarro reader named Nancy found and reported the image to Bizarro Studios. We tip our hats to Nancy for her contribution to the blog. 

We hope the latest Bizarro cartoons added a bit of positive absurdity to your world.

We finally figured out what that word means.

Every profession has its hazards.

Wednesday's panel was a rare one containing no Secret Symbols. I'd placed one or two in different locations but couldn't come up with an arrangement that didn't interfere with the joke.

This gag is more than a little late. The organization I allude to implemented this strategy more than forty years ago. Nowadays their fascist ambitions are at center stage. In retrospect, it's my least favorite gag of the week, and it generated some hateful and wrongheaded comments.

Fortunately, I had a cartoon I'm quite happy with for Friday's slot; one of those delayed-reaction jokes.

We opened and closed the week with bits of wordplay, so at least this batch had some symmetry.

In this early sketch, I notice that the character on the left resembles Pee-Wee Herman. That was unintentional, but seeing it brought a smile to your cartoonist's face.

That's the latest from the Little Shop of Humor in Hollywood Gardens, PA. I hope you enjoyed my words and pictures. More of this sort of thing will await you in seven days.

Bonus Track

Neil Innes: "Immortal Invisible"
From The Innes Book of Records
BBC2 Television, 1979

Six years after the song's initial release, Innes made a video for it.

Bizarro Bonanza