Saturday, February 17, 2018

Art Imitates Tech

The week of February 12 started out amicably and ended on a belligerent note. We hope each day at least included a laugh for Bizarro's readers.

Monday's gag was intended as nothing more than a humorous comment on the similarities (and differences) between the social activities of canines and humans. I imagined a networking site for dogs might be called "Sniffer," and I liked that it sounded similar to "Twitter." To our surprise, the cartoon was shared by a guy named Scott Darling, who co-founded Sniffr, an actual dating app for dog lovers. It looks like a fun and useful app, and includes options to arrange play dates for your dog or send out lost pet alerts. Who knew?

Customer Support explained that their product performs precisely as advertised.

For Valentine's Day, another social media/dating app cartoon, reminding us that people both expose and conceal themselves online.

Paradoxically, their baby shoes are gigantic.

Thursday's offering may be read simply as a dark and somewhat disturbing gag set in a creepy guy's basement. Or, it might illustrate the wisdom in hiring qualified, experienced professionals over "outsiders" who want to "shake things up."

For someone who's always trying to hide, this Waldo fellow ought to consider a less conspicuous wardrobe.

Thanks for following our shenanigans for yet another week. Don't forget to read Dan Piraro's blog for his perspective on this batch of gags. Oh, and check out the snazzy Bizarro Enamel Pins Dan's offering in his online shop!

See you next Saturday.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Philosophical Puppetry

Groundhog Day has come and gone, and as of this writing the wind chill factor outside Bizarro Studios North is barely above zero. Your faithful cartoonist is staying warm by working over a glowing lightbox to keep you supplied with fresh gags as we count the days til Spring.

We started the week with a rather bleak cartoon, showing two puppets (or two puppeteers) debating the existence of free will. I had fun drawing the weird, old-fashioned toys in this one. Although it's not necessarily a laugh-out-loud joke, Dan Piraro and I agreed that it is a Bizarro cartoon. Dan will undoubtedly have more to say about this one, so be sure to visit his blog.

After Monday's Kafkaesque offering, we lightened the mood by eavesdropping on a pair of coworkers at the local apiary, enjoying their morning cup of nectar.

Today's panel reminds us that it's possible to over-prepare for some things. When drawing a cartoon with an inanimate object or an animal as a sentient character, I generally try to render it as realistically as I can. Maybe "realistic" is a stretch, but I prefer to avoid adding arms, legs, and eyes if they aren't necessary to get the joke across. It's not an inflexible rule, more of a preference. And sometimes a pencil is just a pencil.

I wish I was clever enough to come up with an Ambrose Bierce style definition of populism, particularly in its current manifestation. Since I'm just a cartoonist, this panel will have to do.

Criminal investigators who tack photos to the wall and connect them with pieces of string are probably not as common as TV and movies would have us believe, but we all immediately recognize a scene like this. Before photography existed, fictional detectives had to set up evidence walls like the one shown here.  

The most enjoyable part of creating this gag was playing around with the "Olde English" language. The least enjoyable part was drawing those ropes.

By the way, our cartoon sleuth is the forefather of a famous 20th century gumshoe.

These guys are nearly as frightening as War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death, and probably equally inevitable. 

Side note: Today's cartoon includes no Bizarro Secret Symbols, because the cartoonist barely left enough room for the signatures and the date. This is yet another reason I'm so happy when we come up with a wordless gag.

As always, I thank you for reading and commenting, especially if you slogged all the way through this post. Don't forget to read Dan's weekly recap, and order your Bizarro enamel pins while supplies last!

Populism Postscript

The Blasters performing their incisive tune, "Common Man," in 1985:

Saturday, February 03, 2018


The Latest Batch of Bizarritude

Here's something the groundhog didn't predict yesterday: another cartoon recap from Bizarro Studios North.

Last week, we ran a cartoon making fun of the banjo. Now we're picking on accordions? Where will it end? (This isn't even my first accordion-based gag.) 

In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that my first musical instrument was in fact an accordion. Today, I'm a harmonica player, and, really, what is a harmonica but an accordion without the bellows and keyboard?

A couple weeks ago, Bizarro showed a newly-arrived angel in therapy for being overly happy. That one and today's both came out of conversations over a sketch that didn't quite hit the mark.

My initial rough of the angel at the shrink (below) was okay, but Bizarro CEO Dan Piraro and I both felt it could be improved.

Dan suggested that the patient say something like "Heaven is amazing and all, but to be honest, it still isn’t as much fun as I had on Spring Break in Tampa back in 1997." He explained that he chose the year because a person who was in college back then would be about 40 now, which is a common age to begin lamenting the loss of youth. The new line of dialog and the nostalgia for college days suggested to me an image of a couple of angel-dudes clinking beer glasses. The "Amen" response gave it a little extra comedic bump.

One could argue that this gag goes overboard in terms of being "meta." I prefer to think of it as "multidimensional."

I refuse to comment on this cartoon in order to avoid self-incrimination.

We never tire of jokes about dogs sniffing each other's territorial markings. My favorite detail in this one is the chihuahua as the jaded plainclothes detective.

Prior to the procedure, the patient wasn't very bright. I don't know where I first got the concept of a society of pumpkin-headed humans, but I've used it as the basis for a couple of things in the past.

Truck on over to Dan's blog for his take on this week's funnies, and (I hope) a peek at some of the fine art he's working on lately.

By the way, have you seen the amazing enamel pins in the newly-opened Bizarro Shop? No lapel, necktie, or hatband should be without one!

Five Weeks In...

I'm happily shocked to realize it's already been more than a month since I joined up as Bizarro's daily cartoonist. I'm thrilled to be working alongside a dear friend who's the best in the business, and to receive so much great feedback from the loyal and attentive readership. Not every comment has been positive, but I do read every one, and they're all appreciated. I'll keep doing my best to provide laughs Monday through Saturday, and will join you every Sunday in marveling at Dan's masterful work.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

String Theory

This sextet of Bizarro cartoons includes a few music-related gags, possibly because music occupies such a large section of my personal phrenology map. Whatever the reason, let's run down the chart, and see if any of these have a beat you can dance to.

Several readers suggested that Monday's cartoon could instead have featured accordion, bagpipes, tuba, etc., but banjo players are known to have a healthy, self-deprecating sense of humor, and love to tell jokes about their chosen axe, so that's the direction we took with this gag. Before someone else points it out, the irony of a ukulele-strumming cartoonist poking fun at the banjo is not lost on me.

As a side note, if you're ever in Pittsburgh on a Wednesday, I highly (and non-ironically) recommend checking out the weekly open rehearsal of the Pittsburgh Banjo Club.

Here we reveal a little-known hiccup in the development of a classic toy. This panel also features the tiniest stick of dynamite to appear in Bizarro to date.

It turned out to be even more disturbing in black & white.

Those rear-window stick figure things have been around longer than most people realize, but there's no craftsmanship involved these days. For two bits, the kid would do Happy Hooligan whizzing on the Packard emblem.

A scene from the short lived cable series, Law & Order: Puppetland.

The drawing that sets up Thursday's gag is rather weird, but it's consistent in its twisted logic. For the joke to deliver, the reader has to "hear" the music, and then anticipate what comes next. My friend Shannon Wheeler once told me that his best cartoons (which you've probably seen in The New Yorker and elsewhere) show the middle of a narrative, with the reader filling in the beginning and the end. That was my intent here, and I think it came pretty close.

Dogs. They sure love smelly stuff, don't they?

That's the latest from Bizarro Studios North. Please surf over to Dan Piraro's blog for his thoughts on this week's offerings. 


Finally, here's a wonderful 1927 banjo recording by Harry Reser. Enjoy.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Artificial Intelligence

My smartphone has learned that I'm working on Bizarro. When I type the word "Jazz," the predictive software anticipates "Pickles" as the most likely word to follow. This is either cool or creepy. Maybe both.

And, yes, that's a real, unaltered screen grab.

Now, as Siri suggests, I'm compelled happy to present this week's batch of Bizarritude.

If there really is an afterlife as depicted in popular culture and various belief systems, new arrivals might well be overcome with manic pleasure, and celestial therapists would be needed to help them adjust. Right?

Ask your doctor if NoLoft is right for you.

The layout of today's cartoon spoofs the 1950s cover art to The Tower Treasure, the first book in the eternally popular series, although my characters look as if they might have come from the original 1927 version.

The fictional brothers usually got involved in solving crimes being investigated by their father, Detective Fenton Hardy—often at Dad's request. Fenton really believed in Take Your Child to Work Day.

The second therapy cartoon of the week includes a patient suffering from Obvious Statement Disorder, and four Secret Symbols.

Bizarro's CEO (Chief Eyeball Officer) and I exchanged several emails discussing accessories for the phony pirate. I'm torn between "umbrella up the sleeve" and "drinking bird on the shoulder" as the most ridiculous.

This gag with Frankenstein's monster doing a mundane task is my favorite of the week, mainly because I like drawing him, but also because I'm always happy when we come up with a cartoon that does its job without words.

As you may know, some newspapers only had a comic strip sized space available when they picked up Bizarro, so we also produce a "landscape" version of every cartoon. This one was tricky since the image is so vertical.
Usually, we move a word balloon or caption block around, and tinker with the art a bit to make it work in a strip layout. But every once in a while, you have run a tall, skinny gag sideways. Readers of the strip version not only get to see Frankie's shoes, but also the eyeball symbol that was out of frame in the regular panel.

Our final gag of the week shows a character from Greek mythology when he was the new guy on the job, before he got the gig carrying Earth on his shoulders. As the new guy on Bizarro, I can relate, but unlike Atlas, I'm thrilled to be here!

Be sure to surf on over to Dan's blog, where he offers his own comments on this week's cartoons, and tops it off with another spectacular Sunday panel. 

You ought to read Dan's blog every week. I do, and not just because Siri told me to.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Six Cartoons and a New Vocabulary Word

Week 2 of Bizarro 2018 has wrapped up, which means we've gone 14 days without a lost-time accident.

Here's a recap of this week's offerings.

The Grim Reaper is a favorite of cartoonists everywhere, and we figured this panel should be nine times as funny as a cartoon with just one reaper. The additional ink needed to draw and print the extras comes to you at no extra cost.

Here's what can happen when you wait until the last minute to order props for your theater. There were no human skulls available, so this production of "Hamlet" had to settle for an alien cranium. They hoped no one would notice, but there was an eagle-eyed crackpot in the front row. 
Office supplies analyze and critique each other just like we do.

This caption originally read, "Lunchtime at the National Bureau of Standards," but that left no room for the picture, so we went with "the lab" instead. This marks my first use of The Lost Loafer.

Here at Bizarro Studios, we admire educators. Teachers work very hardat least our teachers did—and they rarely get enough thanks. This gag is a token of our appreciation for all they do. It's not much, but, hey, we just make cartoons, it's the best we have to offer.

An example of reverse-engineering to set up a weird pun. While working on this one, we learned the word planchette. It's not the surname of an award-winning Australian actress, but, rather, that heart-shaped contraption used to produce messages from the spirits. A lot of research goes into your daily laffs!

That's it from Bizarro Studios North for this week. Be sure to read Señor Piraro's blog for a beautiful Sunday cartoon, plus Dan's commentary on this week's shenanigans.

Big thanks from the new guy (below, right) for all the nice comments, crazy suggestions, and words of encouragement.

Men in Hats: Dan Piraro & known associate Wayno
See you next weekend.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Bizarro Studios North is Open for Business

Greetings from Bizarro Studios North, in scenic Hollywood Gardens, PA.

We've wrapped up my first week at the helm of the Good Ship Bizarro, which I'm now piloting Monday through Saturday under the watchful eyeball of Cap'n Dan Piraro.

If you're new to this blog, welcome aboard! I've known Dan for almost ten years, and we've worked together many times before launching our new partnership on Monday. If you'd like to see our earlier collaborations, please feel free to click through this blog's Bizarchive.

Dan has a tradition of writing a weekly post reviewing the latest Bizarro panels, and encouraged me to continue that practice. I'm more than happy to oblige, as I enjoy talking about the process of creating cartoons.

So, without further introduction, here's a recap of my inaugural week of Bizarro.

This punchline came before the drawing. All I had to do was decide which mythical creature to include. After scrapping sketches featuring a unicorn and Nessie, I settled on Bigfoot. He appears frequently in Bizarro, including one of my old gags.

I also included him a couple of times in my recently-retired feature, WaynoVision.
Here's one, and here's another. I'm confident he'll stomp into Bizarro again in the future.

If you're a fan of Sasquatch (and who isn't?), I heartily recommend Untold Tales of Bigfoot, by my good buddy Vince Dorse. It's a beautiful, all-ages story that deservedly won a National Cartoonists Society Reuben Award for online comics.

Tuesday's cartoon is rather dark and depressing. We thought that would be appropriate for a winter's day when a lot of people are returning to work after the holidays, if only to remind you that you aren't alone.

I once did another gag featuring a matryoshka* doll, and it was so popular, people copied it, deleted my signature, and shared it tens of thousands of times all over the web. Anything that gets stolen that widely deserves to be explored further.

Is the driver actually psychic, or is he just messing with the cop? I'm a cynic, so I think he's pulling a fast one, but I admire his effort.

Since it's my first week here at Bizarro, I felt obligated to include a gag involving pirates. Also, since I come from Pittsburgh, my hometown friends expect it. We have some sort of sports club here called the Pirates. We had fun composing image and the ridiculous dialogue to set up this silly pun. Plus, we got to include an umlaut.

This is my favorite cartoon of the week. Although I live with two cats, I have a lot of doggie friends, and I'm probably more dog-like in my own personality. This one began its life as a sketch I drew for a friend. I thought it could work well as a cartoon, so here we are. Dan offered some artistic suggestions that helped make the little guy look extra sad and adorable.

Saturday's comic features an overconfident papier-mâché character. Our editors felt our first sketch was a little too "S&M" for the funny pages, but we're happy to share the rejected version with you, dear Jazz Pickles.

Before I close, here's another piñata gag that was too naughty for the newspaper.

For the ultra-curious, the sketch that turned into Friday's cartoon:

And finally, because pugs are so lovable, a portrait of a local canine pal:

That does it for this week's funnies. Thanks to everyone who sent words of congratulations, commented, shared, or taped a cartoon to the fridge. We love to hear from readers, so please feel free to comment.

Don't forget to read Dan's weekly blog post, for his perspective on the week's offerings, capped by his spectacular Sunday comic.

For a lot more nonsense, you're invited to follow my blatherings on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

See you in a week! I'll try to be less verbose next time, but make no promises.

*I have to look up that word every time I mention it.