Reeling It In


Bizarro 01-26-14 hdrWEBBizarro 01-26-14 WEB

(To see any of these images larger, click them real good.)

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Lately I’ve been doing some pretty realistic images for my cartoons. I don’t know why I’ve always been a fan of realism, perhaps it is simply the challenge of fooling the eye. As a contrast, I’ve posted a cartoon of mine from 1998 below, when I was in a period in which I was deliberately stepping away from realism and into much more cartoony-looking images. At the time, I intended to stay in that mode indefinitely but I found that I gradually drifted back toward realism over time, almost without noticing. Obviously, different gags require different styles of drawings and I think the one about ice fishermen above benefits from the realism whereas the one below might seem awkward if it were realistic. Still, I’m interested in what you Jazz Pickles think of these two different styles.  Which do you guys generally prefer: my realistic images or my very cartoony ones?biz11tsl










I hate to be a nag, but if I want to keep doing cartoons for a living, I have to pad my income as newspapers go out of business, so PLEASE don’t forget to snag one of my limited-edition Bizarro Jazz Pickle T-shirts. They’ll be on sale for four more days only, then this design will be retired for good. I’m going to do an entire series of limited-edition designs, so you’ll want to collect them all and be the coolest person you know.


56 thoughts on “Reeling It In

  1. “Which do you guys generally prefer: my realistic images or my very cartoony ones?”

    I think it’s just as you say: the content dictates the style, and each style is appropriate to the context. Both are brilliant; both lead to the greatest comedic impact.

    Although I do find it ironic that the comics with more realism also feature more random eyeballs, aliens, dynamite, cartoon bunnies, and pie.

  2. I like the cartoony images, but they bring Mad Magazine to mind (that’s not a bad thing); your more realistic strips feel more like Bizarro. Could be I’m simply used to them, but that’s my initial reaction. I’m amused either way ;)

    • I was gonna say Mad Magazine too, Don Martin in particular for the present example. Agreed it’s not a bad thing, but doesn’t really feel like YOUR thing (let’s skip commemts about “feeling your thing”). Not that you don’t do it well. I prefer the relative realism.

  3. I like the surreal nature of many of your cartoons and I think that the surrealism is more often best displayed in your more realistic drawings.

    I’m not sure if it’s relevant to anything in particular, but I didn’t notice the OPTIMIST label on the drawing until the third time I looked at it.

  4. I’m a hardcore realist and I always prefer your realistic cartoons. The optimist cartoon is so good it can easily get into any philosophy seminar for a three-hour lecture. I’m forwarding this to all the clannish glass-half-full people I know and will come across in future, and then record their reactions.

  5. I like the realism.

    I just discovered you. Someone on Quora posted one of your cartoons , mentioned that you had replied to their inquiry and I decided to check you out.

    Here I am, but I am not sure I am your target demographic: a mid 60’s suburban lady (who does not knit ramen noodles with her chopsticks although I know someone who might).

    Nonetheless, I like your humor.

    I didn’t know that cartoonists collaborate or fed one another ideas.

  6. I really like that you’re changing it up, just because. Your talent can go any way…cartoony is funny but the realism adds a poignancy. Visualizing the dodge/duck in the realistic style…it would add another layer of bizarreness. So I vote neither and both. Or back and forth. Or random. Just keep it up – and THANK YOU for the laughs!

  7. I like the cartoon style for the absurdity you bring where the realistic ones always seem to stay with me in an emotional connection. Or something like that. That’s just me so….

  8. I wonder if in today’s industry if it’s helpful as a cartoonist to cultivate a versatile style. That’s one thing that I’m attracted to your cartoons by because you can go from one part of the spectrum to another. It seems to me you’ve mastered the ability to hybridize cartoony and realism. But I like your more realism approach. I think gags are funnier when the people look close to real. It’s the direction I’m going in my own art style, trying to get that hybridized ‘cartoon-realism’. I admire your cartoons as a ‘Cartoonnoisseur”, and also as an aspiring cartoonist.

    • Thanks so much, George. I tend to think surreal things happening to real people is very funny, which is why I skew that way, I think.

  9. The realistic style works really well in the ice-fishing cartoon, just as the more cartoony style is more appropriate for the cops and crooks cartoon. The context matters. Keep both styles in your repertory and unleash them as seems appropriate. You do both very well.

  10. I’m not much help; I like both the realism and the cartoony. The cartoony works very well with the play on words, and I admire your artistry in realism.

  11. I think both styles are fun – the more realistic can be more dry than the cartoony style. If I had to pick one style over the other, I’d go realistic.

  12. Both styles are good. They can be used to convey different messages. The second image has a lot of detail that makes the viewer examine it more closely to see what they’re missing. The realistic image is great because it takes that image and makes the viewer wonder what they’re taking for granted – so they examine it more closely.

    I think I would tire of the more exaggerated style over time if all your images were in that style. But use it as the gag dictates.

  13. I love your realistic way of drawing lately, I think your drawing has progressed and progressed so however you’re doing it now is the best it’s ever been. You the man, Dan.

  14. Yeah, the cop toon would be nearing a line if not down right crossing it if it were drawn more realistically.

    As for the shirt, my apologies, but I would have bought one if more time lapsed after the last limited design was offered _ the better to allow for delivery issues to be sorted & not to mention it’s so close after the new year’s. I would have done it if it were offered after mid-Feb with the pitch to get it by some fake holiday, like International Feel Sorry For Yourself Day.

    Hmmm, … I wonder how many JP’s recognize the CWC holiday?

  15. Not sure I can pick one over the other… guess it sort of depends on my mood or the sight gag. For instance, I live in MN and the first cartoon speaks a million words, since ice fishing is very nearly a religion in the winter time (complete with ice houses that are nicer than some people’s regular homes).

    Then again, I love the play on words in the second ‘toon.

    Guess I’m not being much of a helpful Pickle, am I?

  16. Love ’em both, for different gags and different setups. The ice fishing cartoon above does need the realistic look; it reminds me of a Charles Addams cartoon, where so often the realism was part of what made it so macabre. (Addams would probably have drawn the far-off fisherman’s hole in the ice in the shape of a giant octopus.) The humor in “dodging and ducking” requires the exaggerated cartoon look of the criminals, otherwise the gag about lifting a Dodge van is just silly. (And I’m sure you got hate mail from people who thought it was silly, and asked why couldn’t you just draw funny, wholesome, family cartoons like “Nancy” and “Barney Google”?)

  17. I like them both. Sometimes the dead serious drawing of a strange situation is just perfect, but I also like the trippy Dali-esque art. Your side panels are actually some of my favorite examples of your art.

  18. Is it just me, or do the cartoony ones tend to make their appearances in the Sunday papers? All are good! But, in the spirit of not being a waffler, despite my love of waffles, I will commit to having a slight preference for the realistic ones.

  19. I like both styles. I also like the cat looking up at the Dodge, and the license plate thereon. Btw, I truly can’t tell if the Action Pants ad is real, fake, or somewhere in-between.

  20. I really like both styles in your work. The realistic style makes the surreal moments jump out even more. A well-done Disney cartoon can bring out emotional reaction just as well as a photorealistic DC/Marvel graphic novel. The writing is the key. Whichever style conveys the idea best is likely the one to use. Fortunately you do them both equally well and pick the one that works best for that day.

  21. Pingback: Optimist « Sun Country's Weblog

  22. Some of my friends prefer the Cartoony Style and some of my friends prefer the Realistic Style. Who am I to disagree with my friends?

    I’ve been following your work for 25 years and own all your published works. You use both styles effectively and I wouldn’t want to change a thing.

  23. I prefer the realism, but some cartoonies are good too. Love your stuff and look forward to it daily. Good luck with the merchandising end of things. It’s tough all-over. Unfortunately (for you and everyone else), I no longer use myself as a billboard unless it’s free.

  24. Gosh! My main concern is that you avoid lead paint, and keep knives away from your ear. But Gogh with the style appropriate, as you and others have concluded . . .

  25. I do enjoy seeing the realism, but both styles have a quality that you don’t often see in the papers today. The detail is something I quite enjoy.

  26. I’m more likely to laugh out loud at the realistically drawn gags, and more likely to think, “I really appreciated that clever and funny joke that twisted my expectations in an unusual way,” at the cartoony ones.

  27. The mix of styles proves you are not just a comic machine. You should throw in a few action comic book cartoons sometime to really change it up. Just keep up the good work and I’ll keep buying.

    As for the cop post, that is the kind of quality cartoon that is so good that it caused a sharp pain in my side like a punch in the ribs. I loved it! (not being punched in the ribs but having a laugh that feels that way)

  28. viva la difference! do ’em both. in fact, have ya thought about adding woodcuts to the mix. the kids really ‘dig’ ’em!

    btw – just ordered a shirt… when do these ship?

    • They don’t print them until the campaign is over so they’ll start printing and shipping in a few days. I’d say you have another two weeks before the shirt arrives, but that’s a guess. Thanks, DC!

  29. Love your cartoony style! I’m especially fond of the razzle-dazzle bird assortment you used as a banner/title section one time. What fabulous colors and styles! And I’m still marveling over the Angry Cows confronting the musical cowboy from earlier — they are beastly and frightening and wonderful. But like many others, I also like the realistic approach, especially when the content dictates a more studied gag. The background for “Optimist” is perfect. It evokes a broad expanse of silent, serious landscape that well-suits the silent, hugely serious optimist.

    Sorry I can’t choose just one. Please, just keep doing what pleases YOU!

  30. I like your realistic stuff better, generally. Your realistic drawings sometimes so perfectly capture a character or a feeling that it makes the comic really impactful.

  31. Well even your “cartoony-looking” art has elements of realism. I could tell that was a Dodge truck immediately, without reading the logo on the front. (BTW — that was a nice choice of truck. You have an eye for funky or unusual vehicles.)

    What I also enjoy about your work are the subtle details, like the befuddled look on the duck’s face.

  32. Hmmmmm, lots of opinions.

    You have put your tenthousandhours in them.

    I either like your cartoons or not.

    Statistics are wayyyyy much in your favor.

    P.S Some higher resolution jpgs would strain less my old eyes while snooping around.

  33. it has taken me days to answer your question Dan: so i like them both, and for me, it depends on the topic; for example, the cartoon with Lassie and Timmy being in the “well” would not be as effective methinks, if you had drawn it cartoonishly; but, “Duck ‘n Dodge” was hilarious and made more so by the characters you drew. Thanks for asking, btw.

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