Gagging For Medals


Bizarro 07-17-16 hdrWEB

(If you seek to embiggenate this cartoon, click any athletic garment.)Bizarro 07-17-16 WEB

Bizarro is brought to you today by The Tiny Twins.

I often marvel at the sort of sports that get into the Olympics and the ones that don’t. I’m kind of a purist when it comes to the Olympics in that I prefer the old-fashioned, individual endeavors like track and field events over modern team sports like basketball. I can’t get behind things like golf in the Olympics at all. I don’t think golf is as much a sport as it is a game. If golf is in, how long before darts, horseshoes, and poker? Nonetheless, I think Heimlich tennis would be worth watching.

I’m going to move on to the week’s cartoons just as I usually do, but first, I’d like to present A SPECIAL STORY ABOUT ONE OF MY CARTOONS THIS WEEK.

In my first year of cartooning, 1985, I wrote the following gag and drew it in the hideous and amateurish style you see below. (Like many artists, I am very critical of my early work, but that’s beside the point.) I wrote the gag and made up the name because I thought it sounded like it might be the name of an award.

Bizarro 1985 ThompsonWEB

Not long after it published, I got a letter in the mail from an Albert G. Thompson who wondered if I might have been one of his former students. Mr. Thompson had been a teacher for many years, looked very much like the man in the cartoon, and had worked under a department head named Simms or Simpson. I can’t remember exactly which now. I convinced Mr. Thompson that the similarities were remarkable but entirely coincidental, and we both had a good laugh over it.

We exchanged a few letters back and forth and I could tell from these that he was smart and funny and a bit eccentric––in short; my kind of person––so I sent him the original art from the panel in thanks for letting me unwittingly borrow his name.

Flashing forward almost ten years to the mid-90s, I got an email from Albert’s adult son, Chris Thompson, who told me that his parents had since retired to a small coffee farm in the mountainous rural area outside of Antigua, Guatemala. They enjoyed a quiet but busy life creating small artisanal bags of coffee, selling them to shops in town, shipping them back to the U.S., and giving tours to tourists. A part of his tour was to show them my cartoon art which he had framed and hanging on the wall of the small building where he roasted the coffee. Chris told me that during a recent visit with his parents, he’d asked his father if he’d ever thought of contacting me and inviting me to visit. He said he had but thought it unlikely I would come. So Chris offered to email me and extend their invitation, and his father agreed.

I was excited by their offer and, after researching the situation enough to convince myself they were not going to lure me into the mountains and rob me, I decided to go. Sensing that this could be a grand adventure worth sharing, I took my two daughters, ages 10 and 15, with me. The week we spent there and my subsequent years of friendship with Albert and his wife, Carolyn, are among the best things that have come of my cartoon career.

“Doc,” which is what his friends and family have always called him, was a truly inspiring man who dedicated his life to getting the most out of every moment in life and sharing it with anyone who would listen. He spent his professional career teaching––mostly in the U.S. but also a lot in Central America with his wife and five children in tow––and after his retirement in Guatemala, continued to learn and teach and experience new things until he could no longer physically manage it. He and Carolyn became a valuable and cherished part of the rural community in which they lived, sent many Guatemalan girls to college, employed the local teens, and generally became a cherished part of their community and were considered family by many of the locals.

I visited them four times in the subsequent years and Doc and I spent countless hours making each other think and laugh. He painted, was a silversmith, became a coffee farmer, and, together with Carolyn, designed their home and hired local people to build it. He also became something of an expert on local plants and created a veritable Garden of Eden out of their property. The numerous orchids on their property were the envy of many.

Doc died in his sleep on May 29th of this year. He was one of the most interesting and inspiring people I’ve ever known and I have vowed many times to be more like him. I deeply regret not having visited them more often. As a tribute to him and his wonderful family, I’ve redrawn the original cartoon that brought us together, as you can see below. This version looks even more like Doc, but I still could not capture the look of wonder at life and the universe that he often exhibited when he wasn’t mugging for a camera to make his grandkids laugh. He was a brilliant and ridiculous man who changed my life in profound ways and whom I loved dearly. Here’s a fairly recent photo of Doc and Carolyn and their son, Chris, who was instrumental in our meeting.

(Note: Using this post and several other references, a reader has built a Wikipedia page for Doc. I think that’s wonderful.)

bz panel 07-15-16

And now, back to the rest of the cartoons from this week.

bz panel 07-11-16

For a few years I was reading on Kindles and those kinds of electronic doo-dads, but then recently I switched back to reading on printed pages and find that I like it SO much more. Thinking about that reminded me of yet another advantage of an actual newspaper over computers and tablets: if you smack a dog lightly once or twice on the butt with a rolled-up newspaper, you never have to hit them again. Just the sight of you rolling a newspaper will put them back on the straight and narrow.
bz panel 07-12-16A buddy of mine and cartoonist colleague, Dan McConnell, wrote the above gag for me a long time ago and I forgot to use it. Found it recently and decided to throw it into this week’s mix for summer.

bz panel 07-13-16

“Tag, you’re it,” versus “hashtag, you’re it.” I know this makes me an old geezer but I don’t care: I think living any substantial part of your life inside of an electronic screen is a recipe for depression. Get outside. Meet humans and other animals. Touch trees. Marvel at mountains. Be chased by a large carnivore. There’s so much more to life than technology.

bz panel 07-14-16

I was hooked on Star Trek the first time around in the 60s and in syndication in the 70s. In researching the image for the screen these characters are looking at, I found the picture this one was drawn from, thinking it was from the original 60s TV show. But a reader told me that the copyright line at the bottom shows it was from some later incarnation, an animated version made in Norway in the 70s. I think that’s what he was saying, anyway. Any trekkies out there know the answer to this?

bz panel 07-16-16

I hear about tons of people who are self publishing novels these days and it gave birth to this cartoon about a small corner of the crime world.

Thanks for your eyeball attention, Jazz Pickles. You guys are great and without you, I’d have much less motivation to write and draw comics.


69 thoughts on “Gagging For Medals

  1. Nice story about you and Doc.

    Also, on the SUV protection comic: oy….. :D

    As for people getting out and about, what’s your take on the current Pokemon craze?

    • I don’t know much about it but what I know leads me to believe it is a colossal waste of time. But I’ve never seen it or played it so my opinion isn’t worth much. I’m never as impressed with technology as most people these days are.

  2. What a wonderful story about Albert G. Thompson. He sounds like he was an amazing man & I’m happy that his son contacted you so many years after the original cartoon.

  3. I am sorry to hear about the loss of your friend whom you met so serendipitously with your first cartoon. But it certainly seems as if you had a good friendship and lots of memories. Thank you again for your weird and wonderful creative mind. I enjoy your weekly posts as I don’t always have the paper when I am at my trailer in Washington State. All the best.

  4. Magazines and newspapers (though we recently stopped delivery on ours) and anything sort of large format or heavy with photos or illustrations, I’m still happy to stay old school. But once I’d read my first novel on my first Kindle a few years back, I realized I was never going back. Hundreds of novels later, I haven’t. Can adjust the type size on a mass market paperback, for one thing, and my eyeballs aren’t getting any younger… Also, there’s a LOT of self-publishing going on in the Kindle world, which (as for digital publishing in general) can be a mixed blessing…

  5. Norway Productions was the name of Gene Roddenberry’s company.
    And the Filmation name does mean it’s the 1973 animated version.
    I was more of a Trekkie (or Trekker) back then, but now not so much.
    (I still have my program from one of the first Star Trek Conventions in NYC in the early 1970s.)

  6. Thanks for the story about Mr. Thompson. Isn’t it cool how random encounters like that can so enrichenate your life?

  7. Thanks for sharing the wonderful story about getting to know Doc. I’m sure he’s missed by many, but he appears to have had a good long life.

    The screen in the Star Trek cartoon is from the animated Star Trek. “Norway” refers to Norway Corporation, aka Norway Productions, Gene Rodenberry’s movie and TV company which produced the live action Star Trek with Desilu Studios. Other than the name, there’s no relation to the Scandinavian country or bachelor farmers.

  8. Star Trek The Animated Series ran on Saturday Mornings on NBC in 1973-1974, produced by Filmation, the same cartoon studio that did the Archie cartoons and He-Man, among many others, but under the supervision of Gene Roddenberry (whose personal production entity was called Norway Productions). It used voice work by all the original cast (Leonard Nimoy refused to participate if everyone wasn’t included) and it had many of the same writers as the original series, even doing a sequel to the beloved “Tribbles” episode. Quite a hoot to watch if you have any fond memories of the original Trek.

  9. The animated series was done by Filmation and if I’m not mistaken was the last studio to make animated tv shows entirely in the U.S. The owner of the studio was very proud of that fact.

    Filmation also did dozens of other shows.

  10. Is the Bizarro opening banner an optical illusion or stare-o-gram or 3D image? I’ve been staring for hours and nothing yet.

  11. I remember having read that story about Albert and you visiting him in Guatemala in your big blue book. I’m sorry for your — and obviously so many other people’s — loss.

  12. Enjoyed your story about your chance encounter with Mr. Thompson. He impacted your life even though you were never in his classroom. How fortunate for you.

  13. Dear Dan,

    Thank you for the post about your friendship with my father, Doc. Few people could hold my father’s interest for more than 5 minutes. In contrast, he never tired of your wit, wisdom and curiosity. Your creativity shows in each cartoon you do — even those that use Thompson-family stories and foibles as punch lines! I hope we get to toast Doc together soon.

    All the best,


  14. I thought that name sounded familiar from an earlier Bizarro cartoon. Sorry at his passing, but I’m glad serendipity brought you two together as friends for so many years.

  15. If you haven’t watched the short-lived Star Trek: The Animated Series, you really should. The animation is as limited as possible, but the stories are pure Trek. And if you’re familiar with Larry Niven’s Kzinti stories, there’s a crossover episode (which, sadly, has never been followed up).

  16. What a wonderful story about Doc!

    At the risk of coming off like a grammar nazi, I’d like to point out an error –
    “Tag, you’re it,” verses “hashtag, you’re it.”, that ought to be ‘versus’.

  17. What a delightful week of cartoons! The entire Doc Thompson story and both cartoons are lovely–I love the #Urit and the Star Trek ones! Thank you for giving all of us these moments of delight.

  18. I read your stuff every week and never comment, just enjoy it all.
    It’s ABOUT TIME I said thanks.
    Your Mr Thompson story today prompted me; I should also admit that I’m reading this on my iPhone but just lugged “real” books on a 5-hour flight. Is this called “conflicted”? 😀

  19. Very sorry for your loss. What a wonderful story about Albert G Thompson. Only once in a lifetime, if a person is fortunate enough, does one meet a person who impacts our life in the most positive inspiring way.
    Fantastic that you will keep in touch with Chris.

  20. What a great memorial to your friend “Doc.” He and his family sound like good people. I loved the cartoon when I first saw it. The backstory makes it even better.

  21. I have been drawing for decades, and still cannot do anything remotely on the level of your early hideous and amateurish style. It kind of fills me with despair. On the other hand, I can see that your work has greatly improved since then, so perhaps there is hope after all, if I live to the age of, say, 250 or so.

    Heimlich tennis is one of the very sickest, grossest things you have ever dreamed up. I love it. :-)

    I’m sure you are going to get loads of hate for hitting misbehaving canines with rolled up sheets of dried, flattened wood pulp. But you are right: it really works. I wonder if it will work on children too? Or perhaps one needs to give them a good smack on the head with a Kindle?

    Oh, and wonderful story about Albert G. Thompson. Sounds like a great guy. The way America is going at the moment, I suppose we can fully expect a significant exodus of thinking Americans to more congenial places like Guatemala. Unless Trump’s wall stops them in their tracks…

    • Thanks so much for your comments. I’m arranging to move to Mexico, as a matter of fact. Though Trump is not a major reason, I have to admit I’m not comfortable in a country where a man as despicable as he could get as close as he already has to the presidency. I’m sure horrible things happen in Mexico, too, but it isn’t my country so I don’t take it as personally.

      • As far as I can gather, Mexico is a really cool place. If that doesn’t work out for you, try out South Africa (which is where I live). Contrary to popular opinion, we do actually have electricity here. I for one would welcome you. :-)

        • We’re going to give Mexico a try first since it’s close to the U.S. and therefore easy to visit our various family members. Africa would be lovely but it is just SO FAR AWAY from here. I have a sister whose on a one-month trip to Zimbabwe, teaching local ladies how to use sewing machines. She’s due back any day now and I can’t wait to hear her stories and see the pictures!

  22. Mr Piraro – thank you for the touching story re Dr Thompson. I took the liberty of using this (and 3 other sources) to create a Wikipedia page for Albert G. Thompson; I hope you are okay with this. Cheers.

  23. What a beautiful story about a beautiful person! His universe is the one I choose to embrace- I wish I were a 1/10th of the person he was.

  24. Thanks very much for share your Mr Thompson story. We appreciate your kindness. That is what I call the Angels from the heaven that we meet on our lives. That is a beautiful human connection everybody need to feel the wisdom of the life. Bravo Dan!!!

  25. Loved the diagram of the Enterprise in front of the captain . . . just in case he forgets what certain parts of the ship are called!

  26. Hi Dan … it’s me (Gene )the guy that sent you the Vague Magazine gag …Love the heinlick tennis gag – still laughing .
    It must have taken you hrs. to get that one done !!!

  27. This is a great story about Mr. Thompson. Thanks for sharing it here in tribute. It sounds like he was a wonderful old chap.

    On a side societal note, hopefully in 100 years, “Alberta G. Torres” will be a name that sounds like it could be on some generic award. Then some cartoonist will write a similar comic and fortuitously meet the person with that name, she will turn out to be a wonderful person, and they will develop a lifelong mutual admiration for each other. Then again if Trump becomes president, well… I’ll just stop there.

    Also, Kindles do not work well for lining bird or hamster cages or for wrapping breakables. You can’t cut your favorite comics out of your Kindle screen and stick them on your fridge either.

  28. re Bizarro, 19 July, the two men at the door who are not men at the door. It reminded me poignantly of an incident years ago when a friend was called from his swimming pool, and, with a towel around his waist was confronted by two men like your guys, only holding pistols with silencers. They told him they were in from Salt Lake City, and Mormon hitmen, and he was for it. My friend asked if they had the right address, and when they told him who they were after, he replied that their target lived a mile up the road, and had the same last name. They thanked him politely and drove off up the road. In short, they were never there at his home.

  29. Sorry for the excessive brevity. In the horizontal format of the Customs sign, there’s a little typo: “… not responsiible for lost or stolen articles. …” I just had to pull your leg about it, probably because your usual attention to detail would have caught such a thing, unlike many other cartoonists.

    • Ahah! It doesn’t surprise me that I missed it but I’m definitely surprised my editor did. That sort of thing rarely slips past her!

  30. Well based on the distribution of vowels and consonants, I expect the vowel’s union will lobby hard for the next option to begin with a vowel. Fortunately the punctuation evangelists have already knocked on your door and shared the gospel of proper list punctuation with you (bugs me when people omit the final mark).

    SenseiC bows out.

    PS: You can always move to Cape Breton Island

  31. So whether we are LGBTQ or straight is a choice?
    How nice. Wasn’t this the same cartoonist who once drew a couple of cowboys, and one presumably murdered the other for coming on to him?
    Is the bigotry natural, or was it learned?

    • I appreciate your anger towards this cartoon but you’ve misunderstood my intent. Which is my fault for not finding a better way to write this cartoon. I’ve posted an explanation and apology to those who misunderstood me on my FB page here:

      Thanks for commenting and giving me a chance to explain myself. I am a staunch and long-time supporter of LGBTQ rights.

    • I have to laugh (not at you nor your comment, but the timing). I had started to post about the under representation of vowels in the list and then saw this on CNN this morning:

      Intersex veteran sues over passport denial

      Woohoo. Now you can update your comic to offer a selection from L, B, G, T, Q, I, or S. Of course the attorneys representing UDAT (Umlauts, Diereses Accents, and Tildes (Who-dat or you-dat depending on your linguistic frame) has filed papers seeking an injunction, the attorney representing the colons said “This too shall pass”, while the attorney representing the Periods has filed a cease and desist order to put a full stop to this.

      SenseiC bows out.

      • argh… and I just noticed that when I reordered the list I managed to accidentally delete the comma between Diereses and Accents. Off to Punctuation Court (the other PC).

        SenseiC hangs head in shame and bows out.

  32. I just realized, the descriptor “low-budget” ought to be mentioned in regard to Star Trek. As I recall it, the budget for the show was actually a big bone of contention for the network. Westerns and detective shows were cheap to produce because you could re-use props and sets from prior shows. Space was a lot of one-off creation. (Which is why they did indeed cut corners where they could, such as the planets looking very earth like if not downright steals from genres like westerns and detective shows.) The show also wound up with kind of a big cast, as the minor characters like Scotty and Uhura took shape and gained followings of their own. The high budget had as much to do with the short tenure of the show as the marginal ratings per se.

  33. Genders: As far as incoming vowels, Asexual is getting some press. (I originally wrote it was “becoming a thing”, but then I looked at that sentence again. ;-) )

    Star Trek: if you haven’t read John Scalzi’s book Redshirts, I strongly recommend it — it’s, among many other things, a love letter to Star Trek.

    It’s wonderful to hear about your friend. Though he may have “departed for parts unknown”, it sounds like he had quite a few good innings there.

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