Reaching Flying


(Each character within these cartoons awaits your click and the embiggenation that follows.)

Bizarro is brought to you today by O’Reilly Confesses.

The art from the title panel at the top of each of my posts is usually originally drawn for that title panel, but is sometimes taken from another older panel. The one above was taken from this cartoon about public nudity

Today’s big Sunday comic is another rendition of the traditional Christian mythology about heaven being a place where everyone is happy for eternity, living on clouds, wearing choir robes, and getting wings and a halo. Even when I was a child and believed in this notion, I objected to the idea that only humans can go there. The common teaching was that the rest of the millions of species that co-inhabit the planet with us––and tens or hundreds of millions that have gone before us––were/are just here for us to use as we see fit. So I’ve altered the myth a bit in my version today so that birds get to go to heaven, too, and they get human arms since they already have wings. I’ve been jealous of birds’ ability to fly since I was quite young and have no trouble understanding people in olden times strapping homemade wings to their backs and jumping off of cliffs.

I feel sorry for kids who are allergic to peanuts because they can’t join in on typical childhood games like “In Which Sandwich Did I Hide the Peanut?” and “Monster Mosh Pit” where kids smear peanut butter all over their faces and run around a room crashing into each other because they can’t see with all that peanut butter in their eyes. But I feel even more sorry for Mr. Peanut and his son, who now live a semi-sequestered life, not being allowed on certain commercial airlines and having to be home schooled. There have even been persistent rumors that Mr. Peanut had an older daughter who was driven mad by the seclusion and ended up in a mental institution. That story has never been confirmed but there is a sign on a nearby state mental health facility that says “Warning: This building may be being used to process nuts.”  It is doubly sad and ironic because peanuts are not even nuts.

If you’ve ever climbed into a confined space and attempted to hurt someone until they can no longer stand up, you know how tiring it can be. Exhausting, really. And if, after an hour or more of this noble activity, neither of you is hurt badly enough to not be able to stand up and neither of you is smart enough to leave the enclosure and seek medical attention, it can get a little boring for the people who have paid money to watch you hurt each other if you both just stumble around and can hardly even summon the strength to punch the other person hard enough to detach a retina or incisor. This cartoon is about a solution to that problem.

I’ve been hearing lately that American school children are no longer being taught to write or read cursive. (For those of you too young to know the last word in that previous sentence or to understand this cartoon, there used to be lessons called “penmanship” in all schools, where children were taught to express language with art supplies like pencils, pens, crayons, etc.)  It’s already alarming how few young people can write legibly even when they try to print like kindergartners, but it’s not seen as an issue because everything these days is about technology and typing with your thumbs on small, plastic rectangles. At first I was appalled in an old-man, these-kids-today… kind of way. But then I remembered that I’d always wanted to have a secret language with a friend and now I’ve got one with everyone over a certain age. We can jot down notes to each other in cursive and no one under a certain age will have any idea what we’re saying. Sweet!

This cartoon about a certain billionaire mouse was quite contentious on the Interwebs this week. Some people objected to the fact that his gloves only have three fingers and a thumb but his actual rodent paw has four. The answer is that he puts his middle and ring finger into the same glove finger. Show business is all about deception, folks. Remember Millie Vanilli?

Other people were worried I would get sued because Disney is such a litigious defender of their copyrights. Fear not: satire of these kinds of characters is legal in this kind of small dose. If I tried to sell T-shirts or greeting cards with this image on it, I would get a cease and desist letter, but posting it online and publishing it once in newspapers is not illegal.

Finally, there have been questions over the years about why all the early Disney characters wore gloves. They’ve come up with all kinds of revisionist history about it but the truth is that in the early days of Disney, vaudeville was still a thing and among the most popular performers in vaudeville were minstrels; white people in blackface, singing and dancing like “negroes,” which was the polite term of the day. They almost always wore black and always had white gloves. The simple (and now embarrassing) truth is that Mickey was designed to resemble a minstrel, which was more a function of his place in history and probably not about intentional racism. Here’s a cartoon I did a few years back about Mickey’s struggles with racism.

Be thankful I didn’t do a cartoon about why Mickey wears pants.

Well, we almost made it an entire week without a political cartoon but then this one popped up; literally, out of a missile silo. Currently, America’s Cheetoh Mussolini is in love with Putin and the oppressive, brutal, authoritarian Russian government that he runs but it is only because he fantasizes about having that much complete power over his enemies and detractors. He imagines that he and Putin are a lot alike because he mistakes fear mongering and machismo with good leadership, but there will come a time when Putin takes advantage of him and stomps him like a bug. I pray that the worst that comes of it is another childish Twitter war, which is an area where America’s Fuhrer excels, but with Trump’s notorious ego and transparently thin skin, when he gets jilted by his imaginary lover and realizes Putin is playing him for a patsy, the missile silos may open up. I cannot express in words how much I hope I’m wrong about that.

My last cartoon is a final bit of silly to round out the week. Living in Mexico among real people for the past few months has served to further point out the vapid existence of many Americans. Living in the U.S., it is very easy to lose sight of how incredibly sanitized life can be there, even for the relatively disadvantaged. This kind of gym rat “bro” has always rubbed me the wrong way but now that I’m out of that culture, even more so. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with exercising a lot and being “cool,” but when looking good and buying stuff is all there is to your life, you’re missing the best stuff. This guy probably can’t even write legibly.

Thanks for reading this far, Jazz Pickles. I got some nice responses and donations from some of you last week and I really appreciate it. As my readership shifts to being primarily online where I don’t get paid for my efforts, I continue to depend more on those of you who enjoy supporting the art and ideas that you enjoy. So thanks to everyone who made a onetime donation or signed up for a monthly contribution through my Tip Jar.

Thanks also to those of you who bought one or more of my new books (only $6!) or a color print from King Features (about $25) or a limited-edition, signed and numbered, archival fancy schmancy fine art print ($200) or original inked Bizarro panel (more $) from this online art gallery. All those things help me keep the gates of Rancho Bizarro open for fun-loving caballeros like you!


36 thoughts on “Reaching Flying

  1. Are jaybirds more naked than say, pigeons?
    We need the Justice Dept. to look into this.

    And I think I saw that “process nuts” sign on a photo of the White House.

  2. Ya got me! In the big panel at the top I found the alien, the eyeball, and the pie. Three down and one to go. Well, the fluffy roundness of the clouds doesn’t lend itself to the type of background where the K2 is normally hidden, so I’ll have to look for one of the other symbols. And then you go and do it anyway. Not a very significant point in the scope of life, I suppose, but I take my Bizarro symbols seriously. :D

  3. ⛅ I thought about eternity and heaven a lot when I was a kid, and it make no sense to me that an eternal paradise would be any fun without animals running around, or trees.

  4. Love your coloring book… sorry we went through Amazon, but hope you get the requisite compensation for your outstanding work.

    • Me gusta Costa Rica. I spent three months there once in a jungle cabin on the extreme southeast side, a couple miles north of Panama.

  5. Do you talk with and/or coordinate with Leigh Rubin at times? The paper I read (Sacramento Bee) publishes your comic right next to Rubes. On the day your comic with the two big-eyed ETs was printed, Rubes had a comic with two big-eyed ETs. I looked over the rest of the comic page, thinking that maybe there was some kind of homage being paid to big-eyed ETs. But I didn’t see any other such comics (Your ET comic was much funnier than Rubin’s).

    • Thanks for the note, Bob. This kind of coincidence happens to syndicated cartoonists every year or so. While some guys occasionally collaborate for some kind of practical joke on their readers, this kind of thing is almost always just coincidence. I’ve met a lot of professional cartoonists but I don’t believe I’ve ever met Leigh.

  6. The cartoon about tapmanship made me think of a Monty Python sketch in which kids were taught a rather graphic sort of sex ed in school, right down to the point of a practical demonstration by the teacher. And the kids are all bored to tears – make something a school subject, and it ceases to be cool.

    Which leads me to believe that if we want kids to get off their damn cell phones, all we need to do is make it a compulsory school subject, and ban traditional writing materials (with extra detention for anyone who writes legibly, or uses constructions like “great” instead of “gr8”).

  7. What do the real people in Mexico do? Do they work? Are they artists? Just curious. I read your strip every day in the Tulsa World.

    • There are a lot of artists here but most of the “real” people in Mexico work with their hands and very hard. To be honest, I’ve never seen harder working, happier people. Some are white collar but most of the ones in my neighborhood (and the whole town, really) are blue collar folks. They clean, repair, build, move, cook, operate small tiendas, etc.

  8. Nice Series :P

    It seems that the most pragmatical explanation for cartoon characters wearing gloves (cause, it is not only mickey but a lot of other non black characters including bugs bunny) is to make fingers-hand for visible for animators / spectators, especially in the case where a hand goes in front of the body (especially if it is black against black, as you contour is usually also black). From Vox video :
    Why cartoon characters wear gloves

    • I’ve heard this answer and it is partly true, I’m sure, but I suspect it is revisionist. As an artist, I know there are always more than one way to make things work. Some claim gloves are easier to draw than hands, but there’s no reason for that to be true. Both are the same basic shape: a palm, some fingers, a thumb.

      My theory is that they designed Mickey like a minstrel (Why black? Mice aren’t black. Even in black and white film, he could have been gray, which would have made more sense for a mouse.) then realized they couldn’t see the hands in front of the body so they threw on some gloves, which minstrels wore for the same dramatic reason, really. Once Mickey became so popular, other cartoon characters copied him, as Hollywood always does.

      • You don’t need to pick on Mickey as the origin because it’s part of the Disney machine. As a fan of early animation, you can find many (most, really) early characters that could be argued to be minstrel-based. A few that come to mind that pre-date Mickey are Felix the Cat, Fleischer’s “Bimbo” (Betty Boop’s friend), Disney’s own Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, etc.

        – Jack

        • The original version of Felix wouldn’t fall into that category — he was drawn as an angular non-anthropomorphic black housecat, and didn’t develop the roundish ‘cartoony’ design until later on. He’s more like Snoopy in that respect, who (like Felix) never wore gloves & was normally depicted ‘naked’ until much later on.

      • Looking through a few of those old films just now, I noticed something potentially significant: any gray elements are part of the static background, while all hand-animated parts are strictly black & white. I know next to nothing about early animation processes, but anything that consistent suggests to me that the main factor was technical difficulty — perhaps in making the animated bits reliably visible to an audience?

  9. Beware of Dog: You could probably be arrested and sent to a reeducation camp for the dynamite on the tee shirt drawing. Subconsciously, that represents a suicide vest and you intend harm to the dog.

  10. That cartoon of the bird getting human arms in heaven drives home the absurdity of the concept of humans getting bird wings in heaven like nothing else could! As it entered my head it knocked over a few neurons, but don’t worry I’ve mostly recovered already.

    • I suppose this is because I never received any formal religious training, but I’ve always figured (even as an agnostic adult) that if there was a Heaven-like afterlife, any animal that’d appreciate wings would get them.

      The real questions in my autistic little mind were more technical, like “wouldn’t we all be stuck with bat wings since we’re mammals?” and “wouldn’t the skin/feathers have to reach down to our thighs to work under the laws of physics?”

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