Nepotism’s Double-Edged Sword


(To get you some enbiggenated cartoons, click you a shadow in any image.)

Bizarro is brought to you today by Never Stopping, Just To Be Safe.

There is much to talk about today but I promise it will be rewarding in a way that will punish those who come here only for a quick scan of the cartoons and don’t read the text or click the links. Woe is them.

(Late update: After posting the cartoon above I began to get mail asking why I had used the Puerto Rican flag to depict a dictatorship when PR is not one. I’ve since changed it slightly so it’s not the PR flag anymore. I actually took the Cuban flag, changed the colors, and thought I’d created a new flag. I was surprised [and more than a little amused] to find that that design was already in use. Sorry, neighbors!)

When people in the U.S. learn that I’ve moved to Mexico, or when people I meet here learn that I’m a syndicated cartoonist, they often ask if living here has or will influence my cartoons. One might think that today’s big-ass-wide Sunday cartoon is the first obvious example of a Latin American influence but one would be wrong. This cartoon is, instead, the influence of one Brian Shanahan, a reader who offered me an idea via Facebook message. His concept was the basic connection between Spanish for “the boss,” which is “el jefe” (pronounced hey-fey) and the Family Circus character “Jeffy”. He didn’t have a scenario but just envisioned a poster of him as a Castro-style dictator and the words “El Jefe”.

I loved the idea immediately and concocted the above scenario, which was inspired by the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother. You may notice that the soldier is saying “the boss” in his word balloon, but the banner on the wall is using a similar spelling for Jeffy’s name, a sort of loose pun.

Another interesting thing to note is that my original submission––the one that appeared in hundreds of newspapers on April 23rd and in the box at the top of’s homepage on that date––does not include Jeffe’s mustache. (King Features programs the cartoon that appears at the top of my homepage and they used the one I submitted for publishing.) I often think of ways to improve a cartoon after it’s already in the pipeline and too late, and it always pains me. Personally, I think this cartoon is much funnier with the big, red, curly mustache.

Finally, this isn’t the first satire of The Family Circus I’ve done. My first was way back in 1995 and I got a bit of hate mail from people who revere FC as “the last bastion of family entertainment” and thought it was akin to sacrilege to associate those beloved characters with The Devil. In addition to the hate mail, I also got a phone call the next morning from FC’s creator, Bil Keane. It scared me to death because I hadn’t met him yet and feared he was going to chew me out and threaten to sue me. Instead, he was very friendly and gracious, thanked me for the lampoon, and wondered if he could trade one of his pieces of original art from a Sunday comic for the original art of my “Faustus’ Circus”. I agreed, of course.

Years later, I did another Sunday spoof in collaboration with my good friend, Michael Capozzola, who is a successful stand-up comic and a cartoonist. For the unenlightened, Bil Keane used to annually publish cartoons that were ostensibly drawn by one of the child characters in FC because he was on vacation, and ours was a satire of that scenario. Here’s an example of one of Bil’s “vacation” cartoons. 

Here’s one more from a few years back that is an attempt to mimmic a Family Circus cartoon entirely, except for the signature and a few of my Secret Symbols. I always have a ball doing these but the El Jeffe one is probably my favorite.

Here, I’ve used the term “artificial intelligence” as a reference to the current American “president” and his administration’s willful, loathsome, and self-serving denial of science. If you’re one of those people who believes politicians who say that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the left (or China, or Noam Chomsky, or the Tooth Fairy, or whomever) consider this: On one side of this issue are millionaire industrialists (and the politicians on their payroll) who stand to make billions by polluting your drinking water and your air, and on the other are academics and scientists who stand to make a hundred bucks here or there by publishing an article in a magazine only they read, but could lose their entire career if discovered to be lying to the public about science. Which of those groups has a greater motivation to lie about climate change? And which of those groups knows the most about science, which is what climate change is about?

If you still believe that the vast majority of scientists the world over have the same hidden agenda and that the Trump White House is doing us all a big favor by ignoring them and deregulating polluters, please do the rest of us a favor and dart out into high speed traffic at dusk as soon as possible.

Ever seen one of those rooms that is built with strange angles and perspective so that an apple appears to be rolling uphill or a person looks like they’re huge when they stand at the other side of the room? I first saw that at Six Flags Over Texas back in the late 60s in an attraction called “Casa Magnetica”.  My ten-year-old mind was blown away and I still love those kinds of things.

I posted this cartoon about the cat that is going to “make the couch great again” on FB and Twitter with this simple line: “When hats lie.” I didn’t think I was being all that cryptic, but apparently I was because a number of people commented by asking, “You mean CATS?” No, I meant “hats,” as in the one that the Cheeto Mussolini and his “crumbs” wore all during the campaign. (You didn’t think I’d actually make you look at a picture of that boob and his idiotic hat, did you? This is a safe place!) Foolishly, I did not make the cat orange, which would have helped a lot. Totally my bad. Here is a corrected version.

I’m sure you’ll agree that some super heroes take their alter egos far too seriously.

Also at the family style restaurant is a TV room where you can ignore each other while you eat, a garage where dad can disappear to for hours at a time while working on some project he uses to avoid the wife, and dogs roaming around under the tables for the kids to sneak unwanted food to.

This cartoon could have been titled “Centaurs of the Old West” but after 30+ years of daily cartooning I’ve come to believe that it is better not to spell out every single aspect of a cartoon. In this way, I have attracted a select group of more intelligent, well-read, well-educated readers such as yourself––ones that don’t need things explained to them and enjoy being in on the aspects of a joke that are not spelled out. That’s just one of the many reasons I have not become fabulously wealthy as a cartoonist, but can count on my most loyal readers to defend me in a Mexican knife fight. If I should get into one of those things down here, I’ll let you know so you can rush to my defense.

Hey, want some happy, insider news to reward you for reading what I write and not just quickly scanning the cartoons? How about this––> After three and a half years of groovy fun times with my beloved partner, Olive Oyl, I asked her this week to marry me and she was foolish enough to agree. Yay!  After two marriages that failed in spectacular fashion, I swore I would never marry again but O2 silently, stealthily changed my mind by being unerringly principled, honest, loving, intelligent, loyal, and insightful. She’s too amazing to ever live without and she richly deserves the social respect and legal rights one gets from a legal coupling, so I’m taking the plunge. Accordingly, I am officially adding the first new Secret Symbol to the Bizarro canon in many years. It is “O2,” which stands for Olive Oyl. (I don’t use her real name in public posts in order to reduce the number of people who may seek her out on FB or wherever and bug her in ways she’s not interested in.) To read about all of my Secret Symbols and their meanings, including the new one, go here!

Thanks for making it to the end of our weekly chat, Jazz Pickles. Please consider some of the support options linked to below. Those of us at Rancho Bizarro will think of you every time we sleep indoors. 


70 thoughts on “Nepotism’s Double-Edged Sword

  1. Congratulations to you and Olive Oyl. I wish you much happiness. And also a zillion dollars. (My third wish was for a million more wishes, so let me know if there’s anything else I can wish for you.)

  2. Congrats on the engagement! :) Third time’s the charm, I guess? (I wouldn’t know, I’ve only ever been engaged the one time. Still am, 9 years later.) Oh, and thanks for calling me intelligent.

  3. On the “Jeffe” cartoon, was the use of the Puerto Rico flag coincidental or on purpose, or, was it just a reversal of the colors of the Cuban flag? Puerto Rico is a US territory (colony) with the usual collection of oligarchs in power, just as in the US, but, with some people with authoritarian tendencies, but, not completely so. It’s complicated.

    • That was actually a complete accident. I took the Cuban flag and change the colors a little bit and thought I had invented a flag. I had no idea I had drawn the Puerto Rico until I started getting complaints today!

  4. What does the little number above your name in each panel signify? I see lots of 2’s, 4’s a 3 and a 5. Is it some kind of version number? Just curious – probably has no direct impact on anyone’s life but you never know.

  5. Spectacular week, El Cartoonista Jéfe. The Family Circus story alone was worth the price of admission. I think I mix up Family Circle and Family Circus…

    I appreciate your willingness to suffer the hatemail for the Trump satire. It is soothing to your besieged readers.

  6. Wow! You DID save the best for last!!!!
    Congratulations to you and your beloved Olive Oyl. May you continue to have many, many, many happy, healthy years of bliss!

    Waiting for photos of the event (yes, please!).

  7. Hooray for O2, can’t wait to see what your wedding piñata holds! The island of Isla Mujeres is a good honeymoon spot! All wedding guests should wear Bizarro tee shirts!

  8. I’ve always wanted to die a hero, failing magnificently from saving someone from a death worse than fate. Sign me up for the Mexican Knife Fight, so I can die in vain. Chances are, they only wanted your autograph, anyway.

  9. Congratulations to you and O2! and thanks for another week of great cartoons and a terrific commentary. I will quote you on climate change, if that’s okay (with a link of course!). And thanks again for the F.C. spoof.

  10. Congrats to you and O2! That’s amazing! May you, your extended family and all your creatures live happily ever after!

  11. I think not being familiar with the term ‘Jeffe” made the comic funnier, somehow. The idea that in some place of the world, Jeffy (easily, the most annoying of the kids) had become some revered despot somewhere.

  12. Congratulations on your impending marriage, and the new O2 Secret Symbol. Is it time to retire the Dynamite of Doom which I’ve read represented your first wife?

  13. Your piece about your Family Circus send-ups and Bill Keane’s good natured response reminded me of the much less friendly dust-up between Walt Disney Studios and Dan O’Neill in the 1970s, regarding Mr. O’Neill’s depictions of a certain iconic rodent and his long-term girlfriend, performing various acts of the Kama Sutra and/or Naked Lunch, in “Air Pirates Comix” 1 and 2. Thank you. I love your comics. I look forward to them. Thanks for helping us through the time of the Orange Groppenfuhrer.

  14. An excellent week of cartoons, as always, a wonderful blog and an exceptional announcement!

    The next time you are at the South Pasadena Library doing a slide show and book signing (after a brief concert by an evocative acoustic guitarist), I’m taking you and O2 to Mike and Anne’s for drinks!

    That’s next time. But today, I lift my glass to you both and say… or type… ¡A su salud y felicidad eternas!

  15. Congrats to Olive Oyl on becoming the newest Secret Symbol!
    Oh, and congratulations to both of you on your forthcoming marriedness.
    Given the teamwork that the two of you did in moving to Mexico, my opinion is that this will work, You even team on the cartoons.

    • Thanks, Bob! Yes, we’ve been working closely together on Bizarro for over three years and haven’t had a single blow up over it and that says a lot. :^}

  16. Congratulations. I might do that again some day, myself.
    As for the cat and the hat, I think you might have done better to let the picture speak for itself. I found it amusing and the comment confusing.

  17. Congratulations! I hope you and O2 are very happy–as happy as you make me every week with this blog, and as happy as you’ve made me all the years I’ve been reading/looking at your work. And that’s pretty darn happy. Thanks.

  18. Congratulations to the both of you! I have yet to be persuaded to take another such plunge, but I applaud your bravery and self-immolation. Wait, I mean fortitude.

  19. I hate the custom of congratulating someone on an engagement/marriage, as if it was a contest and you won something.

    May all the good you already have together continue and grow, and all of the official stuff be simplified by that formal piece of paper.

    • Amazing that I didn’t know that. I have a couple of friends who are publishes scientists. Thanks for the clarification!

  20. Congratulations to O2 and you from Me2, I wish you many more years of mutual enjoyment!
    What a gift it is to us that you should share your thoughts along with your art, thanks so much!

  21. Wow — lotsa stuff to think about this week!
    Sorry to hear about the 1st 2 wives.
    Thanks for the genesis of the Stick O’ Dynamite!
    This 3rd union sounds like a winner.

    Funny thing about MONOGAMY.
    Human Nature often seems to abhor it.
    But it’s the best thing we have.
    A couple is very fortunate to make it last.
    [Annie & I have been married 53 years.]

    I think cartoons qualify under the larger rubric of “Literature.”
    I have followed many cartoons, for many years.
    And I am archiving them to develop a” Theory of Humor.”
    [The bottom line on humor is this —>
    you have to make an inference to get the joke.]

    The comics have helped me achieve a 3-part working “Theory of Literature.”
    Our authors & cartoonists write more about family affairs than anything else.
    Why is that?
    These authors are writing to come to terms with these issues —
    1] Why is my family so screwed up?
    2] How much of it is my fault?
    3] Will it help if I write about it?
    So — I am really happy to see you take on “The Family Circus” this week.
    The picture offered therein rings so false, & makes us feel like failures.
    When we are really just human beans a-doin the best we can.

    What percent of your cartoons are about monogamy?

    Carry on!
    Please dont stop!
    We need you!

    • Thanks, Scotty. I know a lot of cartoonists and more than my share of stand-up comics and the truth is that the best ones more often than not come from difficult families and childhoods. As you suggest, an enormous amount of humor is about working out our pain and fear. In fact, I suspect that might be the entire reason humor exists in human culture.

  22. Congratulations to you and your beloved Olive Oyl! I hope you both will always be as happy as you are now! I’ve been married for 32 years this June but we have been together for 36 years. On our 28th Anniversary, we renewed our vows. My Husband asked me to marry him again.
    I really loved the El Jeffe cartoon for today! It was really awesome. I enjoyed looking at all of your past Family Circus ones as well.
    I enjoy when you take shots at the Orange Fraud. I can’t stand him either. When I hear someone say “The people have chosen him” or some words to that effect I remind them that he didn’t win the popular vote and tell them that the brain dead Electoral College Screwed the American People over by handing the Country over to that incompetent boob.
    Thank you for all of your awesome cartoons!!

  23. Congratulations on your engagement! After all the happiness you bring to your readers, surely you deserve as much happiness as you can handle (and then ten more units on top of that).

  24. I wonder if centaurs eat grass or more human-type food (and if the latter, would a centaur ever eat horse meat like some humans do?). And does a lady centaur have breasts on her human bit, or two teats between her hind legs, like a horse? I have this feeling that the centaur theme is a gold mine for a clever cartoonist such as yourself.

    Another feature of a family style restaurant: for those who don’t already have them, they hand out cell phones at the door, so everyone can sit around the table and companionably ignore one another.

    • Congratulations to you and Olive Oyl!

      From higher up in the commentary: “intelligent, well-read, well-educated readers such as yourself––ones that don’t need things explained to them and enjoy being in on the aspects of a joke that are not spelled out.”… which is why the cat doesn’t need to be orange.

      Regarding the prior readers’ comments on centaurs: This is one of those ideas where it doesn’t pay to look too closely at the implications (though some fantasy authors have indeed “gone there”). For the ancient Greeks, centaurs were primarily a standard symbol of bestial mindset and behavior, with the exception of Chiron (who was not actually related to the other centaurs).

  25. If you guys have only been together for 3.5 years, then I’ve been following you for double that (!) and know your thoughts on marriage. Impressive that she’s the one that changed your mind on giving marriage a chance again! All the very best to you both! :)

  26. Congratulations to you and O2. I look forward to seeking this new secret symbol.

    On behalf of my fellow scientists, we thank you for continuing to cover for our hoax, the greatest, beautifulest hoax ever. I will instruct the leadership to continue to send you your share of the hoax gravy train.

  27. Fabulous week of witty cartoons! Fabulous week of delightful blog posts and links, including one of Fabulous news! And more than a few Fabulous comments from the pickle gallery!

    I had a colleague, now retired, from Mexico — I forget now if she was from Michoacán or Guererro, but she’d been in the States almost 30 years — and she referred to our then-boss (named Jeff) as El Jéfe, so that cartoon is most certainly getting passed along (with appropriate nudging toward the Tip Jar). Thanks for mentioning the connection to the Kim brothers, as I hadn’t considered that when I first chuckled at the cartoon. I always love getting another level!

    Re: the artificial intelligence cartoon, I appreciated your anti-science mini-rant but was surprised there was no remark about the robot playing the puzzle game… and also a teeny bit surprised the “round” object had no lit fuse!

    And yes, I did actually think you were going to make me look at a picture of that boob and his idiotic hat, so I skipped the link… until reading your comment, justly decrying my lack of faith in you, which I then, appropriately shamed, rectified… and had yet another chuckle. What does the Cyrillic translate to? Do you know?

    And the centaur thing… hilarious. You actually made me imagine him shirtless, but with the hairy arms, stubble and cowboy hat. Too funny.

    What a wonderful week!

    (And just a note to say that one of my friends who received the coloring book amongst his birthday gifties replied with great fondness … I guess he hadn’t seen your cartoons in many a year, so I sent him the appropriate links. May your Tip Jar be bountiful!)

    Many thanks to you and Miss Oyl as always. Much warmth and happiness…

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Doc. Much appreciated. I don’t read Cyrillic but my guess is it is a direct Russian translation of the American version.

    • Who are we to judge whether or not he “needs” a rider? I have no idea what the relationship is between the centaur and his rider. :^}

  28. Congratulation on your engagement!

    And now for the complaint. It may be somewhat ironic to be an artist without a browser tab icon for their homepage but it is somewhat annoying to scan down my list of browser bookmarks and only have a blank for the Bizarro link. In case you do want “flavicon” follow the instructions at this rather nerdy site:

    I’ll continue to read your blog either way. If you need help in drawing a flavicon contact Albrecht Durer.

    • I can appreciate your desire for this but I had a look at that page and my head exploded. I haven’t the foggiest idea how to go about that and to be honest, have never even noticed those tiny icons until you mentioned it. Little things like that don’t mean much to me, I guess. I’m more of a big picture kind of guy. If someone who can figure out how to do that happens into my life, I’d be happy to allow it but it won’t be me.

      And thanks for the congrats, TimBo! :^}

  29. Congratulations! I’m socked to see you’re trying again after all you’ve said. Third time’s the etc

    Casa Magnetica was the best! It somehow survived into the early 90’s, tucked away under a roller coaster.

  30. today is sun. april 30, 2017. enjoyed looking for the little pics of an eyeball, slice of pie, bunny, ufo, partial fish, etc. at first if didn’t understand the humor of your cartoon, but the lightbulb came on and i’m still giggling. i also liked the viking helmet on the person behind the fence! so i came to your website, found out alot. congrats on your engagement. i wish both of you many happy years together. you probably don’t need/want advice, just a short one – you can always say the last 2 words in an argument – ‘yes, dear’. peace

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