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>Pea in Your Ear

>Bizarro is brought to you today by the Technological Advances.

When I was growing up, I remember hearing people remark about how amazed really old people must feel. “Just imagine! They were born during horse and buggy days and now we’ve sent a man to the moon and can watch it live on TV! Such an amazing time to be alive!”

Yes, it is remarkable but I’m guessing old people born in 1910 probably got just as bored at seeing amazing new inventions every ten years as we do at seeing them every ten seconds.

When I was small, there were four channels on TV if you could get the antennae to work, there were about five computers in the whole country, each filling an entire room, and if you didn’t already have the bust line you wanted, you just had to get over it because there was no such thing as a boob job. Cable TV didn’t exist. Recording was something you could do to sound, but recording pictures off of TV was crazy talk. Movies were something you could watch on TV once a week on Saturday night, or at one of the three movie theaters in town, each playing only one film each. Phones had wires that connected to the wall and you couldn’t even unplug them. If you didn’t want to be disturbed by its ringing, you left it off the hook. Nobody but tobacco executives knew that cigarettes caused cancer. Typewriters sounded like machine guns and to correct a mistake you had to use white paint. Dark-skinned people used different water fountains and restrooms and no one batted an eye. If you wanted to cook something you had to use heat and wait half an hour – “microwave” was a word only astrophysicists recognized. Larry King was a middle-aged guy on the radio.

But today if you told me that I could stick something the size of a pea pod in my ear and hear the thoughts of any person from the past 10,000 years, alive or dead, just by thinking about them, I’d nod my head and say, “cool.” Nothing surprises me except what we can’t do. I’m still surprised an airplane is the fastest way to get from L.A. to N.Y.C. How quaint. When are they going to work the bugs out of that teleportation thing? Airplanes bore me, even with 42 channels of TV in the back of the seat. I can’t surf the web on my laptop while we’re in the air? What am I, Abraham Lincoln?

Perhaps I was born too soon.

>Laws of Nature and Beyond

>Bizarro is brought to you today by Better Living Through Force.

I haven’t much to say about this GPS cartoon other than I hope everyone understood it. The idea was that the GPS led them to a cliff above their destination, then instructed them to drive off the edge. It seemed funny when I thought of it, but I’m not sure about the final result. I like GPSs but I don’t like the voice. I prefer to just use the map part, like the one on my phone, and find my own way. I don’t trust the robot voice to always know the best way.

At long last I am back in front of my computer where I belong. I went to Florida this past weekend with CHNW. I was hired to do a speech for a humanist group down there, the Center For Inquiry folks, and had a great time. Good people, smart questions, laughed a lot, took me to lunch after. What’s not to like?

After the talk on Saturday, CHNW, her dad and I drove to an interesting little place called Ybor City where we hit some shops and had a beer. In old timey times there was a big cigar factory there where hundreds of people hand-rolled cigars all day. The tradition continues as there are cigar shops all over the place and a few people sitting in storefront windows rolling away. If you’re into cigars, this is a real treat.

This pic at left was taken with my iPhone and I think it turned out pretty swell.

Even if you’re not into cigars, it is strange to see so many smoke-friendly establishments within
the borders of our law-infested land. Smoking is so uniformly despised in the U.S., even outdoors, that walking down 7th Street in Ybor City feels more like Cuba than Florida. I often get chastised by friends and fans for smoking cigars, but I try to be considerate. I usually smoke at home and never smoke around crowds of any kind unless I’m walking quickly. I figure if my passing by with a cigar is enough to set someone off, they need more help than anti-smoking laws can give them.

Lots of things annoy me momentarily in public – bad music, mullets, cologne, confederate flags, cigarettes(they smell very different from cigars because they are crap tobacco and full of chemicals), people wearing fur, the smell of someone’s fastfood, people who talk too loud on cell phones, defenders of Dick Cheney, the way everyone but me drives – but I just figure that’s the price of leaving my house.

I cannot imagine a society in which we legislate against everything that briefly annoys someone. This encyclopedia of signs at a playground in Sarasota springs to mind. Looks like fun, doesn’t it?

>Goat-Mouthed Minions

>Bizarro is brought to you today by Satanic Snacks.

My most heartfelt and lugubrious apologies to both of my faithful blog readers for not posting more often of late. I intend to post six days a week but have been up to my eyeballs in extra work lately.

Here is an offering which I enjoy. I’ve always liked goatees, even as a kid, which is LONG before they were the ubiquitous mouth frame they are today. I wore one in the early nineties, even though my (first) wife hated it and a friend of mine used to introduce me as “my friend, Satan.” In contemporary art, the Devil frequently has a goatee but I have no idea why that started or how far back that goes. I’ve read that his arrow-tipped tail is actually a watered-down version of an erect penis, which in very early Christendom was the way he was routinely portrayed. Like much about Christian mythology, I’m guessing this image is a throwback to the satyr of Greek mythology. This is mostly conjecture on my part, so don’t go use this info on Jeopardy! and blame me if you lose.

A lot of totally bald guys wear goatees, presumably because they want to have some form of hair decoration on their head and lone mustaches have come to be seen as “gay”. A full beard on a bald guy is fine, but I’m not sure of the best way to handle the end of the beard, where it meets the bald head above the ears. A sharply trimmed end seems too abrupt and can make the beard look pasted on. A fade-out from beard to bald seems best, but that’s got to be very difficult to achieve and maintain.

The musician, Moby, has a head undecorated by hair (except for eyebrows) and not only likes it that way but is a little militant about it. He once criticized bald guys with goatees in a conversation with me, which struck me as odd since I was wearing something similar – my current mustache and “soul patch”. I’m not completely bald, so maybe that made him feel it was appropriate. Regardless, that experience was in the back of my mind when I wrote this cartoon.

While I like goatees, I know there are those who don’t and will likely get a laugh from this cartoon. Or email it to their friends with goatees, in an effort to get their goat.

>Believe It!


(To see this cartoon in a bigger-sized way, click on the xkelrtoi stabilizer switch on the wall)

Bizarro is brought to you today by Miracles.

I never know how many people will be confused by a given cartoon but I’m guessing this one caused its share of puzzlement. What I’m referring to here is the Church of Scientology, which has followers all over the world but is headquartered in Los Angeles, and whose faithful believe something similar to ancient space aliens are living inside them. Yes, it sounds like a strange basis for a “religion,” but then it was devised by a science fiction writer, so what do you expect?

I often wonder how otherwise rational people can believe these things, but then again, all religions are pretty outrageous when you look at them objectively. They usually involve virgin births, half-man/half-gods, resurrections from the dead, magical healing, evil creatures who can get inside you, and eternal beings who float around the universe. You might think these are Judeo-Christian concepts but they are found in the vast majority of belief systems throughout human history. They are ubiquitous concepts in many faiths that predate the Bible and they persist today.

I finally saw Bill Maher’s film, “Religulous” and although I fully expected to enjoy it, it was far more entertaining and enlightening than I had anticipated. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys the rational examination of human behavior and a good laugh, regardless of their faith or lack of it.

>Pieces of Eight

>Bizarro is brought to you today by Embarrassing History Under Glass.

Eight relatively unknown facts about pirates:

Pirates did not wear a skull and crossbones on their hats, unless they had recently raided a Halloween store.

While most pirates had parrots on their shoulders, some kept rodents in their pants.

Pirates wore a patch over one eye to save money on mascara.

Unlike their 18th century predecessors, modern day pirates do not attempt to look like Keith Richards.

Many pirates suffered severe bone damage by jamming their foot into a peg leg.

The symbol on the pirate flag, the “Jolly Roger,” replaced the “Jolly Rancher” flag in 1704.

Legend has it that one pirate of particularly ruthless reputation had a spell cast on him that made him impervious to death. Many people believe that “Captain Iron Heart” still stalks the world today, spreading terror and misery with unparalleled blood lust.

As far as historians can determine, there was never a pirate called Tyler “Poopy Drawers” Cohen.

Don’t forget today’s contest at 7pm Eastern. Be there or be squarely elsewhere.

>25 Years of Scribbles


I’ve been pimping all week about the 25th anniversary of Bizarro, and this is it. A quarter of a century ago today, the first Bizarro ran in seven U.S. newspapers. Now it appears in a few hundred in the U.S., Canada, Norway, Sweden, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, some other places in Europe and a couple in South America, I think. The foreign markets are hard to keep track of.

There have been 13 books of Bizarro cartoons published since 1986, most of which are out of print now. Bizarro has won some awards from the National Cartoonists Society, The Humane Society, and some other people I can’t recall the name of. I’ve been fortunate to travel quite a bit for business reasons, and met tons of amazing people.The crowning achievement of all that time, however, was when Bizarro and I were used as a clue on Jeopardy! a couple of years ago. That’s when I felt like I’d actually permeated the national consciousness in some small way. I got a huge kick out of it and tried to contact them to see if I could buy a video tape of that episode, but no luck.

You may think that all of that adds up to fame and fortune, but you’d be wrong. I’m a little bit famous, in some areas, in some circles, and not at all rich. But I’m not complaining. I’ve made a nice living doing what I like on my own time, and I’d be an arrogant ass to not be abundantly grateful. My dad often tells this story on himself – when I was in the 9th grade he often told me that if I didn’t stop drawing all over my school notebooks and study harder, I was never going to amount to anything. This happened to be one of the few times he was wrong about such things and man, am I glad.

Here’s a little mini-retrospective of some of my work from the past. Yesterday I posted the first Bizarro cartoon that published on January 22, 1985, here are a few more from subsequent years.

In this comic from 1987, which I’ve come to call “Rednecks Tampering with Physics,” I’d started to clean up my inking a bit. There isn’t nearly as much scratchy, crosshatching as that which filled my first year’s efforts. The joke is a little more sophisticated, too, and marks the first time I started getting into a groove that doesn’t make me cringe when I look back on it. I still like this joke after all these years (although not so much the drawing,) and that’s saying something. Early on, the majority of my gags were more pun-oriented, or slapstick. This one has an odd concept that I think still works. I later did a new illustration of this one in color for a calendar. Wish I could find it, it’s somewhere around here.

Here is one from 1988. Though I switched to using a brush around ’91 or so, I was still using a pen here. This one is an experiment with pretty dramatic perspective, something not often seen in newspaper comics then (or now, for that matter) and I’m continuing to clean up my look. You can see how a gag like this would not be legible if the inking were not clean. My kids were in school then, and there were plenty of little trophies around the house, which gave me the idea for this gag. Not brilliant or classic, but it’s a fun visual gag.

This praying mantis joke from 1990 is a cartoon I’d completely forgotten about until I found it in an old book of mine while looking for cartoons for this post today. This is among the last cartoons I did before switching to a brush. I hadn’t quite refined the caption box thing at the bottom, yet. This one is crooked and badly lettered. The underlining is distracting, too. I still like the weirdness of this gag, though. In those days, I had to fix things by cutting and pasting and using White Out, so things like crooked type didn’t get fixed. Now I can fudge them on computer in a matter of seconds, and no one is the wiser.

I did cartoons only six days-a -week from 1985 to 1990, then started doing Sunday cartoons, too. Here is one of the earliest ones, which I still like. This was when I was coloring the old-fashioned way, marking up a zerox of the cartoon with hundreds of little CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) percentage numbers to indicate each color, then sending them to the company responsible for creating film for client newspapers. It was tedious, time consuming, and involved a huge amount of guesswork. I redid this gag years later after I was coloring my own work on computer. Don’t remember when, though.

Lastly for today, a favorite cartoon of mine from 1994. By this time I had begun inking with a brush, had changed the way I letter bottom captions, but had not yet developed the current lettering style I use for balloon (more…)

>Time Flies Coach


Bizarro is brought to you today by Socially Bold Deserts.

As a change of pace, here is an old old old Bizarro from the late 1900s. I just realized a few minutes ago that Friday, January 22, 2010, marks the 25th anniversary of the first Bizarro cartoon that appeared in newspapers. I had seven client papers on opening day: Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, and I can’t remember the other four. Now I have something under a million client papers. (Keeping in mind that any number under one million qualifies for that statement.)

Wow. I don’t want to bore you with a lot of talk about how the time has flown by and I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for a quarter of a century, but damn. All of that is true. To be honest, it fills me with a mixture of pride and sadness. Time is a mindf*ck.

Twenty five years is a long time to be doing anything. Before Bizarro I don’t think I held any job for an entire year – as I recall, 11 months was my record. Of course, this job is more like freelancing than a “real” job, in that nobody cares what I do all day as long as I send them seven cartoons each week.

Things that have changed about this job in 25 years:

  • 1985-1987, I finished my cartoons a week ahead of deadline so I could send them by U.S. post to my editor. I was making so little money that I could not justify any other means.
  • 1988, I started making enough to get by and began overnighting them with Fed Ex. Now I could work on the cartoons up until 6:30pm the night before they were due and get them to the Fed Ex office by 7.
  • In the early ’90s I got a computer and email, but it was still a few years before Internet was fast and secure enough to send large images easily. I hadn’t yet learned to color my Sunday panels myself yet, either, so I was still marking them up with colored pencil with CMYK percentages and having them done at a coloring service that the entire industry used. This was the way everyone did it then. I had no idea what the image would really look like until it printed in papers many weeks later. It was difficult, required a lot of guessing and the early Sunday panels were not as intricate as they are now, but I tried.
  • In the late 90s I began doing all my own coloring and things haven’t changed too much since then. Now I can achieve almost any coloring effect I can dream up and can wait until the last second to finish my work and send it by Internet in a few seconds. Usually, though, I send them a day or two after they are due. I’m bad, I know, but this creativity thing is difficult to do on schedule.

More reminiscing tomorrow, unless I die of old age in my sleep.

>Countdown to Catastrophe

>Bizarro is brought to you today by The End Of The World.

A lot of people wrote to “high five” me about this cartoon. It seems there is no shortage of folks annoyed by the gullibility of their family and friends regarding this latest threat to our survival. We humans are always looking for secret clues to the ultimate catastrophic ending, as though the universe were controlled by Dan Brown.

But it is an irresistible part of our nature as apes with huge, mutant brains: we take our natural instincts to spot patterns and guard against injury, and extend them to ludicrous degrees. My apologies to those readers who don’t like hearing this, but in my opinion it is the very reason humans have always invented gods to explain the things we don’t understand or can’t comprehend. We live in a world with natural rules and order and when the facts of our existence fall outside of our understanding, a make-believe answer is more comforting than no answer at all. Most of us need to know that there is a Purpose to our existence and a destination beyond death.

So get ready for 2012, only two years to go unless The Rapture happens first. I can guarantee that 2012 will be every bit as catastrophic as the years 2000 & 1000, both of which caused widespread panic (among cultures who happened to use that arbitrary calendar.)

Of course, it would be especially cool if the catastrophe started at the stroke of midnight on 12/31/11, but in which of the planet’s 24 time zones would that occur? Maybe the Mayan’s time zone! But even they spanned two or three. Hmmm.

NOTE: This cartoon is based on a fairly obvious idea and I have no doubt it has been done before and will be done again. This is a prime example of one of those ideas that lots of cartoonists will arrive at individually.

>Civil War


(To make it a bigger picture, click the right femur of the character in the red shirt.)

Bizarro is brought to you today by Smatmobile.

I loved the Smart car the very first time I saw one in Europe in the late 90s. I tend to like small, unusual vehicles of any kind , so it’s pretty much made for people like me. I haven’t owned a car since I moved to NYC, but if I did, this would be one I would consider. Although I should say I know nothing about the quality of the car, I just like the size and look of it. It may be crap, for all I know. (And in any case, I prefer motorcycles and scooters over cars.)

I think one of the most interesting things about the Smart car is, however, that it evokes anger in certain people. I have personally heard several say they would like to crush them or flip them over. I have felt similar hatred for SUVs, but it is because they are a kind of blight on the earth. They use more gas than necessary and so help to keep us dependent on Middle East oil, they tear the roads up faster because of their weight, they are a traffic hazard because you can’t see around them, they contribute to traffic congestion because they take up so much more space, same with parking. Hating Smart cars, on the other hand, seems to be simply a symptom of the growing culture war in the U.S.

I think about this culture war all the time and can think of no reasonable end to it. Could be we are headed for another civil war. Progressives wouldn’t have a chance in such a war, we don’t already have stockpiles of weapons and we are less brutal by nature. If it comes to that, I guess we’ll all move to a more civilized place and leave the country to the Glenn Becks. Perish the thought.

>Glory To The Internets

A reader pointed me to this extraordinary page. I pass it along to you without comment, for now.

Placing the cursor over a person will provide a description of that character on the right. Be sure not to miss the group of people in the lower right corner.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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