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>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.

>Thanks for Giving

>Bizarro is brought to you today by Super-Sized Heroes.
If you’re reading this blog, you’ve made it through another American Thanksgiving. Since many of my readers are outside of the U.S., however, I thought I’d explain what yesterday was all about.

We call the holiday “Thanksgiving” because it is based on a myth about early European settlers in America wherein the punch line is that they “give thanks.” The story goes that a boatload of religious freaks who were run out of their homeland for pestering people with their intense self-loathing and superstitious nonsense, landed on this continent and built some cabins or whatever. The local inhabitants were all like, “Whatever, it’s cool, there’s plenty of space and resources for everyone. Just don’t be douches about it.”

When winter came, they all nearly froze and starved and the local natives felt sorry for them and helped them out. Then, when spring came, they decided to celebrate their survival with a modest meal with their kind benefactors, but it took them all the way until the next autumn to get around to doing it for some reason.

But then later the religious freaks did, in fact, become douches, as religious freaks almost always most certainly will, and they killed off almost all of the natives on the continent so they could steal their land and get rich and celebrate their “good fortune” each and every year for centuries to come. And what better way to celebrate such a humble story of survival and compassion than with a gut-gorging, bacchanalian orgy of fat- and cholesterol-injecting, artery-clogging, cardiac-inducing, gluttony? Millions of innocent birds are genetically modified, incarcerated, and brutally butchered to celebrate a handful of oatmeal salesman’s good fortune 400 years ago. Sure. Of course.

For my foreign readers, the typical American Thanksgiving Day goes something like this:
Kids awaken and watch a parade on TV with gigantic balloon characters (representing products you can buy) floating above an alarmingly overweight crowd of Americans. Females are in the kitchen preparing far more food than their family and guests can possibly eat safely, males are watching football on TV. Food is served, large table full of already overweight people eat enough food to embarrass Henry VIII, family members argue, men nap, women clean and wrap leftovers, America increases its lead as fattest nation in the world.

You would think this would be scheduled for a Friday, to give people two days to heave, medicate, and sober up before having to go back to work, but instead, it is on a Thursday, forcing many uncomfortably flatulent and hungover Americans to suffer through another day of work before the weekend. Historians believe this is a remnant of the “self-loathing” part of the original oatmeal salesmen who started all of this.

Those who do not have to work on Friday, go to stores to make the gluttony and conspicuous consumption of Thanksgiving look like child’s play compared to the supernatural uber-consumerism that will take place for the next solid month in honor of the birth of a Jewish magician two millennia ago.

I hope you found this brief historical account both entertaining and enlightening. Please direct your complaints to the comments section below. Happy holidays. : )

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