The Secret Symbols

Many have asked what the odd little icons that appear semi-hidden in the backgrounds of my Bizarro cartoons mean. Some basic facts about the Secret Symbols: they first began appearing in the mid-90s, there are thirteen in total (the two related to Olive Oyl are new as of April 2017, which is discussed below) some are used more often than others but there is almost always at least one, and the small number above my signature tells you how many to look for in a given image. Whether you just enjoy searching for them or are interested in developing a cult around them, below is the official list along with the deep meanings of each.

The Inverted Bird:

Inverted Bird.jpgBirds are creatures of great visual beauty, intelligence, and enchanting musical abilities (except for chickens). They are creatures that can both walk in the dirt with the lowliest of worms or soar through the heavens, high above the muck and din of modern life. The BIZARRO bird is represented upside-down to show the importance of individuality. The person on the road to greater self-awareness does not march with the rest of the band, neatly in formation, wearing identical costumes, playing the same notes at the same time. Rather, the truly aware Jazz Pickle marches to their own drum, wears their own costume and moves against the tide of other players, undaunted by the occasional trombone slide to the jaw or bass-drum mallet to the midsection. If that doesn’t appeal to you, you can just say that it means I’m “flipping the bird” at you.

Activity To Improve your own Jazz Pickle Awareness:
Tie a funny hat to your head and hang upside-down out of the window of your home or office. Shout, “I can fly high above the muck and din of modern life. I am a BIZARRO bird!” Learn to draw the BIZARRO bird and use it in place of your signature for the rest of your life. Especially on government documents.

The Dynamite of Boom (a.k.a. the Firecracker of Pop):

dynamiteLife is unpredictable and everything can change in an instant, like an explosion. We need these upheavals to keep us moving forward, the way an automobile needs the explosions in its pistons to keep moving forward. (Except for electric ones, which move in some other weird, new way that I don’t understand.) But humans are not electric, so we need to be blasted out of our blathering stupors and soul-numbing routines from time to time. The next time something in your life blows up and you’re looking at a whole new landscape overnight, remember that you have been given a great opportunity to grow. If you’re really super, super upset and are not able to be thankful, maybe come back and read this moving paragraph again.

Activity To Improve your own Jazz Pickle Awareness:
Find some long, red sticks with string hanging out of one end that look just like sticks of dynamite (but not real dynamite) and strap them to the front of a hunting vest you are wearing. Walk leisurely through the streets of your local town and casually ask people if they have a light. If they ask what for, tell them you’re looking for a change. This activity is certain to bring major change to your life within minutes, and possibly even a new address for a few days, months, or years.

The Crown of Power:

crownAs in many aspects of our existence, the crown carries dual meaning: good and evil, positive and negative, yin and yang, Fred and Barney. Though the crown is a symbol of power, authority, and wealth, mayhem can also come from wearing the crown. “Hat hair” is virtually unavoidable, however, so bring a comb.

Activity To Improve your own Jazz Pickle Awareness:
If you are willing to accept these risks and responsibilities, make a crown out of cardboard and wear it everywhere you go for ten days to bring you authority, wealth and power. While you do so you will be invulnerable, and your decisions will be absolute and cannot be contradicted. Deal swiftly and harshly with any who criticize or question your authority.

k2The Mysteries of K2
K is the 11th letter in the English alphabet. An 11 is drawn with two ones. Eleven plus two is 13, a traditionally unlucky number. Eleven minus two, twice, is seven, a traditionally lucky number.

Other interesting connections between K and 2:
▪    K9 is slang for canine, the world’s most popular and cherished pet
▪    I have two daughters whose names both begin with a K (Krapuzar and Krelspeth)
▪    The names Khrushchev and Kennedy both start with K (look them up on Wikipedia)
▪    Kaaba has two a’s in a row, and Mecca has two c’s in a row
▪    C is the third letter of the alphabet. Eleven plus three is 14, the exact number of days in two weeks


Activity To Improve your own Jazz Pickle Awareness:
Carry a notepad with you and write down all the connections between the letter K and the number 2 that occur to you each day. Discuss your list at length with everyone you meet.

The Mighty Oyl


“O2” stands for Olive Oyl, who was and shall always be the love of Popeye’s life. (Both “O2” and Olive Oyl’s image count as secret symbols.) Finding the love of your life––one whom you can truly trust––can be an arduous journey and, like most people, I’ve made many missteps. You can be sure you’ve not found one when you catch them in an important lie like who they got naked with while you thought they were out shopping, or how much money they procured illegally and hid in a secret bank account. You know you have found one when they treat you with love and respect, even in the tough times and especially in the tough times. My Olive Oyl is the kind of quality partner one hopes for and whom Popeye could trust not to steal his spinach or come home with a hickey from Bluto.

Activity To Improve your own Jazz Pickle Awareness:

When choosing a life partner, do not, under any circumstances marry them before you have been in a committed relationship with them for more than two years. In that time, if they lie to you about anything bigger than whether it was they or the dog who farted, cross them off the list and start again. Remember that infatuation is not love, that sexual attraction is important but is only a tiny percentage of what’s needed for a long-term relationship, and that love is a choice, not a feeling. It is also important to not mind the way they smell when they’ve not showered because most of life happens between showers.

The Pie of Opportunity

pieOpportunity is like a piece of pie underfoot. We must watch for it, for if we do not see it we may step in it and get sticky fruit and crust between our toes. If we search for it wisely, however, open to the possibility that it may be hiding anywhere, we may enjoy the delicious sweetness. But we must not jump hastily at found pie; what at first looks like a scrumptious dessert on the floor may actually be something the cat found coughed up.

Activity To Improve your own Jazz Pickle Awareness:
Buy a pie and place a piece of it in the middle of the floor in your home or office. Once placed, do not move it, and opportunity will knock within 21 days. When the opportunity presents itself, eat the pie and share it with the person who brought the opportunity. Do not take “no” for an answer; both of you must finish the pie together or the opportunity will slip away.

The Lost Loafer
In life, all of us understand what it is to be lost — literally lost in the lingerie department of a store, or figuratively lost not knowing which way to turn in life, which job to take, which country’s customs officials are easiest to sneak past with recreational drugs. The lost loafer exists in recognition of that feeling we all have at some time in all our lives; useless, outcast, purposeless, smelly, without a mate.

Activity To Improve your own Jazz Pickle Awareness:
The next time you are driving and you see a single shoe in the street, pick it up and carry it with you proudly while keeping an eye out for its mate. Feed it, bathe it, give it a name, introduce it to people you meet as if it were a cherished old friend. The next time you are lost, someone will do the same for you.

The Eyeball of Observation

eyeThe eye is the symbol of eternal watchfulness. In each cartoon, the eye is watching the action in the cartoon, and it is watching you read the cartoon. It also watches you watching it watch you and the cartoon. When you watch the eye watching you watch it, you are both the watcher and the watched. As you watch the computer screen describing this to you at this very moment, the eye is watching you watch it watching the screen. Together, you and the eye can watch the word “watch” become a strange and meaningless sound through repetition. Watch. Wotch. Woch. Wodge. Wha-ching. Wah-jing. Say this word aloud over and over and contemplate the meaninglessness of the sound and of the world we have created.

Activity To Improve your own Jazz Pickle Awareness:
Draw an iris and pupil on a white ping-pong ball and carry it with you always. Place it on tables, countertops or floors whenever you interact with people. It will assist you in observing and perceiving your surroundings. Do not explain to anyone why you are doing this, including the police. Watch what happens.

The Flying Saucer of Possibility

alienThe UFO/alien is a symbol of the immense and immeasurable universe and all its possibilities. As anyone who has ever found themselves at the cold, steely end of an extraterrestrial’s medical examination can tell you, aliens are already here and living among us. They are benevolent creatures who wish to study us and learn what they can about our culture. Disguised as earthly creatures of all sorts, they watch us daily. You undoubtedly know many and do not realize it. My Aunt Ruth is an alien. Two of my three brothers-in-law are. Most fast-food workers are, as well as some dogs and all cats. It has been scientifically proven that people who disagree with this view are stupid.

Activity To Improve your own Jazz Pickle Awareness:
Print out the alien on this page and tape him to the lining of your jacket. When you suspect someone may be an alien, simply flash the picture where only they can see it, and say quietly, “You’re not fooling me — I know all about you.” Throw in a wink, too, if you’re feeling up to it. Use the following chart to judge whether or not they are extraterrestrial by their response.

Denial: yes
Confusion: yes
Ignore you: probably
Laugh in your face: definitely
Full confession: definitely not

The Bunny of Exuberance

bunnyIn all of us resides a little child with an overwhelming sense of wonder and exuberance for life. As we grow older, our hearts, minds, and souls harden and become brittle. Some even mildew. To achieve true Jazz Pickle Awareness, we must remain in touch with the child within us to keep a fresh outlook on life. The bunny, peeking his cute little furry head up from some unexpected place, is that child within you. The child that you used to be: frightened, loving, innocent, immature, hyperactive, unable to control your bladder, unafraid to throw a screaming temper tantrum in public. We must all stay in touch with the bunny inside us at all costs.

Activity To Improve your own Jazz Pickle Awareness:
Print out dozens of copies of the bunny and hide him in unlikely places throughout the day. Whenever someone comes across the bunny and asks about it, encourage them to abandon self-consciousness and act childishly along with you. A good place to begin is by romping naked in a public fountain.

The Arrow of Vulnerability

arrowIn some BIZARRO cartoons, there appears a character with an arrow in his or her back. This arrow is to remind us all of our vulnerability. No matter how strong we are (or think we are) we all have blind spots that can be attacked and conquered by those who are out of our view. This is one of the many things that connect us with each other as humans: we all need each other to watch our backsides. I watch many backsides daily and always feel enriched by it. My mentor, the famous Swedish cartoonist Elmo Malmo, used to say, “Remember, even a loaf of bread has an Achilles’ heel.” It doesn’t make much sense translated literally, but in Swedish it is very powerful.

Activity To Improve your own Jazz Pickle Awareness:
With an indelible marker, draw a large arrow on the back of all your shirts to remind you of your vulnerability. Poke your friends and co-workers in the back with a sharpened pencil to remind them of theirs.

The Fish of Humility

tailFish are magical because they can breathe water. Can you or anyone you have ever heard of breathe water? That’s my point.  And yet, they are humble. One never hears a fish boast about anything, including its amazing ability to breathe water. I know that I would definitely be bragging a lot if I could breathe water. The Jazz Pickle seeking true awareness must emulate the fish in its humility (but not its breathing habits).

Activity To Improve your own Jazz Pickle Awareness:
Any time you pass a body of water that may have a fish in it, drop to your knees in supplication and cry out to the fish to teach you the way of the finned. Do this the rest of your life, wherever you go, and you will find it very humbling.

5 thoughts on “The Secret Symbols

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