Friday, January 22, 2010
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 balloons, which happened in '96. This is another one of those gags that would not work unless the drawing is clean and resolved. I could not have done this earlier in my career, without it looking like a complete mess. I am fortunate enough to have climbed the tiny spiral staircase inside the Statue of Liberty back before 9/11, when they closed it to tourists. The inside is hollow and looks pretty much like this except without organs. You can see the entire statue in negative, however ,which I found really fascinating. It would be even more amazing with organs, though.
Hope you enjoyed my anniversary retrospective. Abrams Books published a really nice retrospective of my various forays into the arts a couple years ago, which has this kind of stuff and lots more. It covers my cartoon career, fine art, commercial art, comedy show tours I've done and my personal life, all written by me in what I intended to be simultaneously humorous, informative, entertaining and inspirational. You can get a copy in various online places, or here, from me. Hurry, this one is out of print, too, and when the warehouse is empty, it'll be too late. : )
Make no mistake about it, you rock.