Friday, January 22, 2010

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 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.

64 comments:

JohnM said...

Thanks for the trip through the past. Happy anniversary. The cartoon that got me reading your strip whenever I could (dependent on the whether the papers I could get carried it)was a sunday of a contractor hired to paint a dam. He painted a mural of a huge crack and water rushing through.

Anonymous said...

Nice work...well done. More sense than most headlines. Always save Bizarro for last!

Steven Capozzola said...

Congrats, Dan. You've done some great work over the past 25 years, and you've succeeded in educating/irritating the Irrational Right. My only objection is that your work continues to my brother's "efforts."

Francesco Marciuliano said...

CONGRATULATIONS, DAN! May you have another 25 incredible years!

Karyl Miller said...

Dear Dan, congratulations on your 25th anni! You have made me LOL, literally so many times. My biggest compliment: You surprise me more often than any other writer/cartoonist.
Karyl

Lockwood said...

Happy Anniversary, Dan. I've been enjoying your work since the late 80's: most of those 25 years. Here's hoping for (at least) 25 more.

studio said...

Wow, congrats man! I still remember the time, back when you lived in Dallas, that we did something somewhere and it was really fun. I'll remember thinking about trying to remember what that was for a long time. Or at least until I stop typing...

Seriously, that's awesome, Dan.
Keith R.

cstevenhager said...

Your work has shown consistent genius for the past quarter century, which is about how long I've been reading you. Even now, I'm looking at a blowup I made of a 1994 Bizzarro, showing Indians gathered around a campfire. The chief is saying "True, we have history, justice, virtue, morality and the great spirit on our side - but they have lawyers!" Sixteen years later, that cartoon still makes be laugh while it inspires me to keep going, since I'm a lawyer for Indians, and we are still definitely in the minority.

With luck, I'll write about this cartoon in another 25 years as you celebrate your 50th of successful cartooning, although it will probably be animated holographic projections by then.

Congratulations, and for the love of all that is humorous, don't stop scribbling.

Steve Hager
Oklahoma Indian Legal Services

doug nicodemus said...

let me be the first the middle or the last (it is hard to tell because you moved to moderation) to say:

GOOD STUFF

tanks 4 de mammaries

Anton Gully said...

Hi! Casual fan here. I only have like 8 or 9 books.

If this is an old question just ignore me, but do you ever regret calling the comic Bizarro?

For obvious, non-super reasons.

Who knew search would become a THING?

terrytoledo said...

Congratulations! You've inspired many artists like myself to improve our craft and stay true to our message. Compassion and understanding can result from humor! What a pleasant way to grow wise! Good luck in the next 25!

ethicsstupid said...

Congrats, Dan!

Keep on scribblin'!

--Jim Lichtman

Steve said...

25 Years Worth of Congratulations!
- Steve D.

richard said...

Great Stuff - looking forward to another 25 years

Richard Kales
San Francisco

Michael. said...

It is most interesting to see the development of your 'hand'. Your more recent images are more pleasing to the eye and demonstrate greater finesse. I am surprised about your comment on using a brush but assume you must work on poster size originals to do this.

moondanc said...

Wow--what a wonderful nostalgic and informational review of your career. I loved all the details and reading about "White Out" made me feel about a 100 years old. Here's to another 100 years of truly Bizarro!

Debbie said...

Way, cool, Dan. Thanks for doing what you do. It's not a fungible job, which is an inspiring way to make it in the world and leave your mark.

HMack said...

Dan! Congratulations! 25 years is a whole lot of funny. And then you throw in the cool and interesting blog for free. Thank you so much.

thomas gladysz said...

Congratulations. I always knew you had it in ya! IMHO you are the best going. I'm looking forward to another 25 years worth.

Debbie said...

Cool cartoons. Happy 25th Anniversary. Keep on scribbling.

Lori said...

Those are pretty cool cartoons. I like seeing the way an individual's work evolves over time. Thanks for the retrospective.

Foye Lowe said...

Not to mock, but Make no mistake about it, you rock.

susie said...

I just LOVE that Statue of Liberty comic! Congrats on the comic's longevity - and much continued success! I read Bizarro daily.

TR said...

Congratulations! For the decades and a half of puns, absurdity and general hilarity. I do appreciate you for all of that plus the humane message you impart,
Keep on keepin' on keepin' on keepin' on screeeeeqech.

chaall said...

CONGRATS, DAN!! Here's to another 25 (and counting)! Most Sincerely, ACe

Anonymous said...

25 years is only a taste! I want more.

Congratulations, Dan.

Jonathan Maberry
www.jonathanmaberry.com

Jester said...

Thank you for continuing your amazing, and quite humorous, comic for 25 years. I really enjoy your comic and it's the first one I read in the morning. :D Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your fine work. Incidentally, I can read Bizzaro in the Bangkok Post here in Thailand.

montymiff said...

Happy Silver Anniversary! We only got you in the Great White North a few years ago. I'd be interested in finding out when you started hiding the little icons within the artwork. They're the hidden prizes in the Bizarro package. Can you add it to this blog?

Anonymous said...

No, dude, you rock!

Thanks for all the fish!

Ska!
(-:

Odd Todd said...

I dug this blog stroll-- brought back a few memories with those toons too. Thanks and congrats on the anniversary and for your work...

tOdd

jordon.robischon said...

Congrats man, still awesome comics even now.

ojeano said...

If we rock, you paper!

Bodi said...

Happy anniversary! :)

John Platt said...

Congrats on 25 great years! Here's to 25 more!

gene c said...

thanks for years of fun

gene c said...

thanks for years of fun

jawsnap said...

Congrats on the anniversary! Love your work and reading this blog. It makes me LOL often, and not many things do. Keep up the good work.

kreisler said...

Yay Dan! Yay!

idsvil said...

Congratulations Mr. Piraro for a quarter century of bringing the funny. Your strip is, easily, the best one out there. It is a great combination of brilliant humor that has a seemingly unending range of subject matter with artwork that is beautiful in its line work and sublime in the finest example of a cartoonist's dedication to representing that subject matter with their most "truthi-ness". The conceptual continuity in the vast universe of "Bizarro" is also what keeps this fan coming back. Thank you for sharing with the rest of the class and keep up the GREAT WORK!!!

rob said...

Congrats! Love the rednecks tampering with physics, and statue of liberty! Also, I like how refined and cool Kong looks

I'm not glad to hear that your books are out of print, but I'm glad to know I'm not cursed- I've never found one in a bookstore, despite looking in wildy different locations and times. Bummer. Hope that gets worked out somehow (like better marketing).

zippiknits said...

Happy Anniversary, to you...

I love your stuff! It makes this crazy world a better place to have to live in.

Anonymous said...

Bizarro is warped genius... and I love it. Many congratulations, Dan... here's to the next 25!

Anonymous said...

Mazel tov Dan, the alumni of Booker T salute you on this most wondrous of occasions. Here's to the next 25 years. Patro van Mine

Ginger said...

Way to go, Dan! You've made me happy for years and now are responsible for making my kiddos happy campers. You're one of my all time heroes. We love your soul. So glad you didn't sell out!

Jezzka said...

d, you're one in a million! i can't even begin to count the number of times your comic has brightened my day or the times i cackled uncontrollably over my breakfast reading bizarro. 25 years is an amazing amazing feat; happy anniversary my friend!

strange twisted deranged said...

Bizarro is older than me!! :O
yay:D

Andy said...

Enlightening inciteful insights - keep up the GREAT work - you are definitely in the running for the Nobel Piece Prize.

Anonymous said...

Hurlbuts of London Ontario say
BRAVO!!! Some days your comic is
the only smile there is in this world. Keep up the good scribbling!
Canada loves Bizarro!

Nik Daum said...

Cheers Dan! And best of luck on the next 25.

Chapter 7 said...

Congratulations! Thanks for all the laughs and witty banter. Somehow its all so fitting that I get relationship advice from "that Bizarro guy". Looking forward to another 25 - so be sure to reduce possible amputation scenarios and/or learn to illustrate with the brush in your mouth.

All the best
xo

idarmadi said...

Happy Anniversary Dan!!! :) Wow.. 25 years.... I truly enjoyed Bizarro during the time I live in US (88-94)... and I'm glad to find out your blog online (just a couple of months ago...)

Anonymous said...

Congrats on 25 years, and thanks for showing some old panels...I started reading (when I could find it) Bizarro back in my days at the UofA in 1988...fun stuff then, just as warped now, and always worth bugging my wife to say "hey, did you see this one?". Thanks for the laughs Dan!

Steinar said...

Congratulations from Norway. Thanks for many good laughs all these years.

Mac said...

Hi Dan,..congrat's on your 25th anniversary....here's to 25 more!! (tink-tink)

Loved the comment about your Dad doggin' you about doodling in your note books!! My parent's did the same thing to me,..and my Dad told me I was wasting my time when I told him I was going to create a cartoon panel when I was in college. Oh the joy's of proving the parents wrong!! (or were they right all along...using the old "reverse psychology" trick on us?!) Keep up the great work...Bizarro is always the FIRST panel I go to in the papers!!

Regards,
Bill McElroy
"Scales and Tales" Cartoonist

Ryan Andrews said...

Happy anniv. Your cartoons rule!

Anonymous said...

Arizona CPA says: When I was studying for the hideous 2-1/2 day CPA exam, you published one showing a woman sitting with her arm around a car tire saying "If it hadn't been for Carlos here, I would have gone quite crazy". I edited Carlos to the name of Newt (Becker) who ran a prominent review course I was taking -- cracked me up. Congratulations to your success in your chosen field. [PS: I passed the exam.]

hungrydog said...

I love the headlight-thieving hicks one. Always impressed at the way you put out such great work day after day.

All the best for the next 25.

Alex Hallatt

David said...

Just discovered your blog tonight, but I've been enjoying Bizarro for twenty years. Unlike most strips, it has maintained quality, if not just plain gotten better. Congrats!

Shiyun said...

happy anniversary bizarro.. love your comics :) xoxo from singapore

S. McReynolds said...

Dan, Congratulations on 25 years. Both Liz and I are big fans of your work. I am very thankful that I got to be a subject in a few of your scribbles early on. We are looking forward to more things Bizarro....

Charlie said...

Congrats Dan-arro! Love ya and the toons.

GIOVANNA said...

congratulations! Also for your commitment in defending animals rights! (sorry for my english) Giovanna, Italy

scowstar said...

I must comment on today's comic - The Elephant Snowman...you have given me a reason to live...