Thursday, January 21, 2010

More Anniversary Ranting

Bizarro is brought to you today by Personally Humiliating Work From The Past.
As I mentioned in yesterday's post, tomorrow, Friday the 22nd of January, 2010, is the 25th anniversary of Bizarro. A few readers understandably wondered if the cartoon posted yesterday was the first one that ever ran. It was not, the abomination posted here entitled, "Sock Exchange" was the very first, as you can see by the publication date nestled beneath the psychotically scrawled signature.

Let's deconstruct the awfulness, shall we? At present, I draw everything with a small brush on bristol board, which is a kind of very thick paper that is standard among professional cartoonists. Back then, not knowing what I was doing, how I should do it, or my ass from my elbow, I drew with a rapidograph technical pen on tracing paper. Yes, TRACING paper! So if you were wondering why the image above looks as though it were etched by an asylum inmate on wax with a piece of wire, now you know. Using a tech pen is perfectly fine if you're drawing in a clean, neat style. Like this guy. But I was was trying to use a pen to do things a brush does. Took me a few years to figure that out. Perhaps I shouldn't have dropped out of art school.

The joke isn't so bad, I'd use it today if I'd just thought of it, but the drawing is really something hideous. I had been doing ultra-realistic commercial illustrations of food products for a living, similar to this, and had not been drawing cartoons long enough nor consistently enough to have developed any kind of style. My biggest influence was B. Kliban, but my early work didn't look anything like his, either. Besides, I didn't want people to think I was borrowing from someone else's style, so I just flew off in a random direction in hopes of developing my own look. Which I eventually did, but it took a few years.

And check out that winsome signature. Such style, such grace, such suckage. It looks like it was constructed of burned fragments of a wooden fence.

I'm happy my work isn't this clumsy anymore, that's one good thing about getting older.

Below are two earlier cartoons of mine from 1995 and 1998. By this time I was drawing with a brush and you can see that I changed my lettering style somewhere between those dates. I was still using a tech pen to letter, but later did that with a brush, too.

Tomorrow I'll post a cartoon or two from different years throughout the process to show how my drawings have changed.


20 comments:

Robin Brande said...

This whole post is hilarious. And I think you're WAY too hard on yourself. Even your earliest work is far superior to stuff that's out there today. I won't name names, but there are some suck comic strips.

But I do love the description of "etched by an asylum inmate on wax with a piece of wire." Awesome.

eric said...

I have to admit, being a lover of letters, the lettering style shown in the later strip really caught my eye and drew my interest originally, some (10) years ago. In a High School English textbook, of all places.

Yet Another Steve said...

Your drawing style has changed but the old cartoons are just as good as the new ones.

And ah, Kliban. RIP.

rob said...

Oops, should have checked the 8 years too late date. ist ein dumkopf.

Eric said...

Dan,
I've always appreciated your cartooning style and am particularly enjoying this mini-retrospective. I received a copy of "The Best of Bizarro" (published in 1992) under the tree last month and was amused by the evolution of your work between then and now. The clever humor was present back then, but the polished art that characterizes your more recent panels really make Bizarro "Bizarro". (Charles Schulz's style changed dramatically over the years, but I'm not sure it that was intentional or just what becomes of an artist's hands in their 80's)

One more note...the panel you just posted illustrating the baggy pants reminds me of one of my favorites where you compared "Clown at Work/Clown at Home" to "Thug at Work/Thug at home". For levity, I remember photocopying that one into a meeting agenda I had made (please don't send your copyright lawyer to my door)

Happy 25! Selfishly, I hope for 25 more (even if your handwriting gets a little shaky!)

shipping troll said...

I am curious Dan, as to when your "special" icons started showing up in the art work? As much as I love the bit itself, I find that I HAVE to find all the hidden icons or my day isn't complete, and I'm sure that I'm not alone in this!

Anonymous said...

Im sure your going to block this

but are you embarrassed about obamas first year failure in office

Shawn said...

Congratulations on your 25 years! That's a lot o' scribbling. And I have to say, they're still funny! But your blog is really great. Though it features your comics, it's sort of it's own animal. By the way, my word verification for leaving this comment is aptinc. What the hell is that? Maybe it's worth a comic idea?

zdub said...

I have a bunch of your early books and noticed that most of the cartoons used word balloons, something you rarely use nowadays (relying on captions.) Was this a conscious choice, or just part of an evolutionary (or devolutionary) process?

hawkgirl said...

Happy Anniversary, Dan. Here’s to another great 25 years....

You know I love those bacon bears. They made me chuckle out loud. That bear’s expression is priceless. Pooh could never be half as endearing.

Wade said...

Congratulations on 25 years! Keep 'em coming, Dan.

Feline Revolucion said...

Cool post, Happy belated bday and bizarro bday ..

I have been dabbling with cartoons a bit lately(past year or so) ..
and i am using tracing paper(cleaning primary thought on sketchpad then coloring on Gimp),

I ink with the "plume" a plastic one though .. I think they are called comic pens or something... I tried small paintbrush the sliding freedom is nice but hard to control.
(and I draw small ..really really tiny like )

I'm not an artist,just a software engineer with hobbies :P

Have a fun day .. I'm going back to stalk mode

Ryan said...

I am curious when did you start putting all the hidden items in? Was it supposed to be a one time thing or what was the thinking behind it?

Congrats on 25 dude!!

Plan 9 said...

I used to be bummed out that I hated my old work (I own a recording studio). I used to wish I could appreciate it more as the work aged, but I don't. I'm just as critical of it as you are of your art.

It wasn't until someone said to me (I wish I could remember who), "Wouldn't it be horrible if you thought your best work occurred in the past?" that I began to embrace it.

Now I appreciate that sense of disgust I get when hearing my old stuff and now kind of look forward to getting to that point with every project, as a sign of artistic growth.

Your post on the surface, looks self-flagellatory, but I want to assure all the blog readers out there, that this is how it's supposed to be.

Let it all out Dan. We're here for you.

patrick said...

It is interesting to see your "evolution" via these retrospective postings. As an artist, I can see that you have evolved and refined your technique, and that you perceive your old comics as crude. As a reader, though, I really like your old comics (along with your new ones). I liked your early art because it was different. There is something about those early chicken-scratchin's that really capture the spirit of the scenes depicted. Don't be too hard on yourself -- it might have been your "outsider art" period.

I. Khider said...

oh! oh! Can I get the sock exchange one on a shirt, puh-lease?

I was looking for one of the cartoons to put on a shirt but could not decide. The baggy pants one would also be great if you don't feel comfortable about the first.

Puh-leeeeeeeeeeeeease?

doug nicodemus said...

love the old stuff...love the new stuff...like i have said all along...i wish you would put up more video of your live stuff..because you are funniest in person...

Ray Avito said...

Happy Anniversary, Dan! I'm having a real chuckle over the dog on the porch. He's like, "Yikes, now what?"...

Cindy Kilkenny said...

I'm not sure what it does to you, but the fact you've been published for 25 years sure makes me feel old.

Tom still has one of your very early drawings stashed somewhere. We're saving it in case you are ever famous. ;)

dacg said...

Congratulations..25 yrs. Your work is spot on..