Bizarro (comic strip)
Bizarro is a single-panel cartoon written and drawn by cartoonist Dan Piraro. Launched January 22, 1985, the panel appears daily in 350 markets throughout North and South America, Europe and Asia. Initially syndicated by Chronicle Features, it moved to the Universal Press Syndicate and then King Features.
Characters and story
Bizarro gives an eccentric, exaggerated and, as the name implies, bizarre look at everyday life. Piraro has described it as "about the incredibly surreal things that happen to all of us in our so-called 'normal' lives." The situations are surreal, yet often plausible. Some cartoons involve celebrities, such as Sheryl Crow and Penn Jillette, while others make reference to themselves or characters from comics or animation, such as Superman and Gumby. Comics critic Tom Heintjes described Bizarro's themes, cryptic aspects and expansion into performance art:
- Piraro has taken his panel in directions simultaneously surreal and topical. In a comic universe where world-weary talking dogs exist alongside nihilistic housewives, Piraro gives his cartoons heft by skewering his own bêtes noires: wasteful consumerism, environmental destruction, corporate greed and sheeplike people, to name a few. (He also espouses animal rights in his work, for which the Humane Society honored him in January with its Genesis Award.) Though his humor is never didactic, Piraro's work is remarkable in its unwillingness to pander, even when the occasional panel borders on the inscrutable. (For example, he once used the Etruscans as a punchline; if you skipped history class that day, tough.) The 54-year-old Kansas City, Missouri, native has also begun participating in the nascent vaudeville revival with his one-man Bizarro Bologna Show, an entertainment potpourri into which he incorporates puppetry, song, ventriloquism, mind reading and drawing (not to mention slides of Bizarro cartoons too blue for newspaper publication). Creatively restive, Piraro also produces fine art, some of which uses the Catholic imagery that he was exposed to at parochial school.
Most Bizarro cartoons include one or more of these devices hidden somewhere in the cartoon:
- an eyeball (the Eyeball of Observation),
- a piece of pie (the Pie of Opportunity),
- a rabbit (the Bunny of Exuberance),
- an alien in a spaceship (the Flying Saucer of Possibility),
- the abbreviation "K2" (referring to his children Kermit and Krapuzar),
- a crown (the Crown of Power),
- a stick of dynamite (the Dynamite of Unintended Consequences),
- a shoe (the Lost Loafer),
- an arrow (The Arrow of Vulnerability),
- a fish tail (The Fish of Humility)
- an upside down bird (the Inverted Bird)
The strip and its creator have been recognized with several awards, including the National Cartoonists Society's Newspaper Panel Cartoon Award (in 1999, 2000 and 2001). Nominated for the NCS Reuben Award each year from 2002 to 2010, it finally won in 2010.
In 2005, Piraro was seen in the 75th anniversary in Blondie.
In 2002, Piraro became a vegan. The effects of that lifestyle change are visible in his work, as Piraro often incorporates vegan and animal cruelty themes into his cartoons. He garnered kudos from the "cruelty-free" activist community for being a visible supporter of its cause, while others, including fans of his older work, see his new output as overtly preachy, viewing his cartoons as conveying more message than humor. In 2007, Piraro designed a limited-edition T-shirt for endangeredwear.com to raise money for the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, a non profit organization committed to working to end the systematic abuse of animals used for food.
- Dan Piraro, "25 Years of Scribbles" at BizarroBlog, January 22, 2010 (accessed November 9, 2010).
- "DailyINK - Features (Content Offerings): Bizarro by: Dan Piraro". Retrieved 2010-04-03.
- Heintjes, Tom. "Dan Piraro Interview". May 23, 2012. Accessed January 3, 2013.
- Lana Berkowitz, "Dan Piraro's symbols: What do they mean?", Houston Chronicle, May 26, 2008.