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The Bizarro Life of Cartoonist Dan Piraro

Longtime Neatorama friend Dan Piraro is the mad genius behind the comic Bizarro. His comic panels are surreal, often political, and have no recurring characters. All those factors made it hard for an unknown to get into newspaper syndication in the days when that was the only way to make it big in the business. Piraro was an art school dropout illustrating products for sale with a wife and baby to support when he was inspired to try newspaper syndication by Gary Larson’s strip The Far Side. That inspiration turned out to be a stumbling block.

Many months of unsuccessful attempts passed before Piraro elicited an “encouraging rejection” from Chronicle Features editor, Stuart Dobbs. “He told me that, while they were interested in me, they already had a similar strip [The Far Side],” recalls Piraro. “But he told me to stay in touch.”   

Finally, after several failed efforts, the 25-year-old cartoonist was offered his big break:

“One day, [Dobbs] called me and said, ‘I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that Gary Larson is jumping to Universal Press Syndicate, and we had no idea he was even thinking about it. But the good news is that we’ve decided to pick up your strip because we now have room for it.’”
At first, Piraro thought he “his ship had come in.” Quickly, he learned that syndication was not for the hasty: selling to newspapers is a very gradual process that often takes years. A whole year into syndication, Piraro’s strip, Bizarro, was only featured in seven newspapers.

“My first royalty check was $90 for an entire month of cartoons,” he recalls. “That was a very disappointing day.”

For years afterward, Piraro kept his day job while coming up with daily strips to keep the syndication dream alive. It eventually paid off, but the journey was difficult. Then computers and the internet changed the way comics are produced and consumed, and he had to adapt all over again. Read the fascinating story of Piraro and his Bizarro comics at Pricenomics. -via Digg

(Images credit: Dan Piraro)


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Our local paper started including the Bizarro comic recently. It's a vast improvement over the comic it replaced, which had no humor at all. He may not have recurring characters in his comic, but Piraro does have recurring symbols in most of them. To know how many symbols to search for, look at the number that is next to his copy write signature. In the panel above, he has included 7 out of 11 symbols he uses. I can find only six, the seventh is eluding me. See the link below for the secret symbols and the meaning behind them on the Bizarro web page.
http://bizarro.com/the-secret-symbols/
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