An example from 1991. Artist: Dan Piraro.


Original medium: Newspaper comics
Published by: Chronicle Features Syndicate
First Appeared: 1985
Creator: Dan Piraro
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The Far Side may have made it possible for Bizarro to exist. Not that Dan Piraro, Bizarro's creator, imitated Gary Larson's earlier work in any substantial way — but it may …

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… have been Larson's success that prompted his distributor, Chronicle Features Syndicate, to take a chance on another daily newspaper panel where the humor is based on a uniquely eccentric world view — anyway, The Far Side had moved to Universal Press Syndicate (syndicator of Ziggy, Doonesbury and more).

Chronicle Features launched Bizarro in 1985, and it's been slowly climbing in readership ever since. Ten years later, the San Francisco-based syndicate was acquired by Universal Press, which distributed Piraro's panel for the next several years. It now appears in about 200 newspapers, both daily and Sunday, and is syndicated by King Features. The National Cartoonists' Society voted it "Best Newspaper Panel" in 1999, 2000 and 2001.

Available sources are silent as to whether or not Piraro's use of the word "bizarro" owes anything to the name of a certain long-running supporting character in DC Comics' Superman line. The word was coming into common use, as the first generation to read the "Bizarro" stories inched into middle age. On the other hand, it may have been Piraro's own take on the word "bizarre", altered to rhyme with his last name. In any case, "bizarro" certainly describes the feature, where the humor is often startling and sometimes disturbing. Not everybody likes it, but those who do, like it a lot.

Other than books reprinting the panels (of which there are now about a dozen) Bizarro's first media spin-off was Bizarro Among the Savages (1997) — a travelogue of Piraro's lengthy journey across America in which his fans provided passage and accommodations (often in their homes). The next was The Bizarro Bologna Show, a one-man variety show written and performed on stage by Piraro in several U.S. cities, starting in 2001.

No word at present on ordinary media spin-offs, like trading cards or animated TV specials.


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Text ©2002-06 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Dan Piraro.