Friday, March 18, 2005

On Noses And Other Things Missing

Mark Anderson had a post at his blog this morning about noses and coincidence. He was on the verge of publishing an essay on the early absence of noses on his characters when a St. Patrick's Day theme diverted him.

At the same time, I was posting about Cathy and her lack of a nose.

But there's another coincidence:

Years ago, when The Artist Magazine asked me to write a column on cartooning markets, I asked the editor an obvious question: why? I was -- and continue to be -- one of the less-successful magazine cartoonists. I had my sales, but they were threadbare compared to the fine garments that other cartoonists enjoyed. But I was selling every month to TAM -- cartoons and essays -- so the editor knew my name and chatty notes, and for all I know I was the thirteenth cartoonist he'd approached. But he said he liked my writing and drawing style.

"Drawing style?" I asked, hungry for compliments, hoping he'd gush over the warmth of my line, the brilliance of my wit.

"Yeah," he said. "That thing you do with the foreheads."

"What's that?"

"You don't draw them."

I'd been drawing cartoons for years and I'd never noticed that the space between the nose and the hairline was vacant.

So here's the coincidence: Mark Anderson, from what I can tell, omits the forehead as well.

It's been awhile since I've drawn a single-panel cartoon (the last was in the February Reader's Digest.) I'm not a multi-tasker. I'm barely a tasker. I take one task at a time and hope for the best. So the magazine cartoons have been supplanted by Spot. And I've left something else behind; if it's possible to leave behind something that wasn't there in the first place. The lack of forehead.

You wouldn't notice the missing brow with the color sundays, but the black and white dailies would give Karl a B-movie demeanor -- the look of a comestible extra in Night of the Living Dead. Which is why Karl has a full complement of head, if not hair.