Happy New Year

Posted by on January 1st, 2010 at 11:09 AM

Start the year with a kiss. Good idea. And it happens all over the country, from sea to shining sea, at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. We don’t think about it much, but if you’re cartooning a kiss, it’s one of the more difficult ponderables. How do you draw people kissing? Where do you put the noses? How do you depict the conjunction of mouths? These are not easy matters for a cartoonist. In the Luann strip for today (below), Greg Evans displays his usual dexterity at rendering—simply, definitively—the complexities of this visual. Noses, mouths—all in the right places to persuade us that kissing is going on.

Below Brad and Toni (being pestered by Toni’s niece, who often tags along to interfere with Brad and Toni’s romantic designs upon each other) is another comic strip kiss. For as long as Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott have been producing Baby Blues, I’ve wondered how the father, Darryl, manages to kiss his wife, Wanda. Darryl’s nose is just too humongous for easy oscillation. Last September, I saw a picture of Darryl and Wanda embracing with their faces close enough to suggest how they might be depicted kissing: Kirkman simply drew Darryl’s nose closest to the camera, sort of bypassing the actual point of contact, but Wanda’s face, behind Darryl’s proboscis, was, thereby, all but obliterated. Not good. The moment of lip-lock here is much more skillfully captured in a purely cartoony mode.

New Year’s Day doesn’t receive the attention on the funnies page that Christmas does. Very few “Happy New Year’s” wishes clutter the panels. In the days of yore, it was different: lots of “Happy New Year’s.”  Maybe it’s because New Year’s Day, except for the Parade of Roses and various football contests, is essentially a non-functioning day. One of the school kids in Jef Mallett’s Frazz says it’s just a “boring holiday,” explaining: “Like Columbus Day without the warmth. I’ll bet that’s why my parents sleep through half of it.” Frazz, ever the diplomat, says: “That’s the theory I’d go with.”

In Classic Peanuts, Lucy, after existing in the New Year for just a single panel, announces that “this year is no better than the last one.”

In Tim Rickard’s Brewster Rockit: Space Guy, the cast, like too many pundits at this juncture, discuss what to call the first decade of the 21st century. “How about the ‘aughts’ like ‘I aught to look for a job.’” “Some call them the ‘zeroes’ like ‘I have zero money left’—or the ‘naughts’ like ‘I should naught have gotten that subprime loan.’” “Or the ‘ohs’ like ‘Oh, man, I’m broke.’” At this point, the aged Year 2009 leaves, carrying his scythe and saying, “Goodbye.”

I like “naughty naughts” myself because it suggests the descent into nothingness that we have followed since the Bush League took charge first thing in the decade. In Patrick McDonnell’s Mutts, Earl the pooch says to Mooch the cat, “Hey, Mooch—it’s a New Year!” Mooch ponders this announcement for a panel and then says: “What was wrong with the old one?”

Don’t get me started.

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