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Four Fingers

April 10, 2015

Several observant readers commented on the hands of my main character (me) in the latest Sleeper Ave. post. Yes, they have only a thumb and three fingers. And no, I am not personally missing any.

In the 16 years that I drew my comic strips “Denver Square” and “Freshly Squeezed,” no reader ever noticed that all my characters (with the exception of the dog) had four-fingered hands.

I don’t really know why I started drawing hands with a missing digit. I think it might go back to my noticing that Disney’s characters only had four fingers in those goofy white gloves that Mickey and Minnie wore. So, when I started learning to draw those characters when I was a kid (I liked to draw Donald duck best of all–something about his beak that was both hard and fun to master), I drew those deformed appendages the same way Disney did.

Hands are the second most expressive part of the human body after the face, and they’re by far the hardest part of the anatomy to draw correctly.

This was never a problem in my editorial cartoons, and as I was drawing real people most of the time, and drawing with much greater detail than in my comic strips, the hands had the correct number of fingers.

In my comic strips, however, I found that that annoying fifth finger just got in the way and somehow the hands never looked right. It was simply easier to do without the extra digit, and when I used the hands to express feelings and emotion, it worked just as well to use one less finger. Nobody ever seemed to notice. And, hey, if it was good enough for Walt Disney, it was good enough for me.

Until now. I should have known when I wrote a script that focused on the hands and required me to draw them with the fingers spread wide that it would look odd. In fact, they kind of looked weird to me when I drew them that way, but old habits die hard, and it somehow didn’t seem right to make the drawings in this story different than in all the rest of the tales.

So, please forgive my anatomical transgression. After all, it’s only a cartoon.