One Man. One Cat. Multiplied

· Dec. 20, 2013, 11:27 am

We start with a man called Mike and a cat called Ella. Two creatures.

Nothing odd about them, except that Mike has a beard and Ella is a touch chunky. Otherwise, they could be any cat & guy. Except …

When you think about it, no one is ordinary. You could put a totally bland cat-and-guy couple in front of a hundred people, ask them to look, and each one would see a very different pair, different in a thousand subtle ways, because everybody looks at everything with different eyes.

Case in point: Mike Holmes (companion to Ella) is a cartoonist. And every so often, for an hour (that’s his house rule; he does each of these in an hour) he will do a portrait of himself and his cat, through the eyes of another cartoonist.

If, for example, Mike spends an hour as Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, maker of Tintin, then he and his cat would look like this:

But the next day, should he morph into Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes), then he and Ella might look like this:

Here they are again, in Powerpuff mode (a la Craig McCracken):

This is the Bloom County, or Berkeley Breathed, version:

Mike Holmes calls these studies “Mikenesses.” They are all his drawings, imagining himself and Ella through the eyes of these other artists. He’s done batches and batches of them, collected here. What they are, of course, is a celebration of the many-splendored art of cartooning, but at the same time they show us how different people, in different moods, with different backgrounds, different pleasures and different fears will produce wildly different visions of the world. Gary Larson, for example, likes labs, test tubes and extraterrestrials:

Maurice Sendak likes gentle monsters:

Chuck Jones (Wile E. Coyote, The Grinch) admires schemers, plotters and engineers:

Nick Park (of Wallace and Gromit) focuses on eyes (always big):

Chris Ware likes quiet despair (and rectangles, ovals):

And George Herriman (Krazy Kat, Archy and Mehitabel), the great-grandpa of American cartoonists, is all about energy, smallness and bravery.

All of us have eyes. But those eyes are attached to brains, and brains sculpt what we take in, emphasizing this, avoiding that, so that one man and one cat can be as many men and as many cats as the number of people looking. If you’re a salesperson, trial lawyer, cop, robber, politician, parent, friend, anybody … this is worth remembering.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit

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