Hastings Piston Rings - Ring around the muzzle.

Aah, nineteen sixty-two. Everything was cool looking and mod. Cars were evolving from childish to elegant. Clothes were trim and sleek. Character design had reached maturity. (Please purchase a turntable and a sacrificial record so you can drag the tonearm across the disc. Do that now.) Then there's the Hastings man.

What the eff? What's with this guy's face? Apart from his catastrophically deviated septum and his mysterious twin neck nipples / melanomas, the real trouble starts below his nose.

This is the part of a cartoon character's face that some cartoonists call the "muzzle". This term bugs me, because "muzzle" should only apply to dogs and perhaps doglike animals, and Elton John (who my art professor used to insist was very doglike in the way he looked and sang). But, there's no better word to quickly point your attention to the region around the mouth and jaw. Anyway, the Hastings man's face is a mess, and this cannot be attributed to any "style of the times".  Character design in 1962 was more like the tailored-for-cheap animation look of the Hanna Barbera cartoons, which means "simple and clean". There's no stylistic excuse for Hastings Man. He's just a shitty drawing.

Fred Flintstone's face had a muzzle. It's the shaded area where his permanent five o'clock shadow turns his skin a different color around his mouth. Also see Homer Simpson. Despite their position in the bargain-basement TV animation market, Hanna Barbera did know the basics of character design. You have to, if you're hoping to animate your character efficiently and on time. Notice how Fred's muzzle has just the one line around it. Now look at Hastings man's multiple concentric muzzles.

What kind of life has Hastings man led to earn a face so wrinkled and tortured? Did he serve in WWII or Korea? Did he ever get to sleep indoors or did he sleep on the surface of the sun, soaking up those sweet, face-melting UV rays? We can only guess, because he's not talking... not with a dainty little mouth like that. That mouth is only good for making little mewling sounds and eating soba noodles.

I have only ever made one immutably true observation about the human condition that, to my knowledge, hadn't been made before. "There is nothing too stupid to become popular." Witness those spinny ghetto wheel covers and the entire career of Michael Bay. In the case of Hastings Man, I feel like we somehow dodged a bullet. We could have been living with characters with pointless concentric mouth lines for over forty years now, but The Sixties thankfully self-corrected this character to the sidelines of advertising forever.  Thank you, The Sixties. Hastings Man is nowhere to be found on the Hastings corporate web site, apart from the "our history" page. Good job there. We must never forget Hastings man. lest we be doomed to repeat the atrocity.

Click for big.


Steve Miller said...

I suppose you could argue that the muzzle rings suggested the grooving on the side of the piston. But I always wondered what a chain-chain prisoner had to do with automotive repair.

Out of curiosity, do you know when the Hastings man made his first appearance? The integrated eyebrow and nasal ridge crossing the squared nostrils is kinda art moderne, which was rarely, um, "graceful."

Steve Miller said...

Make that "chain-gang..."

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

I dunno. Maybe they were trying to make the guy look grizzled or "rough around the edges" hoping to buy some credibility with the automotive crowd? Job not well done. He looks like he sleeps with his head in a trash compacter.

Thanks for reading, guys!


Unknown said...

I always loved this drawing. It reminds me of tattered little attered cardboard boxes in my dad's shop. With this strange drawing and the beautifully rendered engine parts, it certainly stuck with me. I got a set of Hastings rings yesterday and was happy to see that weird, smiling face. See my work at allenhanford.com

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