Friday, May 12, 2006

Calvin and Hobbes

I actually sat down (or laid down in bed more often) and re-read all of Bill Watterson's "Calvin and Hobbes" compilations for the first time in a fair while. It's a little much to read ten years worth of a daily strip in a go but it was interesting and ultimately a bunch of fun.

Sure you get to see a a couple of gags get recycled and played around with a bunch of times of the strip's daily run but it only proves tiresome once in a while. But as way of recompense there's lots of dinosaurs, space aliens and insane sleigh rides.

Along the way you can clearly see the strip's evolution both graphically and writing wise. Over time the artwork becomes more refined (in the best sense) and more expansive. When Watterson gained the upperhand with the syndicate and papers he was able to draw his Sunday strips in great big panels and he let loose like a latter day George Herriman.

The stories become less gags and Dennis the Menace on steroids and take on a more surreal tone as well as direct commentaries on modern life. The strips ridiculing much of modern art and literary academia are priceless.

"Calvin and Hobbes" is often place in a triumvarate of daily strips that marked the last great age of daily comics. The other two were "Bloom County" and "The Farside". Try rereading "Bloom County" and I dare you not to be somewhat ashamed you loved as much as you think you did. I know I am. It's also hideously dated and I'm less willing to cut its deliberate "Doonesbury" stylistic ripoff much slack. "The Farside" still holds up as extremely funny (though I've read enough Kliban books to see some strong similarities), but it's pretty much a miss in the graphics department.

Rereading Watterson's collections reminds me how much I miss his daily bit of humor in my paper, particularly in a time when "Boondocks" is held up as some sort of work of brilliance and "Cathy" and "Garfield" still haunt us. Last year they released a great big collection of all the "Calvin and Hobbes" strips and I sort of want to get them. Till I take the monetarily stupid plunge I'll hold on to my time and use worn collections. Besides, with title like "Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat" and "Scientific Progress Goes "Boink"" I don't really want to give up those individual books.

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