Comic book fun this week with Bill Watterson’s ode to childhood imagination and fun. Remember what fun is? Or do profit margins and Q4 get in the way?!
It’s an American comic strip that came about in 1985. And since then its success has seen a lot of love, studying, and even philosophical considerations.
Calvin and Hobbes
Right, we didn’t read this as kids. Garfield was our thing when we were young. But our sister bought us a book of this around 2007.
And we loved it! Straight off, it’s charming, cute, funny, witty, and poignant. Introspective in its considerations on the meaning of youth.
Plus, how imagination can make the most of any situation.
Right! Calvin is a precocious little git of a kid. With a highly active imagination.
Hobbes is his sardonic friend—a stuffed tiger toy (anthropomorphic—The Wind in the Willows style). But, in the kid’s mind, alive and fitting in as his best mate.
So, yes, it’s an imaginary friend type situation. But one played out with real charm, wit, and just life-affirming excellence.
And his fans just bloody love the books. We read them as adults and, yeah, it stuck with us. It’s just a total celebration of what it means to be a child.
As psychotic 35-year-olds now, bitter and jaded about you sons of bitches who read our blog, and everyone else in the world, we still love fun stuff. Isn’t that sweet? Sort of.
Watterson came up with the concept whilst working in marketing—an industry he hated being in.
He was hopeful of syndication with this comic. So, in the grand nature of capitalism, HE WORKED HARD ENOUGH to achieve success.
Rather, he persevered and his luck turned around. United Feature Syndicate responded positively to one of his cartoons, briefly turned him down again, and then went ahead with his ideas.
So, for over a decade, Americans could read the newspaper and take in little snippets such as this.
That all began in 1985, but it led to major creative control battles with the syndicate over his rights to develop his creation (that’d never happen under communism, eh?).
Which, unfortunately, is one of the main reasons why the comic’s creator later abandoned the industry and went back to private life.
Ultimately, away from the corporate crap about profit, we have:
- Calvin: A six-year-old with big hair and a love for adventure. He wears a shirt like Dennis the Menace, but he’s more like Bart Simpson. Academics aren’t his thing, but he’s a natural intellect and just loves to lark about.
- Hobbes: The anthropomorphic tiger—this is an interesting one. Hobbes isn’t real. It makes us think of Rimmer from Red Dwarf. The character’s purpose is never resolved in the comic books, but we can’t help but think this is a child’s play toy and it’s a Toy Story situation. It’s all Calvin—his imagination. His imaginary friend. But he invents a fun, engaging character all the same.
And that’s what the comic books revolve around. Their adventures. A young lad full of life and imagination, plus this stuffed toy.
Along with the fun, silly jaunts, there’s also a philosophical heft behind the more advanced books Watterson went on to create.
Discussions on death, loneliness, family—issues Calvin is obviously coming to terms with thanks to his imaginary friend.
They’re lovely books. Really, buy some for your kids (if you have any). Steal one, if you need to! Or invent some kids you don’t have so you can buy the books for them.
Very charming. Excellent artistic styling. All rather wonderful.
Watterson stopped working on Calvin and Hobbes in 1995. He’s still very much with us, at 61, but he called it a day.
Simply put, he felt he couldn’t take the concept any further. Which is nice and honest.
And that seems to be it. He called it quits in 1995, was very annoyed with the nature of corporate capitalism, and left the industry.
He now has a very private life. There are no interviews of him available. He clearly isn’t interested in any of that. And he seems set on it all.
He signed off with the below rather lovely (but telling) message to newspaper editors on 9th November 1995.
"I will be stopping Calvin and Hobbes at the end of the year. This was not a recent or an easy decision, and I leave with some sadness. My interests have shifted, however, and I believe I've done what I can do within the constraints of daily deadlines and small panels. I am eager to work at a more thoughtful pace, with fewer artistic compromises. I have not yet decided on future projects, but my relationship with Universal Press Syndicate will continue. That so many newspapers would carry Calvin and Hobbes is an honor I'll long be proud of, and I've greatly appreciated your support and indulgence over the last decade. Drawing this comic strip has been a privilege and a pleasure, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity."
He was true to his word. The final edition was on 31st December, 1995.
So, he’s officially a “recluse” in the the way some folks like to term it. Although in 2014, this was (apparently) his work.
— Steve Silberman (@stevesilberman) November 5, 2014
Watterson receives continuous attempts from journalists to “come out of hiding” and all that.
There was an interview in 2013 with Mental Floss (only the second he’s allowed since “retiring”), which came at the same time as a documentary about him.
Otherwise, it appears he’s into painting and looks to keep a low profile. So how about we respect his obvious wishes? Indeed.