Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Classics - Calvin and Hobbes

   It's never easy to name a "favorite" comic strip, because there have been so many amazing ones in the history of the form - but if I was forced to name one, it would have to be Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson.

    That's because it manages to do everything well.

   Great art? Yep. Even the earliest efforts (this is the first collection of the strips) a brimming with energy, with humor, with clever designs and imaginative settings. It's one of the few strips that continued to improve from the first strip to the last.

   Great humor? I don't think any other strip provides more laughs - everything from potty humor, childish gags, sophisticated wit, satire, thoughtful observations, belly laughs and so much more.

   Imaginative content? You could count on one hand the strips that are contenders in this category, but Watterson provided a limitless world in the imagination of a little boy. The sheer genius of giving Calvin a toy tiger (Hobbes), which everyone sees as a doll - but when they're alone, Hobbes comes to life and becomes a wonderful foil for Calvin's machinations.

   Does it have heart? Oh yeah. There are strips that will tug at your heartstrings like few comics ever manage. The characters share rare moments of tenderness, and it's genuinely touching.

   Does it hold up? It manages the difficult trick of being timeless. Perhaps one exists, but I can't remember a single instance of a timely reference - to technology or a movie star or a politician - yet it feels "real" - Calvin could easily have been one of my boys at that age. (One Watterson drawing I still cherish features Calvin and his mom glaring at each other - he's taking a bath, and she's soaked. It could easily have been a drawing of my wife giving one of my (then) blond-haired sons a bath.

   The fact is, this is a review I don't feel I can provide enough superlatives to do the work justice. I love this strip like no other, and every day I grieve that it's not still appearing in my daily newspaper. In art and writing, Watterson was a genius, and I miss his work terribly.

    Thankfully, it's all still there on the shelf, waiting to be enjoyed. Calvin and Hobbes belong to the ages now, and while it would be nice to have more, we can certainly be happy with what we have.

     And if you're among the few who have never read the comic strip before - what a treat you have in store!

Grade: A+



Anonymous said...

I don't have to be forced to name the BEST comic strip; you're right, it IS Calvin & Hobbes. It is timeless, can (and should) be read by everyone, and it will evoke laughter and the occasional tear for generations to come!

Sam Kujava

El Vox said...

I'd agree about Calvin & Hobbes. Plus Watterson was a pretty good draftsman.

I also think Gary Larson's, The Far Side, was one that I regretted not being able to see in the newspaper anymore. That also goes for Milt Caniff's Steve Canyon, and who doesn't like Peanuts?

Chuck said...

Sam and Vox, agreed. There are so many great strips out there - Prince Valiant, Little Nemo, Terry and the Pirates - the list goes on and on. But I agree that Calvin and Hobbes tops the list.