Friday, January 26, 2007


Judi has given me The Complete Calvin and Hobbes . This is a wonderful gift. I've always been a huge Calvin and Hobbes  fan, and we were in a bookstore a few weeks ago (looking for beagle calendars) when I saw The Complete Calvin and Hobbes  on display. I know my eyes lit up for a moment, and I reached out to touch it, but then I pushed the emotion down and turned away. It was too extravagent. But Judi had noticed that momentary light (and also my turning away), and she bought it for me as a surprise.

This is a three-volume boxed set. The production values are top-of-the-line. In fact, it's so heavy I practically need a hand truck to cart it around. I brought it to work, to show everyone, and my arm went numb from elbow to fingertips just carrying it in from the parking lot. Bill Watterson has written a warm and gentle Introduction, and one of the things you can't help but notice is his passion and pride: "...everything having to do with Calvin and Hobbes  expressed my own ideas, my own values, my own way. I wrote every word, drew every line, and painted every color."

Receiving this collection has caused me to think (for only the 'leventy-billionth time) about what it is about Calvin and Hobbes  that fascinates me. It's way too much to express in this blog, but I can mention a few things that I think make Calvin and Hobbes  so enduring. And endearing. Things that set it apart from most -- or even all -- other comic strips.

To begin with, few comic strips had (or have) the sublime humor and insight of Calvin and Hobbes . Perhaps Bloom County  did. But more than that, what makes Calvin and Hobbes  unique is that if other comic strips can be compared in complexity to a piece of stationary sculpture, then Calvin and Hobbes  is a mobile: Outright contradictions are ever-so-delicately balanced, and drift in every breeze, playing off against one another visually and emotionally: On the one hand the strip is cynical, while on the other hand it's sincere. On the one hand Calvin travels in time and space and builds grotesque snowmen, while on the other hand he's mortified that his father rides a bicycle to work, rather than driving like "normal" dads. And of course there's the most wonderful contradiction of them all: That Hobbes is on the one hand stuffed, while on the other hand living. Reading Calvin and Hobbes  strips is like eating a chopped mixed salad: Every bite is a discovery, a little different from the one before, but at the same time you know you're eating the same dish.

And then Calvin and Hobbes  has a vibrancy of imagination on every level: The level of the imagination of Watterson the creator, the level of the imagination of Calvin the character, and the level of our own imagination. Other comic strips may have one or sometimes even two of these levels, but Calvin and Hobbes  rounds all the bases.

Speaking of imagination, one thing I try to imagine is what Calvin has become as a grown-up. Or rather, since Calvin never ages, who among the grown-ups of today may have been Calvins as children. And I'm not the only one who imagines that the small boy and his tiger live on: Watterson himself, in his Introduction, says, "I like to think that, now that I'm not recording everything they do, Calvin and Hobbes are out there having a much better time." Indeed. Though it makes me feel sorry for his mother and father. I don't feel sorry for Mrs. Wormwood, though.

Thanks, Bill Watterson, for the ten wonderful years. I'm sorry you ended it, but you've explained why, and I can't debate your reasoning. Thanks, Judi, for the wonderful gift. I guess that's what friends are for:



I totally covet your three volume boxed set of Calvin and Hobbes- my sister and I spent any scrap of money we could get our hands on buying C&H books as kids.
i adore c&h. used to draw them all the time. i, too, covet your gift since i couldn't make myself get it ($100-something at costo a few years back). one time i read a quote from watterson about the set, something about how he loved that it could double as a weapon. heh.

one of my favorite strips is where calvin asks his dad why tv used to be in black and white, and his dad says the world used to be black and white. the logic spirals from there...pure excellence.
One of my favorite gags from the strip is the catch line for the radio station Calvin's dad listens to: "We refuse to play any song that you haven't heard a thousand times before".

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