web stats

CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #214

Bill Week bounds ahead with a look at a writer/artist of great renown who created one of the most beloved comics ever. (U Can Has Arkive.)

8/2/07

214. Bill Watterson

Watterson 5.gif

Comic strip, that is. Bill Watterson is the creator of Calvin & Hobbes, which is lauded as the best comic strip of all time. That’s probably true.

Here is my great shame: I was never a Calvin & Hobbes guy. I missed the boat. I was too busy reading comic books to look at the funny pages, and the strip never impressed me when I did read it. I was an idiot, of course.

Watterson 2.gif

I think it takes an adult mind to truly appreciate the genius of Calvin & Hobbes. It’s about youthful imagination. It uses Calvin’s innocent intellect to comment on all sorts of social issues, and to take a skewed look at the cynicism of adulthood. Through Calvin’s eyes, we relive the wonder of childhood. Really, it’s just a strip about a smart little boy and his imaginary friend in the form of a talking tiger, but it’s also a subversive philosophical dissertation on the perils of aging and the shining glory of imagination. It’s about the endless possibilities of life. Isn’t that amazing?

Watterson 7.gif

Watterson 6.jpg

Watterson 3.gif

Watterson’s writing is immensely clever, but his art is what makes the strip really stand out. The cartoonist broke many comic strip conventions, having been fed up with the standard layout. The Sunday strips are the most glorious of all– Watterson frequently uses Calvin’s imagination as a portal through which he can draw in various styles. He used the comic strip as a whole, as honest-to-God art, unlike pretty much every other strip out there. Bill Watterson changed the face of comic strips and redefined what they could do. He made the medium worthwhile again.

Watterson 4.gif

The strip ended after a ten year run, and Watterson’s moved onto other things that interest him. It stands as a complete work that ended before it went stale. Mr. Watterson was always a man of principle, refusing to dilute the power of his work by endlessly merchandising it, so pretty much the only official products are the book collections. The entire run is available in a gigantic hardcover box set. It’s extravagant and lovely and, yes, expensive, but the strip deserves it.

Here’s a rare strip which supposedly does not appear in the Complete Collection, however:

Watterson 1.jpg

I am not one to really speak for which particular strips are best. I can’t even decide what to feature in terms of images in this entry. What I am going to do is link you to this article that presents 25 Great Calvin & Hobbes strips, and this website, which exists solely to provide a home for the incredibly inventive “snowman” strips. Hopefully, these sites show just enough to convince any unbelievers of the strip’s genius and artistic merit.

It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy. Let’s go exploring.

29 Comments

Best strip ever, and the first Reason in a while that’s made me genuinely excited once I found out what it was. Watterson’s work is dynamic, ingenuitive, and downright fun; comics, especially newspaper strips, are that much crappier for not having him around.

*sigh*

This is one of those reasons that seems like an afterthought, it’s such a given. Going on a Calvin and Hobbes binge every now and then is one of the greatest joys in life.

As a kid, Hobbes’ optimism always struck me as naive, but I’m old enough now to see it’s quite the opposite. He’s well-acquainted with the world, and because of that, he knows what is good, what is right, and what is worthy. And those are the things he values, recognizes, and searches for.

Great choice, Bill!

As someone once put it about another entry: Calvin and Hobbes is a reason to love life. That is all.

I got the complete collection for christmas last year. excellent stuff. watterson is a genius.

Andrew Collins

August 2, 2007 at 7:23 pm

Very nice choice. The Snowman strips are my favorite of the run and still amazingly funny.

Bill Watterson is definitely a reason to love comics.

Calvin and Hobbes is quite possibly the first comic strip I ever read and appreciated, and therefore it is the litmus test by which I guage every other comic strip that I see in the Sunday paper.

That one’s kind of unfortunate, really.

-M

I love Calvin & Hobbes.

Reading the comic strip I often had one of 3 reactions-
1-I wish I’d thought of that when I was a kid.
2-I did think of that as a kid, but had the sense not to do it.
3-I did that as a kid.

I had forgotten about that missing strip. If I recall correctly, when it first appeared there was an uproar about kids imitating the strip and climbing into washing machines.

There are also a couple of altered strips. See the bottom of the page here:

http://ignatz.brinkster.net/cbooks.html

Looks like both alterations remove possible slurs of adopted parents/kids.

Please tell me that there will be a Berkely Week in which Bloom County will get credit as the greatest comic strip ever…

Flush it all away

August 2, 2007 at 9:36 pm

I just loved, loved, loved Calvin & Hobbes. I was so sad when Watterson walked away from it. I’ve got the last strip framed and hanging in my office.

One of the best strips ever!

This and Mafalda by Quino are really great.

“I notice that you’re oeuvre is monochromatic.”

HA!

Kind of a shame to use that Spaceman Spiff strip at the top, since it was before Watterson had fully established the strip’s characterizations: in later years, Susie would *never* ask Calvin for help on a test.

I actually think that “ended before it went stale” is a tiny wee bit off…I thought he realized that it was getting a bit repetitive, and ended it then (which implies that it was just a little bit stale towards the end)…

…but compared to ‘Dennis the Menace’ or ‘Blondie’, even the most repetitive ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ strips seem brand-new, and the series as a whole is, of course, wonderful.

The official reason Watterson gave is that he felt he’d covered all the possibilities inherent in the format – which, yeah, is probably ‘getting repetitive’ with his self-esteem intact. Every domestic-based strip, no matter how imaginative, eventually falls prey…

…now, if only Lynn Johnston of ‘For Better or For Worse’ has realised the same thing about five years ago.

Over the past 2 years or so, I’ve been slowly reading my way through the entire Calvin and Hobbes collection. I couldn’t afford the massive hardcover tome, though, so I hunted down all the paperback collections instead, plus the Tenth Anniversary Book and the Lazy Sunday Book. I’m currently reading the last of the regular collections (“It’s a Magical World”) and although I’m anxious to finish what I started, I’m sad to know that it will end (again). I read the last C&H strip in the newspaper the day it was published and cut it out to hang on my wall. I’m almost dreading reading it again ….

Totally forgot about this little quote from Bill…found this while looking to see what Watterson had been up to (also found out he only lives like 25 miles from me!)…

Posted by Erik Larsen (Member # 7781) on 07-19-2007 10:39 PM:

Bill Watterson: “You can make your superhero a psychopath, you can draw gut-splattering violence, and you can call it a “graphic novel,” but comic books are still incredibly stupid.”

The sad thing about this statement is–there’s no wiggle room. He doesn’t allow for any exceptions. 70+ years of comics and not one worthwhile in Bill Watterson’s mind.

Sigh.

There’s also the famous strip in which Hobbes enquires, roughly, ‘Is Atomic Girl’s power the ability to squeeze into that suit?’ and Calvin’s response is ‘Nahhh, they can all do that.’

Yeah, Watterson has a mile-wide pretentious streak of his own – as he sees it he’s defending the comic medium as an art form (among his own heroes is George Herriman).

Can’t really see where that statement ‘doesn’t allow for any wiggle room’, though. From the context here and elsewhere, he’s talking about mainstream superhero comics…which, let’s face it, by and large *are* incredibly stupid.

Black Lutefisk

August 3, 2007 at 7:40 am

I had received the complete edition of C&H last year, and my 9-year daughter immediately adopted it. I was thrilled to pass on something that was so righteous to me when I was a kid. But they were also the first books she treated with reverence. I’m very grateful to have that with her.

Thank you Bill, and thank you Bill.

Oh, I agree, I think Erik Larsen was just reading too much into it…perhaps the fact that the comics that Bill was trying to insult were a few that Erik had a large part in. You have to remember, Bill Watterson retired in 1995. Anyone remember what most comics were like back in those halcyon days? Ah, yes, the 90′s…I think Wolverine was still sans adamantium in those days, and being depicted as anything between a normalish guy that’s just a bit angry, and some kind of half-retarded ape-thing. Remember that? So, yeah…I can see the point. Plus, most people that form an opinion based on the mainstream pap that’s readily available never read the actual *good* comics. Basically comes down to: if you hear 25 crappy emo bands, why would you give another emo band you haven’t heard a chance? Unfortunately, this leads to people missing out on great things like WE3 and Circa Survive. I vow to all: when I am made king of the world, such idiocies will be abolished. Along with Good Charlotte.

It’s true that Watterson expanded the possibilities of the Sunday comic strip. Too bad absolutely no one has followed his lead though.

Also, I agree that Watterson is incredibly pretentious. Reading the 10th Anniversary book, you get the feeling that he really believes he’s the only person in the world who understands how important newspaper comics are. I think he’s an amazing writer and artist, and I’m a huge fan, but still – he’s a crazy person.

on 03 Aug 2007 at 5:25 am 15.km said …

The official reason Watterson gave is that he felt he’d covered all the possibilities inherent in the format – which, yeah, is probably ‘getting repetitive’ with his self-esteem intact. Every domestic-based strip, no matter how imaginative, eventually falls prey…

…now, if only Lynn Johnston of ‘For Better or For Worse’ has realised the same thing about five years ago.

Or if only the guy who writes “Family Circus” realised it about 25 years ago.

I have loved Calvin and Hobbes since the second grade and I will go to my grave defending it as the greatest comic of all time.

Things like Watchmen, Maus, much of Eisner’s work had been out for quite some time when Waterson made his comments. Don’t assume he’s talking about X-Men.

I had a friend that despised religous calvin stickers on the back of cars. A calvin stickers should be made saying “calvin was agnostic.”

If there’s one thing that I wish all creators of entertainment in America would learn from Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes…

(and that covers comic strips, comic books, TV shows, Movies and character driven fictional novels)

…know when to end it.
Don’t overstay your time and wind up beating a dead horse.

Leave ‘em wanting more!

I got the collected books for birthdays and Christmases, and now I think I pretty much have the full set. Absolute joy.

Must agree with the “know when to end it” sentiment. A brave thing to do with Calvin and Hobbes, but the right thing.

“Calvin & Hobbes,” quite literally, changed my life! I discovered it at age 6, and from that moment on sequential art and writing were my thing.

One of my most prized possessions is the Complete Collection. I see that many people agree with me when I say that Bill Watterson made the world a little better with his comic strip.

This is something I never understood about Bill Watterson-he goes on at length about the problems of newspaper comics, and mentions once or twice that he could have gotten more freedom AND more money by ditching newspapers altogether and publishing in book form.

So, I wonder-why didn’t he do that? Why didn’t he just publish in book form, where he could have drawn longer stories like “A Nauseous Nocturne” to his heart’s content? He could have done anything he liked, and even if he didn’t particularly care how much money he made, the additional financial gravy couldn’t have hurt.

So, if he had so many griefs with newspapers, just why did he stick with them and finally hang up his pen for good?

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives