Saturday, March 14, 2015

Remembering Calvin and Hobbes

Christopher Caldwell memorialized one of our favorite comic strips in this recent Wall Street Journal essay:

In 1985, American newspaper readers met an appalling little boy. He taunted his mother (“Prepare for annihilation, pitiful Earth female”), tormented a classmate by telling her he had brought a “thermos full of phlegm” for lunch and kept a sign on his bedroom door that read “Enter and die.” Millions fell in love with him.

Running in hundreds of papers for the following decade, Bill Watterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes” was not only the strangest American comic strip. It was also the funniest, the most touching and the most profound.

But in 1995, at the height of its popularity, Mr. Watterson, then in his mid-30s, retired. Barely a peep has been heard from him since, although a retrospective show that ran last year at Ohio State’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum drew crowds. The exhibition catalog, “Exploring Calvin and Hobbes,” is published this week. It deepens our sense of what Mr. Watterson accomplished—and the mystery of why he stopped.

 At its simplest level, the strip is about the friendship between a bright 6-year-old misfit (Calvin) and his pet tiger (Hobbes). Its “trick” is that Hobbes is a lifeless stuffed animal when others are present and a rollicking, witty companion when they are not. So the story can be understood on many levels. It is about the richness of the imagination, the subversiveness of creativity and the irreconcilability of private yearnings and worldly reality. Where Calvin sees a leaf-monster trying to swallow him, Calvin’s father sees his troublemaker son scattering the leaf-piles he has spent all afternoon raking...
Rest of essay 
There is a good documentary on Netflix about the comic strip and its creator.  Search for Dear Mr. Watterson, Searching for Calvin and Hobbes


Anonymous said...

Calvin and Hobbes represents so many things on so many levels: the wonder of fleeting childhood, unfailing friendship, and just funny on the surface! Spaceman Spiff Lives!

Juan said...

At least Calvin's had a steady job of peeing on things for the last two decades.

Anonymous said...

Calvin and Hobbes! The best!!!!

Anonymous said...

Watterson didn't allow Hobbes to be marketed. However, there is an "almost Hobbes" that can be found at target. Here is the picture (no, I don't know how to embed it here)

and the link to the article.

you can find it at Target for about $10.

WTF said...

This post has just brought the average IQ level here down a few points.

Reed said...

I was in college during Calvin and Hobbes' heyday and I loved the strip. I still enjoy reading through some collections on occasion. However, I think it has been elevated by overly nostalgic types to something far more than it was.

The "documentary" you mention is a perfect example. I watched it hoping to get some insight as to the making of and the inspiration for the strip. Instead I found a bunch of young adults fawning over a comic strip and how it "changed their lives". It was a parade of fanboys - that disturbingly obsessive product of the Internet era - speaking in their typical grandiose terms about the minutia of what was meant to be merely a pleasant diversion.

I see the same behavior with other childhood works. Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are" and anything by Dr. Seuss are also fatuously treated as landmarks of the modern literary canon by people who cannot separate nostalgic affection from profound insight and mistake children's stories infused with a bit of wry adult humor as works of (that incredibly overused word) genius.

I remember as a kid thinking that John Lennon was so intelligent and so deep rather than a pop musician in his thirties with a knack for penning catchy tunes and exploiting the mood of the times. I was jolted awake by a line in a magazine where a man was addressing Lennon's legacy. He said, "Lennon was a lightweight. If you want discussions on freedom, read John Locke." Bang.

I think there is a generation of stunted youth with indulgent parents that is fomenting this obsession with kiddie things, which is why we have 20 superhero movies each summer and 35-year-olds who regularly and enthusiastically go to conventions dressed up as space aliens. Perhaps they should but down their comic books for a second and read 1 Corinthians 13:11. Would that more people understood the profundity of that written work!

Anonymous said...

"Mr. Reed, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

Are you seriously quoting scripture in a story about a comic strip? Calm it down. Perhaps you should put the book down and stop taking yourself so damn seriously all the time.

I agree with Kingfish on almost nothing, but I'll be damned if I'm going to write a thesis on why people place too much value in something as trivial as a comic strip. It's a comic strip. Jesus H. Christ.

Anonymous said...

Reed, you hit a nerve.

Hobbes And Reed said...

Who is 9:00 quoting?

Anonymous said...

IT's a "Billy Madison" quote if I remember correctly, and he's right.

Apparently people can't like things you don't like.

Here's another movie quote for ya, "Lighten up Francis!".

Reed said...

Another hallmark of the immaturity of the times is taking general commentary personally and attacking with rabid fervor the comment writer. I expected as much, especially in a forum where "Anonymous" is the preferred signature.

Did anyone bother to look up the scripture? I'm not proselytizing here. The admonition is quite relevant in a society that is placing more importance upon cartoons and fantasy and toy collecting than on hard work and virtue.

I never said one cannot like such things (thanks for putting words in my mouth, especially since I said I liked C&H), but I think it is folly to elevate "something as trivial as a comic strip" to the level of high art and/or philosophical truth. Unfortunately, such is the way of these times. For people that consider a television clown like Bill Nye to be a scientific expert or a comedian like Jon Stewart to be a political maven, it follows that a comic strip penned 25 years ago would be deemed a treatise on the human condition rather than an amusing diversion. We are seeing Theatre of the Absurd become manifest.

Sorry I'm not familiar enough with your quote to get the reference, but apparently you used an Adam Sandler comedy for your barb. The irony is palpable. (I did get the Stripes quote, though!) What's next? Gonna hit me with a few choice lines from Donnie Darko or a Batman movie?

("Why so serious?" coming in 3...2...)

Advice For Reed said...

Reed: Just credit the author when you quote someone. It's really simple. A first initial and last name will suffice.

Or do you really think people are so fascinated with your remarks that they will spend time Googling the content therein?

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS