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.)


214. Bill Watterson

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.

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'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.

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:

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.

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