Posts Tagged ‘Comics

05
Feb
10

A Stroke of Genius

Some pieces of pop culture seem to possess a vitality far beyond their contemporaries, or even what the normal life-expectancy of such things tends be. It’s the reason we all feel dumbfounded when these bits and pieces that have become as reliable as a “good morning” at the start of our day suddenly go unsaid. Sure, the greeting was never actually expected to ensure a pleasant–let alone good–morning for anyone, but something about its subtle optimism has always been enough to trick even the most down-trodden of people into responding with just the slightest bit of enthusiasm.

When cartoonist Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip reached daily syndication in 1985, he probably didn’t realize that he would be the one to extend a warm cup of coffee and a “good morning” to the globe’s breakfast table every day for the next ten years straight.

So what makes Watterson’s comic strip so great, that, even after 15 years out of publication, its 6-year old star named after the 16th Century Reformation theologian, John Calvin, and his accomplice, a six-foot tall imaginary tiger named after Thomas Hobbes, a political theorist of the same era, will appear in reruns in newspapers worldwide this year?

Maybe its because for twenty years, Watterson wrote and illustrated the comic himself, and at the end of its run, refused to sell the rights to any company offering cash to replicate Calvin’s image as a delinquent peeing on a peace sign/flower/Ford Logo/”Democrat”  as a window sticker.

(Makers of these images have only narrowly avoided lawsuits due to their obscurity)

Maybe it is because of the nature of the comic itself. Readers fell in love with the mischievous, yet innocent character of Calvin, and the way that even his parents didn’t quite know what to expect from his devious impulses. Or maybe it was the reliable sarcasm of his stuffed cohort, Hobbes, who seemed to be possessed by a fragment of Calvin’s psyche, and yet, had an agenda all his own.

Either way, some have argued that, at its height, after appearing in over 2,400 newspapers and 18 books across the world, Watterson’s comic strip rivaled Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” in artistic vision.

After retiring the strip in 1995, a near-reclusive Watterson also retired to Chagrin Falls, Ohio. In 15 years, he has avoided the public eye and allowed his characters to exist solely within the pages of newspaper archives and comic strip collections.

Recently, John Campenelli, a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Watterson’s hometown paper, scored an exclusive interview with the cartoonist.

Long live the classics.

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