How popular is the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes? Consider this as testament: It’s been almost twenty years since a new Calvin and Hobbes strip was published in a newspaper. Yet, earlier this month, when rumor about a new Calvin and Hobbes book hit the Web, the intense crush of clicks and reloads caused the site belonging to Watterson’s publisher to crash and be unresponsive for hours.
When details finally leaked out, it wasn’t exactly the news that fans had hoped to hear. The new book, out March 10 from Andrews McMeel, doesn’t include any new strips or artwork. In fact, the book is an exhibition catalog meant to accompany an exhibit that was shown last year at the Ohio State University’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.
However, while there’s no new art, there are still many wonderful and delicious morsels to be found and savored in the pages of Exploring Calvin and Hobbes. As most people know, Bill Watterson, the strip’s creator, is not fond of public life. He’s a private man who is seldom seen and sits for interviews even less frequently. But in this new book, Watterson grants a lengthy interview to Jenny Robb, curator of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. He is reflective and open, discussing everything from his childhood and his beginnings with art to why he left Calvin behind and what he thinks about comics today. It makes for very captivating reading.
The Q & A takes up 35 of the book’s 151 pages and Watterson is candid and telling in his answers, but the interview is also quite fun. For instance, after being asked about family vacations, Watterson recalls a trip:
“…We had paddled a canoe across a giant lake and camped overnight. While we were asleep, it snowed, and we were not prepared at all for that. We didn’t have heavy clothes, everything was wet, it was hard to make a fire, and we were freezing. First thing out of bed, we went for a long trudge, just to get warm enough to eat breakfast …”
It’s all too easy to close your eyes and imagine this same story told through the mind of a six-year-old boy and his tiger friend.
As the book progresses, Watterson offers his thoughts on his early influences like the comic strips Peanuts and Pogo and political cartoonists like Pat Oliphant and Jim Borgman. The catalog goes on to examine some of Watterson’s earliest work and his submissions to comic syndicates, as he sought employment.
As Calvin and Hobbes began to form and he found a voice for his characters and (more importantly) an audience, the book examines the characters and themes that were most common in the comic strip. Watterson points out the work that he’s most proud of and, as a reader, you can’t help but feel touched. Exploring Calvin and Hobbes ends up not only as a fun romp down memory lane, but also a surprise and intimate look inside the mind of one of comic’s most secretive minds.
Calvin and Hobbes is still available as a daily comic via GoComics.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a sample copy of this book for review.