The Complete Calvin & Hobbes (Book One) - Bill Watterson

"So long, Pop! I'm off to check my tiger trap!"

And so began ten years with an imaginative six-year-old and his stuffed tiger, one of the best newspaper comics ever published. "Little Nemo in Slumberland" may have been more lavishly illustrated, "Far Side" was probably more clip-worthy, and some of the strips still running may sometimes compete in funniness, but "Calvin & Hobbes" was a perfect combination of writing and drawing, simple enough for the newspaper page yet eloquent in its simplicity. And if there was any doubt that Watterson could draw, he wiped it out with Calvin's imagination-sequence dinosaurs.

Since I got this from the library, I've only read the first of three volumes so far, which goes up to late 1988, the "Weirdos from Another Planet" era. The first three years include two summer vacations, plenty of Spaceman Spiff, brief glimpses of Tracer Bullet and Stupendous Man, the transmogrifier, and a time machine. Hobbes gets lost twice, and now that I've got a young daughter with a dolly, I can appreciate the experience from a different perspective, too.

The one thing this "complete" set is missing (at least in the first volume) is an index. It would be great to be able to say, Hey, I want to see all the strips involving baseball, or Rosalyn, or telephones, and look them up. (It would be a lot of hard work creating such an index, but it's "Calvin & Hobbes"! Isn't it worth the effort?)

Definitely a collection I'd love to have on my shelf, though I wonder if I should allow my own kids to read it just yet. Don't want to put too many ideas in their heads ...

11.12.06: I've read volume two now, and thought I'd post a few additional comments. One other thing that the first volume had which I failed to mention before is a lengthy introduction by Watterson himself, who tends to be quite reclusive and generally unavailable for comments. It was great to read his own thoughts about the series, how it got started, where his ideas came from, and why he decided to quit after only ten years, when the strip was still going strong.

The second volume includes more of Stupendous Man and Tracer Bullet, and of course plenty more of Calvin's cardboard-box inventions. The collection also includes all the large-format cartoons included in the various book collections (and cover art!), so it really is "complete." Also, late in the second volume is when Watterson finally had enough clout to break free of the Sunday strip limitations (those top two throwaway panels), and his Sunday pages go in a new direction, with creative panel flow and shapes, and room for much larger artwork.

I suppose the only reason not to just get this and replace all the old books is that this is definitely too big to curl up with in bed or in a comfy chair--it requires a table.

2.16.07:And now I've finished Volume Three, so I've read all ten years of "Calvin & Hobbes." Interestingly, towards the end of this volume I came across a few strips and even a couple entire storylines that I don't remember seeing before. Rosalyn doesn't make an appearance for about three and a half years (I hope my wife and I go out more often than that!), and Calvin actually gets her playing Calvinball.

A friend of mine told me that the wagon symbolizes existentialism (along with the inevitable crash at the end), but having read through all of these in a short period, I think I disagree. It's more that Calvin's theories are often existentialist in nature, and it hardly matters if he's in the wagon or not. (And I did spot at least a few wagon strips that don't involve existentialism at all, in my opinion.)

Again, it's a huge volume and it's still a pricey item no matter how you slice it, but one of these days I'll probably end up getting it.

Fed to jonathan's brain | November 05, 2006 | Comments (0)


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