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Looking for Calvin and Hobbes

There is a book coming out in October that I’m anxious for … Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip by Nevin Martell.

If you’ve been reading ONCE UPON A GEEK for a while, then you probably know I’m a big fan of Calvin & Hobbes.  This comic strip found me at just the right time in life and I’ve felt a strong connection ever since (yes, it found me rather than the other way around).  Beyond reading the daily strips, I purchased the collections, and even put the unauthorized decals on my vehicles.  No… not Calvin peeing or praying.  These were actual images from the strips featuring Spaceman Spiff and a fierce-looking Hobbes.

This new book studies the life of reclusive writer/artist Bill Watterson.  While it appears that Watterson wasn’t actually interviewed for the book, the amount of research done is impressive.

Here is the description from the publisher, Continuum:

The fascinating life, work, and legacy of the reclusive creator behind the beloved Calvin and Hobbes comic strip

For ten years, between 1985 and 1995, Calvin and Hobbes was one the world’s most beloved comic strips. And then, on the last day of 1995, the strip ended. Its mercurial and reclusive creator, Bill Watterson, not only finished the strip but withdrew entirely from public life. There is no merchandising associated with Calvin and Hobbes: no movie franchise; no plush toys; no coffee mugs; no t-shirts (except a handful of illegal ones). There is only the strip itself, and the books in which it has been compiled – including The Complete Calvin and Hobbes: the heaviest book ever to hit the New York Times bestseller list.

In Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip, writer Nevin Martell traces the life and career of the extraordinary, influential, and intensely private man behind Calvin and Hobbes. With input from a wide range of artists and writers (including Dave Barry, Harvey Pekar, Jonathan Lethem, and Brad Bird) as well as some of Watterson’s closest friends and professional colleagues, this is as close as we’re ever likely to get to one of America’s most ingenious and intriguing figures – and a fascinating detective story, at the same time.

Only 3,160 Calvin & Hobbes strips were ever produced, but Watterson has left behind an impressive legacy. Calvin & Hobbes references litter the pop culture landscape and his fans are as varied as they are numerable. Looking for Calvin and Hobbes is an affectionate and revealing book about uncovering the story behind this most uncommon trio – a man, a boy, and his tiger.

Comics Worth Reading received an advance copy and did a fairly in-depth review.  While they were critical about much, they ended by saying, “… this really is a wonderful, warm, and informative book that manages to capture just the right amount of magic about the creator and his creation.

I’m looking forward to reading this book and getting a better understanding of Bill Watterson, the creator of such beloved characters.

9 thoughts on “Looking for Calvin and Hobbes

  1. A personal detail you might want to share was they didn’t have the strip in your home town paper, and you had a relative cut the dailies out and mail them to you.

    You had a binder with weeks of the strip taped to notebook paper! So sweet!

    Am I remembering that right? Tell that story.

  2. Love the Calvin & Hobbes. The hardbound collection stands proudly beside my Far Side collection. However I am bit hesitant about buying this book. I’m always a little dubious about biographies. I always prefer the story from the horses mouth so to speak. Maybe I’ll just reread that interview with him in one of my back issues of The Comics Journal.

  3. Back when I was at Kubert and had Irwin Hasen as teacher, he would tell us that every year the National Cartoonists Society would nominate Watterson for the cartoonist of the year award (or some such award), and every year Watterson would reject the nomination, calling all of the old guard “dinosaurs” and basically castigating them for not fighting harder against the papers for shrinking the strips, ripping off younger cartoonists, etc.

    So we asked Irwin what they did after he rejected his nominations, and he said “We kept renominating him! He was doing the best strip around, and everyone knew it, so we kept nominating him, and every year he sent a letter calling us dinosaurs!”

  4. Salmon – You are absolutely correct! Here is the story…

    I first became aware of Calvin & Hobbes in the summer of 1987. I was about 15 years old and visiting my father in Madison, Wisconsin. I first saw Calvin & Hobbes in the Madison newspaper. Where I lived we did not have the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip; in fact, I’d never heard of it. I immediately related to the strip and found it hilarious. As Madison was a recycling town (not a common practice back in ’87), my father’s garage was full of old newspapers. I spent hours sifting through these old papers reading Calvin & Hobbes strips. Within the matter of a week, I’d read months worth of the strip. I was hooked! At the end of the summer, I returned to my hometown; sadly a town without Calvin & Hobbes. However, my step-mother dutifully cut out the Calvin & Hobbes strips every day and would mail them to me in batches about once every three weeks. I would wait anxiously for this package of joy. I’d then tape the strips down on three-ring paper, essentially making my own books. Eventually, my local paper picked up the strip and the official collections became readily available. However, I’ll never forget my initial discovery and the kindness of my step-mother.

  5. I just read this book and while it is good and informative I will say that the most glaring omission is the old cartoons and art he is talking about. Bill’s early work was political cartoons for some newspapers and every time it is discussed I want to see the cartoon. The author did extensive research and I don’t know shit for copyright but I found myself getting angry because of the lack of art and cartoons. I understand that this isn’t sanctioned by Watterson and if it was I would really expect to see the cartoons. After reading this book I ran right to my Calvin and Hobbes 3 HC Box set and reread all 3,160 strips and I can say without a doubt it is my favorite strip, still!!!

    This book is an easy read and if you want to know more (or anything) about Watterson then you should pick it up. Just don’t expect to see the cartoons being referred to in the book.

  6. This book could also be subtitled as the unauthorized biography of Bill Watterson, as he declined to participate. That being said, there’s a reason for the lack of art in this book- Watterson didn’t authorize it. No green light from him = no art in the book. Martell and his publisher can’t include material they don’t have permission to use. It’s as simple as that.

  7. Next to Winsor McCay’s “Little Nemo”, the greatest comic strip about a boy ever produced. I will always remember my joy when Watterson secured the front page of the Sunday funnies to do a large format strip. That might have irked the other strip creators, but I thought what he produced in those panels was brilliant. I think it had a profound influence on feature graphic novel creators. I have never laughed harder at any comic before or since. I am glad he quit at his peak before it had a chance to end up like Garfield or Dilbert.

  8. I share your love for Calvin and Hobbes as well! …..I actually AM Calvin I feel, I am both Calvin AND Hobbes, as I make impulsive decisions yet I can ponder about the big questions…..

    Considering this was posted two years ago….How was the book?!?

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