Sunday, April 12, 2009
This was possibly the first great Calvin and Hobbes strip. Childhood mischief had always been played out by assholes like Dennis the Menace and Jeffy from Family Circus. The difference is that those two were well-meaning retarded kids. It's already been established that Calvin's a smart kid, and here he is just wantonly being an asshole. To see a child genius sit there and nonchalantly bang the shit out of a coffee table is hilarious.
This strip has become a personal philosophy for me the as of late. Before I moved to Virginia, I used to watch every single Red Sox game with my father, and one day, while the Red Sox held a small lead on their opponents, he asked me "If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?" I answered, "For the Red Sox to have a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the 6th." He called me a dingbat.
When I was six years old (Calvin's age), my mom dragged me to swimming lessons all summer. It was without doubt the worst experience of my entire life (and it's quite terrible to think that I had to suffer the worst experience of my life at the age of six). I hated water. I hated the cold. I hated getting up early every morning. I hated the peer pressure. I was scared shitless of drowning. The drive from my house to the pool was about half an hour. I memorized all the landmarks on the way, and as each one passed my wish that I was dead would grow more fervent. I honestly anticipated swimming lessons like one would anticipate a lethal injection.
After coming home on the second or third day, I came across the first Calvin and Hobbes collection. The first page I opened to was the beginning of the story of Calvin's experience with swimming lessons. I identified with it immediately. It was incredibly spot-on. No matter how horrible my day was, I could at least take solace in the fact that my struggles were shared by someone else, even if he were a drawing. This story reminds me that I've been able to relate to "Calvin and Hobbes" more than just about anything else in the world.
Also setting Calvin and Hobbes apart was how surprisingly literate it was, especially for a comic that was not a specific commentary piece like Doonesbury or Bloom County. Watterson admitted in the Calvin and Hobbes 10th Anniversary collection that he had held quite an interest in art for many years, and always had sort of a bemused fascination with the amount of bullshit people build around it. I'm, uh, paraphrasing, of course. Sad to say, there are many people who would find the "artwork" in these two strips to be utterly brilliant and pay a ton of cash for them. Then they'd melt. The art, that is. Or maybe the people who bought it too, hell, I dunno.
The Transmogrifier Story.
Ahhhhhh, The Transmogrifier. The Transmogrifier was composed of several strips, and was even made more efficient when held within the parameters of a squirt gun. This is my favorite Transmogrifier strip, because Calvin is adorable. This was also the strip where I realized that all Calvin and Hobbes strips were written in all-caps.
The Duplicator Story.
Some of the stories told in this strip last weeks, and this was one of them. Calvin and Hobbes isn't particularly unique in this respect; after all, the last ten years of "Funky Winkerbean" have chronicled him making his bed. Calvin and Hobbes stories are so great because they give the strip the opportunity to spin completely out of control.
In this story, Calvin invents a device which allows him to instantly duplicate himself. His intent is to create a clone that will do all the hard work for him, but hell unleashes when he realizes that the clone, being exactly like him, is just as much of an asshole as he is. Calvin #2 manages to create Calvins #3-6, and they all cause chaos because they know that Calvin #1 will have to pay for it. It's just about the best alibi a kid could have. It probably reaches its climax when Calvin's mom sees #4 glued to the television when he's supposed to be doing chores and yells, "What are you doing watching TV?" #4 replies casually, "Why, are you taking a survey?" If I had responded like that to either of my parents when I was a kid, they would have shot me in the kneecap.
Needless to say, this is where we got the name of this website from.
Calvin and Hobbes is sometimes at its best when it's bizarre, and this is definitely one of the more bizarre strips. There are some subtleties in this strip that I like, such as the guy in the third panel doing the "end is nigh" pose and the futuristic spacecraft revealing an old-timey loudspeaker.
Hobbes' bizarre reply is the icing on the cake. Perhaps it stems from his disdain for humanity's willingness to stomp over nature to gain the extra dollar.
Pretty much the voice of Bill Watterson dictating the current state of our school systems. Dead on if you ask me. The school system is more of a test for being able to acquire knowledge than preparation for anything worthwhile.
One of the top classic Calvin strips. It serves as an example of what set C&H apart from other comics: It's not a simple set-up to a punchline in the last panel, but a whole and complete work that uses every inch of space. Not only that, but tonally it's a huge departure from other strips of the time (or of today, for that matter). I can only imagine the initial reaction across the country to a dark, Gothic tale of supernatural creation and destruction, wedged between Gasoline Alley and Mark Trail.
Calvin is an unbelievably intelligent six-year-old. Hobbes is his tiger friend who plays the role of Jiminy Cricket, casual observer, and savage beast. This strip introduces their dynamic rather well. Calvin's a grossly misbehaving child, and no matter how he tries, he can't betray his nature.
It's kind of refreshing to see a strip that doesn't feel the need to have an uplifting message, or feel like it needs to point out that it's mean to whack an innocent person upside the dome with a snowball.