Ganglion Bard-barbarian's Reviews > The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
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it was amazing

Calvin and Hobbes had a huge cultural influence on the Pacific Northwest anarchist scene (the comic strip is believed to take place in the Pacific Northwest) and the political undertones of the comic strip are fairly obvious but also severely overlooked, but such is the case with all revolutionary art.

With his talent, Watterson could have became an underground messiah churning out inaccessible cult-classic graphic novels, instead he chose to struggle against a highly corrupt and controlling newspaper comic publisher's syndicate in order to see his vision realized of a newspaper comic serial that harked back to the glory days before the mass-produced minimalism Garfield and the preachiness of Doonesbury.

What is so amazing about Watterson's work is how real it is. The comic succeeds as such a profound meditation on life because it is so humble and unpretentious, cut from the fabric of daily existence. Watterson's cynicism is grounded in a love of childlike awe of the natural world and the unfettered human spirit. Unlike most adult authors, Watterson writes about childhood with honesty and realism rather than saccharine romanticism. Yes, Calvin has idyllic fun exploring the world outside him but he is also intimately oppressed and exploited by capitalist institutions on no uncertain terms, it's in spite of and because of this suffering that he cherishes reality and it's this love of freedom and natural beauty that is at the heart of Calvin's cynicism.

Calvin's father is much like Kaczynski or John Zerzan, a misanthropic radical trapped in a soul-crushing white collar existence. The professional career demands of Calvin's father hypocritically force his mother to be the face and the muscle-power behind Calvin's disciplining. Calvin's Dad sees his son turning away from revolutionary ideals and towards the materialism and cynicism of modern capitalism, but what can Calvin's Dad do? Like most children Calvin spends more time with the television set than with his father.

On the flip-side, Hobbes, (Calvin's imaginary friend) is Calvin's inner self, the self Calvin's father wishes Calvin would be. Hobbes follows the path of the tao and looks upon humanity with a bemused skepticism. Calvin bonds most with Hobbes by walking through the wilderness and contemplating life in a very peripatetic fashion. In true to William Blake, Hobbes is a "tiger of wrath", and when developers begin destroying the woods he and Calvin cherish, he advices Calvin to tamper with construction equipment.

We can't help but smile at Calvin's youthful cynicism, materialism, and selfishness because we were like that too as a child. Other children's authors such as Milne portray childhood as some pure ideal state uncontaminated by modern society, but Calvin is the young Winston Smith who threw a temper tantrum to get his mother and infant sister's share of the chocolate rations. Calvin is certainly the working class and his cruel teacher Ms. Wormwood, abusive playground bully Moe, and baby-sitter Rosalyn are symbols of our abject and intimate powerlessness. And like all children, Calvin uses his imagination as a therapeutic force in dealing with the trauma of intimate exploitation. (My all-time favorite strip portrays Calvin's daily routine of compulsive 'education' as a series if vividly illustrated vignettes, from running on a giant gerbil wheel to sitting on an assembly line with his cranium unscrewed as viscous green fluids are pumped into his brain) Calvin also reminds me of Tiqqun's take on school shooters in Theory of the Bloom, (at one point Calvin fantasizes about blowing up his school) let's hope in adulthood Calvin found a more creative way to maximize his destructive potential.

The best thing about this comic is that Watterson drug his feet at the idea of merchandising because he thought it would cheapen his artistic expression. And he was right, the comic's legacy is all the better with the conspicuous absence of Calvin and Hobbes printed pajamas lining Goodwill shelves across the country. This has also created a very interesting subculture of underground and unauthorized bootleg Calvin and Hobbes memorabilia, much of it quite crude and low-brow but some of it rather creative.
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Finished Reading
December 24, 2010 – Shelved

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message 1: by Jay (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jay Seaborg Watterson is from Ohio; many of the scenes are from his hometown. There is a documentary on Netflix that discusses how some of the strips show the exact layout of his town's downtown area. I may be mistaken, but I don't associate heavy snowfall with the Pacific Northwest and the snowmen motif was a staple of the strip. I am coming back to the characters after years away and they are even funnier now than they were in the original comics. I admire Watterson for standing on principle as far as commercializing his creation. Not many people would walk away from hundreds of millions of dollars.


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