It Was 20 Years Ago Today . . .
Okay, not TODAY. But it was twenty years ago on New Year’s Eve—December 31, 1995—that the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes ended its brilliant ten-year run. That means that we’ve been without Bill Watterson’s brilliant creation for twice as long as we had daily doses of it.
To mark this occasion, Playboy.com posted an interesting article that gathered comments from a wide array of cartoonists talking about what Calvin & Hobbes meant and still means to them. I thought I’d throw my two-cents worth in, too.
I can’t say that Calvin & Hobbes made me want to be a cartoonist. When it came out I was in college and already had been published both collegiately and professionally. In point of fact, at that stage I DIDN’T want to be a cartoonist . . . I’d thought about it, weighed the fact that I LOVED drawing cartoons so much that I didn’t want to make it the thing that I HAD to do every day, the thing I’d have to get out of bed and do even when I was tired or sick or unmotivated. Basically, I didn’t want to lose the thing I loved by making it “work.”
But I DID love comics, both making and reading them. I was hooked on Bloom County, critical of the recently revived Doonesbury, fascinated by For Better or For Worse, and beginning in January of 1985 I was completely entranced by Calvin & Hobbes . . . and I still am to this day.
Part of it was the art, how Bill Watterson was able to create a melange of the simplicity of Charles Schulz’s character design, Berke Breathed’s ultra-hip eye on society, the wild imagination of Windsor McCay, the evocative inks and backgrounds of Will Eisner, and still come up with something that was uniquely his own. Something that was completely new yet so familiar. Looking at the construction of Calvin & Hobbes strips was just as much fun as reading them . . . and it lasted longer!
Every time I read a new daily strip, or picked up a newly released collection of them, I was reminded anew how much I loved NOT ONLY Calvin & Hobbes, but comics in general. And that’s still true to this day, as well. What’s more, reading those strips makes me want to dig out OTHER comics to read and re-read . . . and buy new ones, too.
The one thing that I didn’t learn from reading Bill Watterson’s comics, and the thing I really SHOULD have, is the understanding that making comics is something I’ll ALWAYS love—that there’s no chance that “making it work” would take that love away from me. I might get worn down by a particular assignment . . . but I’d always love making comics.
It took me years to figure that out, and to know that making comics really IS what I want to do with my life. And even if I didn’t get that message when during the ten-year run when Calvin & Hobbes was in being syndicated, even if I didn’t get it as I was buying, reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading the collections, in the end I did. And any time I forget I can STILL go back to each and every strip in my oversized, hardcover Complete Calvin & Hobbes set and be reminded.