Dear Mr. Watterson

20140602-215017-78617090.jpg“There are plenty of exotic lands for a cartoonist to map, if he or she will leave the well-known paths and strike off for the wilds of the imagination” – Bill Watterson

This weekend I was scrolling through Netflix looking for something to watch and I stumbled onto Joel Allen Shroeder’s Dear Mr. Watterson, which is not so much a documentary but a kind of tribute to one of the most awesome comic strips ever; Calvin and Hobbes.

The film, which was released last year November, looked at the development of the comic strip through the eyes of fans and readers.

I enjoyed the film because I could relate to the collage of testimonies of how Watterson’s work touched a lot of lives and it was really cool to follow Shroeder’s journey and see some of the original art. The film even went beyond Calvin and Hobbes and looked at other well established strips like Peanuts and Garfield as well as some more contemporary ones in order to comment on the decline of the whole comic strip industry.

However, I was kind of disappointed, because it would have been cool to hear what Watterson would have had to say about his work. Oh well.

Unlike most of the testimonies, my Calvin and Hobbes story did not begin with the comics in the newspaper, but with my Dad. We never got along, but he always had some interesting comic collections lying around the house, whether they were his or borrowed from someone else. Through him I discovered Asterix, Dilbert and a world war 2 comic that I can’t remember the name of right now.

I can’t remember if he lent them to me or if I just picked them up, but I do remember that my introductions to Watterson’s work were The Essential Calvin and Hobbes and The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes. I read these over and over and over again. I was jealous of Calvin’s imagination. I was also jealous of his transmogrifier. To be very honest, I’m still jealous, but an adult running around with stuffed tiger and cardboard box might be considered a problem, so I will just have to settle for living vicariously through Calvin.

As I grew older I realised that Watterson’s strips were layered with meaning. Look closely and you can see Calvin being philosophical or launching a serious socio-political critique on society…or just saving a snowball in the freezer to throw at Susie out of season.

In short, Schroedrer’s film has reminded me that Calvin and Hobbes is awesome, and I should make another trip to the book store soon.

Kwame

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