Monday, November 21, 2005

Watterson's (Seemingly) Simple Genius

It’s something of a tradition. I don’t know when it started, but every year when it finally gets chilly enough to have on a space heater to warm the body I turn something else on to warm my heart.
This year it’s “There’s Treasure Everywhere, same as last year.
The year before that it was Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat.
But every year I pull down some “Calvin and Hobbes” collected volume and read it in its entirety.

We’ve all known a kid like Calvin; some of us have even been Calvin. He hates school, authority, unrecognizable foods, girls (especially that Susie chick), and anything boring. He loves free stuff, playing outside, and causing trouble.
Did I mention his best friend? His own imagination incarnate in the form of a stuffed tiger named Hobbes.

Honestly, if you’ve missed this phenomenon you must now cut a trail to a quality bookstore and lay down the 15 dollari for one of these oversize bundles of juvenile joy.

Whether Calvin is trying to sell his folks’ car, get his superhero persona out of his locker, or sway his dad’s parenting policies (either through “approval ratings” or making the case that toy purchases boost the economy), Calvin always has something to accomplish.

Hobbes is Calvin’s intellectual side. He may frown on humans (apes with ridiculous pink skin, to his thinking) and believe that the ladies only like a male with fluffy whiskers, but don’t put down this tiger’s reasoning skills. He also happens to scare Calvin silly with his raw power.
It has always intrigued me to note that Calvin is such a creative genius that his imagination itself can terrorize him.
Sometimes Hobbes may be waiting to maul his buddy when he arrives home from school, other times his tiger rage explodes unexpectedly at some overly-insulting gibe. Whatever the case, Calvin ‘knows’ Hobbes can make him into human hamburger meat with one pounce.

The genius of these dual personalities is only part of the series’ indestructible charm. Author/Artist Bill Watterson’s proficiency with pen adds a whole other visual brilliance to Calvin’s world.
Calvin’s ‘grumpy face,’ Hobbes ‘sly face,’ soiled Calvin after rooting around for worms (or ticking off the tiger), the alternate worlds of a boy’s imagination, Calvin’s snowmen (each with its own artistic or intellectual message!), or just the snow itself. Everything Watterson inks seems unbound from the two-dimensional world of paper on which it was born.

And it achieves a single marvelous effect—to give one a potent taste of childhood once again.

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