Calvin and Hobbes (and Kenyon)GAMBIER, Ohio (December 22, 2005) For fans of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes--and it's hard to imagine anyone who isn't a fan --one of the great events of the past year was the publication of a three-volume boxed set containing every strip in the cartoon's ten-year run. The Complete Calvin and Hobbes received an especially warm welcome at Kenyon, where the strip's creator, Bill Watterson, honed his wit as a member of the Class of 1980 (and where, as a political science major, he encountered philosophers John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes).
The big new collection, published by Andrews McMeel, includes every strip that appeared between the cartoon's launch on November 18, 1985, and its retirement on December 31, 1995. That's 3,160 strips in all, including the large-format color Sunday panels. Weighing in at 23 pounds but irresistibly light in spirit, the book sparks amusement along the entire spectrum, from knowing smile to helpless, hilarious outburst. The cardboard-box "transmogrifier," the genre-shattering snowmen, Spaceman Spiff eluding the teacher-turned-alien, Susie Derkins gagging yet again as Calvin describes the contents of his lunch-bag--it's all here.
But the collection is more than the sum of its laughs. The set includes a fine introduction by Watterson, who recalls his youthful passion for drawing, his years at Kenyon, his early struggles to establish a career, and his refusal to license his creation for use in products like greeting cards and stuffed animals. Of particular interest are his reflections on the rewards, limitations, and artistic possibilities of the comic-strip form. The most interesting strips, Watterson notes, have "a genuine sensibility--a quirky, individual take on life."
What emerges most clearly, perhaps, is Watterson's affection for the characters he created. "Without exactly intending to," he writes, "I learned a lot about what I love--imagination, deep friendship, animals, family, the natural world, ideas, ideals . . . and silliness."