So, like many people within a pretty large range of my age, I was, and am, a huge fan of Calvin and Hobbes. I am sure Peanuts and Garfield would try to make the claim, and there is a good argument to be made for The Far Side, but Calvin and Hobbes may be the best newspaper comic there ever was. And that’s not really hyperbole. It perfectly road that line between, “appealing to younger folks” through Calvin’s adventures with his imaginary friend Hobbes (a stuffed cat who comes to life for Calvin), and still appealing to adults, by using clever metaphors to make statements on the real world.
It’s the kind of magic the Muppets have done for ages.
The strip only ran for ten years too, from 1985 to 1995. Bill Watterson, the creator, has also done something super interesting in that there is basically no Calvin and Hobbes merchandise. There was like, one school book and a couple of calendars, everything else is bootleg, including all those stupid “Calvin pissing on things” stickers. I assume he is doing okay for himself on the book sales, and I admire his refusal to cheapen his creation.
He also hasn’t done anything else since until now. He’s put out a new book, alongside another creator, John Kascht. The book has nothing to do with Calvin and Hobbes, but it’s worth mentioning the strip, because I am sure, like myself, a LOT of the interest in this book comes from people who loved Calvin and Hobbes. There are some videos and articles about the process, and the two apparently went back and forth a bit on how to present the visuals. It seems that Watterson did a lot of the painted backdrops, and Kascht did more of the physical foreground material. The images themselves are a combination, done using photos, that look a lot like elaborate illustrations. The story is quite simple in design and presentation but seems to mostly be the work of Watterson.
The book itself is essentially a “children’s book” in presentation, with a simple singular sentence on one page, and artwork on the opposite page. The artwork is very, very, bleak. I don’t mean it’s bad, I actually really like it, but good god it’s bleak. If you came into this expecting an upbeat comic book story, you’re not going to get it. The story is pretty bleak as well. It’s short, a rough count says, 35 pages long, maybe on average 10-15 words per page. This post is probably longer in total than the entire story. It follows something called The Mysteries, and their exit and subsequent return to the world. In Calvin and Hobbes fashion, the whole thing kind of feels like a metaphor for a few things. One being, how the society in the book basically exists in fear of the unknown, with no desire to really understand it or change. The later half takes quite a turn and seems to be a metaphor for the climate crisis.
Maybe I’m just projecting what I think it is, that’s kind of the beauty of writing sometimes, when done properly, the meaning is up to interpretation. This is also why I like a lot of the music I enjoy as well.
Also, I suppose I am kind of spoiling the story a bit but the story is pretty basic, and honestly, It’s not a book you buy for the story.
The book itself is quite nice. The size is a bit smaller than I expected, but it’s not too small or anything. The cover has this wonderfully textured cloth feel to it, and feels very sturdy, the pages themselves are nice heavy glossy paper. For the little content there is, the book definitely has been designed with a lot of care and consideration and desire to make a real quality product. It’s a “children’s book” story, with a very “adult presentation.” I suppose that’s the kind of work Watterson has always done, with the way Calvin and Hobbes was in its ability to be appreciated by younger and older folks.