Looking for Calvin and Hobbeson February 13, 2013 at 12:00 am
I remember the halcyon days of going to my aunt’s house and rummaging through her recycling to read all the Calvin and Hobbes comics printed in the newspaper. Bill Watterson is definitely one of my artistic influences and I wanted to learn more about him when I read Nevin Martell’s book Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and his Revolutionary Comic Strip.
Overall, I’m glad I read it. I was interested to find out about Watterson’s days as a young artist pre-C&H. I found out that Bill and I have a lot in common. We both have artwork featured in our respective school yearbooks, we both submitted cartoons in our university newspapers, we were both born in July. It’s like we were separated at birth – give or take 20 years.
One of the problems with the book is that there was no interview with Bill. I got the impression that Bill, sometimes described as a recluse, didn’t really want the attention that fame brings and didn’t understand why people would regard him any differently than the average person. People love his comic and that’s fine but why would knowing Bill’s favourite colour make any difference? Bill declined Nevin’s invitation for an interview.
That’s not to say that Nevin didn’t uncover interesting facts. I was interested in finding out about Watterson’s trials and tribulations with the syndicates, hearing the story from the editor’s point of view and interviews with some of Watterson’s peers. Reading the interview with Bill’s mom was also pretty good though a little odd. I imagine all interviews with moms to embarrass their children.
I wish the book was more concise. There were interviews with cartoonists who didn’t know Watterson (they said nice things), descriptions of scenes in comic strips (because the best way to read a comic strip is to have it described to you), and details of music, food and settings that are inconsequential to the point of the book. I’m afraid that this makes up approximately half of the book.
The biggest punch in the jeans is that this book was published in 2009 and a year later Bill gave an interview to The Plain Dealer. I feel like the most appropriate analogy to make is that after a famous archaeologist gives up on her lifetime search for the Holy Grail a couple of kids at a lemonade stand start serving beverages from an old wooden chalice. Maybe that’s not the most appropriate analogy.