Dear Mr. Watterson

“The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us,” Bill Watterson once quipped.  How appropriate that quote seems, coming from the creator of Calvin and his alter ego Spaceman Spiff.  After years of enjoying random Calvin and Hobbes collections that my brothers owned, I was surprised and delighted to learn how much more there is to both the comics and their creator.

Dear Mr. Watterson portraitI encountered Dear Mr. Watterson while scrolling through movie suggestions online.  Intrigued to see that this was a documentary, I read the film’s description and decided to give it a chance  Now those of you who are true Watterson fans probably know that he is a recluse and values his privacy.  So you may be wondering how this documentary handles Watterson’s personal story and whether it invades his life in any way.  I know when I saw the documentary called Dear Mr. Watterson on my computer screen, my first thought was that it would be about Bill Watterson and might cross a line by prying into his personal life.  Despite initial misgivings on this point, though, I decided to find out what it was really about.  I’m glad that I did because the film is not what I had expected and is surprisingly good.  Rather than divulging Watterson’s “secrets” in some sort of scandalous fashion, the film tactfully avoids Watterson’s life for the most part and focuses more on his work, his influences, his legacy, and why Calvin and Hobbes is so popular worldwide.

Dear Mr. Watterson is charming and fun.  The music is cheerful and accompanies the comic exploration perfectly.  Most of the documentary consists of interviews, and I enjoyed hearing other comic artists share their thoughts on Watterson and his work.  Putting faces and voices with the names of all these famous comic artists was especially neat.  I never thought I would listen to an interview with Bill Amend or other artists whose work I have perused in the Sunday funnies.  Watterson has left an impressive legacy behind him, having inspired and influenced many modern comic artists in their work.  Additional interviewees include cartoon museum curators, syndicate administrators, and other people involved or interested in the comic world.

Calvin and Hobbes first strip

Calvin and Hobbes debut in their first comic strip.

In addition to appreciating the new perspectives the film provides on Watterson and Calvin and Hobbes, I especially enjoyed the beautiful colors and the animated renditions of Watterson’s watercolors, which would begin as sketches and then fill with pools of color in a very artistic fashion.  One of the challenges in documentaries is supplementing interviews with footage that shows the story instead of telling it, and I think the animations of Watterson’s art are a tasteful solution that keeps the documentary visually interesting.  Often, these colorful displays of Calvin and Hobbes art accompany Watterson’s witty quotes, which gave me new insight into his personality and perspectives and often left me with a smile or a laugh.

That ability to bring joy to his audience is key to Watterson’s success, I think.  Through Calvin and Hobbes, Watterson found a way to touch people in a surprising way as they shared in the characters’ emotions, humor, and adventuresome spirit.  Calvin and his tiger friend remind their audience of many things, from the preciousness of friendship to the fun of imagination, and I think that touchstone with readers is what has made these characters so timeless.

arrietty pic

-ARRIETTY-

Advertisements

Calvin and Hobbes for Christmas

Sled rides, slush balls, Susie Derkins, Santa Claus, deranged snow goons, a sneak attack tiger, and a wildly imaginative boy are all part of what make Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson perfect for the winter season.

Several of Bill Watterson’s collections of Calvin and Hobbes contain delightful and entertaining wintertime stories.  Comic strips set during winter can be found in Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons (pp. 68-108), in It’s a Magical World (pp. 137-end), in The Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book (pp. 44-54 [this repeats part of the winter section in The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes] and pp. 91-103), in The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes (pp. 104-138), and in several other collections.  Each story is packed with humor as Calvin combats his desire to be on Santa’s “good” list with his desire to slug Susie with a snowball.

c&h2Calvin’s letter-writing marathon to Santa takes different approaches at pulling the wool over the old man’s eyes – from legalistic arguments to “presume innocent until proven guilty” to fine print qualifications of the statement “I have been extremely good* this year.”  Then, there are the hilarious snowball fights, death-defying sled rides, encounters with snow goons, and monopoly games which end in scuffles and name-calling.

These stories are not merely fun, though.  The characters ask many good questions that readers ought to consider.  For example:

Bottom Comic

 

c&h1

Even though the comic’s conclusions are usually shallow, that does not mean one’s own conclusions have to be.

For a short wintertime adventure full of comedy, philosophy, hyperactive imagination, a tiger named Hobbes, and a boy named Calvin, sit down by a fire with a cup of hot cocoa and read Bill Watterson’s timeless comic.

arrietty pic

-arrietty-