The other day, something awesome happened to me: I was at Goodwill and I saw three Calvin and Hobbes books sitting on the shelves, which of course I summarily put in my cart. The next few days were full of humor and nostalgia, as I remembered exactly why Bill Watterson is one of history’s great cartoonists.
There are so many ways a comic strip about a six year old boy and his stuffed tiger could have been boring, predictable, derivative, uninspired, or pedantic. Watterson couldn’t seem to find any of those ways. Every strip he drew has something just crazy enough to be real six-year-old genius at work. You get the feeling he never forgot what it was like to be a wildly imaginative, often misunderstood, usually solitary child. Maybe it’s just me, but I get the feeling that Watterson could have been drawing the story of my own childhood (if I had only been a shade more clever, that is).
So many comic strips portray the peculiarities of childhood from an adult perspective – the things kids say or do that make us laugh. Calvin and Hobbes has no adult vantage point. It’s the world from Calvin’s eyes. The adults in the strip all take on the flavors and hues of six-year-old analysis. Reading it as an adult, you get a sense of what it’s like to be a boring and unimaginative – if somewhat mysterious – normal adult in the eyes of a child. And just maybe, it’ll give you a chance to regain some of the open-ended wonder that makes children such narcissistic optimists.
So my hat goes off to Bill Watterson, who has created something so awesome that it would normally take a six-year-old to do it. You can read the daily Calvin and Hobbes comic strip here, or buy the books here.