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October 12, 2005

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Philosopher Kings

Poynter Online on the new Calvin & Hobbes treasury.

Does everyone have the same fond memory of sitting on the floor in front of a sunny window on a Sunday afternoon reading from a Calvin & Hobbes book? Survey says yes.

Posted October 12, 2005 at 2:36 | Comments (6) | Permasnark
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Briefly Noted


Uhm, this article started out well. Calvin & Hobbes? Brilliant. "Equal respect" for "Berke Breathed and his original Bloom County, but not today's pale imitation of himself," and "Aaron McGruder and Boondocks, when he really works at it, which is not often enough"? Spot on. But Garfield? Garfield?

Garfield is an example of almost everything that's wrong with modern comics, and Berke Breathed and Bill Watterson, at the very least, share that opinion to me. In fact, they guided me to it.

I hate to say anything negative about someone trying to praise Calvin & Hobbes, but you lose me when you try to put Garfield and the Family Circus in anything resembling the same category as Mr. Watterson's work.

I think the memory Rob talks about mostly comes from the cover of The Lazy Sunday Book. I mostly remember reading Calvin and Hobbes in the bedroom, alone. (My house didn't have windows, and from the age of six my brothers and I would spend our Sundays working all day in a garbage mine.)

But the way most kids would read comic books, I read Calvin and Hobbes. I read the newspapers every day, I read and collected and re-read the books obsessively. Half of my vocabulary ("I must obey the inscrutable exhortations of my soul"), three-quarters of my writing style ("The trouble with being avant-garde is knowing who's putting on who"), and all of whatever you could call my sense of humor ("It's not an attitude. It's a fact!") has its source, origin, font in what I read in Calvin and Hobbes.

A garbage mine, he says!

The Lazy Sunday book is still one of my more treasured childhood posessions. I actually have further memories beyond that--during my first year of college physics, the two semesters and the Professor that made me seriously consider switching the major, as I eventually did, every lecture was opened with a Calvin and Hobbes.

I don't have childhood memories of reading Calvin & Hobbes books, but only because I have young-adult memories of reading the strip when it first ran in my daily paper. It took me about 3 days from "I'm off to check my tiger trap" to realizing that this was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen on a comics page.

Even though I came to that realization fairly early in the life of the strip, I continued to have moments of "oh my God; C&H is even better than I thought." I had that moment on the Sunday that I saw the glorious colors and intense, immediate grabbing of the reader in "Spaceman Spiff is going down!" I had it again with Calvin and Susie playing doctor ("Our baby is a rabbit??!!") and president ("Me Wonka Ta, king of jungle"). And about a thousand other times.

My daughter had heart surgery when she was 9, and due to some complications she ended up stuck in an ICU for 9 days. It was horrible (though certainly not as horrible as it could have been; today she's a healthy, happy 14-year-old). By the fifth day she was experiencing "ICU psychosis," where the constant noise and pain and disorientation was causing her to have waking nightmares where she'd scream or cry inconsolably.

We tried everything we could to take her mind off what she was going through, but in the end nothing really worked (videos, games, treats) except one thing: Calvin & Hobbes cartoons. We would read those books together, both of us giggling or sometimes laughing out loud, until the nurses would come in and tell us to knock it off so Julia could get some sleep.

Julia has a complete collection of the Calvin & Hobbes books that dates from that time, and now my son, who's 7, is well on his way to having all of them memorized, too. His sister operates a lending library of sorts; he gets to check the books out one and a time, and when he finishes one he'll go ask her if he can trade it in for another. By his decree, Calvin & Hobbes has become our standard bedtime-story reading.

Actually, I used to sneak off to the bathroom, the only place I knew nobody (read: my brother) could bug me to read C&H.

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