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'It's a Magical World': Paying Tribute to Bill Watterson's 'Calvin and Hobbes'

In honor of Bill Watterson's 55th birthday, I feel it's only fitting that we honor the greatest comic strip in the history of comics: Calvin and Hobbes. For us kids who grew up in the 1990s, Calvin and Hobbes was a drastic departure from the mundane and stale comics of the funny pages. While running for only 10 years, Calvin and Hobbes will always last with a large legacy.

Growing up, my family had nearly every collection of Calvin and Hobbes available. Whether you were reading Scientific Progress Goes "Boink," Homicidal Pyscho Jungle Cat or The Revenge of the Baby-Sat, you were never disappointed by the artistic style and brilliantly imaginative comics that Watterson penned.  Yukon Ho! was the first collection that I bought, happily ordering it through a school book order. At the time, I thought it was like getting literary porn. To this day, the essential possessions I always have near by are my Talking Heads albums, my baseball glove and my Calvin and Hobbes collection.

The beauty of Calvin and Hobbes was that kids could easily identify with Calvin and his personality. With a big imagination, Calvin hated being in school. He loved to go sledding (well, kids in Midwest and the Northeast could relate to that one). His biggest fear was not getting tons of loot for Christmas. And of course, Calvin came with one of the greatest best friends a kid could ask for — his stuffed tiger Hobbes.

The sledding comics were always a personal favorite of mine. Watterson's backgrounds, especially in the Sunday strip, were huge and art in their own right. He based the look of the strip on his hometown of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, which is east of Cleveland. Being a native Buckeye from Mansfield, its amazing to see all these familiar towns centered on the top of hills and all these residential communities with big backyards just made for sledding. Granted when my family moved to New York, we found plenty of quality sledding in the Rochester area. While Calvin and Hobbes didn't always center on the whole idea of sledding, Watterson loved to use them as a chance to stop and smell the roses. It was only fitting that Watterson used the sledding strip to say goodbye when he retired the strip in 1995.

Calvin operated without a filter, with his rebellious attitude driving the weekly plot points of the strip. During election years, you would see Calvin try to pest his dad with "polls" in hopes of landing later bedtimes or more TV privileges. On other occasions, Calvin would use guilt or broken psychology to avoid his mother's poor cooking. Despite these outrageous actions directed at his parents, Calvin did love his parents, and his parents will do anything for him. If your parents venture out into the woods late at night to find your stuffed tiger, you've got good parents.

Speaking of Hobbes, what comic pairing would not be complete without the voice of reason? With Calvin speaking freely and looking to do what he wants, Hobbes is there to remind him that essentially every action has a reaction. Hobbes' ability to keep Calvin on an even playing field allowed Watterson to make sure his comics never became some print version of a Family Guy episode. I, for some reason, always enjoyed the idea that despite Calvin always treating Hobbes as a real tiger, he accepted the fact that his tiger was cleaned in a washing machine. This actually caused some controversy when an early strip featuring Hobbes was only published in half of the newspapers that ran Calvin and Hobbes. Apparently suggesting that Calvin thought it would be fun to ride in the washing machine was frowned upon.

Finally, the one thing I truly love about Calvin and Hobbes is Calvinball. I know people love Spaceman Spiff or the snowmen (which are amazing), but I love Calvinball. Growing up in a home in a rural neighborhood filled with old people, I had to create games. My love for baseball was stalled after little league, so I had to create baseball games using the brick wall of our fireplace. If that wasn't enough, we used a kickball and threw it over the utility lines (yes, my mom just let that stuff happen). My sister and I were always creating games. Calvinball is the greatest game. There's no rules, no real scoring system. It's as if football met polo and had a baby ... then that baby became addicted to crack and mutated itself with softball and hopscotch. A game of Calvinball couldn't pass without Calvin accusing Hobbes of cheating and vice versa. A song or a brawl would follow, but before you know it, the game would continue. That's what being a kid is all about.

Fans of pop culture should forvever support Bill Watterson. Despite leaving at the top of his game, he has shied from the spotlight. Hell, he even refused to let his characters be turned into action figures or a cartoon show. Cleveland's paper, The Plain Dealer, once offered his some serious money for an exclusive interview, and Watterson ignored the offer. Here's hoping you stay that way, Bill Watterson … unless you want to talk Calvin and Hobbes with us. We want to thank you for giving us so much pleasure on our Sunday mornings and every afternoon following school.
'It's a Magical World': Paying Tribute to Bill Watterson's 'Calvin and Hobbes' Reviewed by Seth Pohorence on 7/05/2013 Rating: 5

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