Many many years ago, a good friend loaned me a book of comics. It was a compilation of a daily cartoon strip about a young boy called Calvin and his pet (toy) tiger Hobbes. He assured me it was worth a read and he was right.
I started re-reading them last night (perfect bathroom reading material) and have been reminded of why they resonated so much with me back then, and how they still do so today.
Whimsy. Silliness. Pathos.
As a cartoon strip, the key aim is to provide a level of humour. Early on Calvin & Hobbes was built around subtle word play and it hit my ‘comedy’ sweet spot, but over the years as the readership started to get a sense of who Calvin was, it started to take on a wonderful twist.
Firstly there are the recurring characters and moments; the long running gag where Hobbes ambushes Calvin when he comes home from school, Susie Perkins being treated hideously by Calvin, the endless grotesque snowmen, Hobbes’ hunt for tuna.
We were also introduced to the imagination of a small boy, something I could easily associate with given the age gap between my sister and I (for my first 8 years I was an ‘only’ child); Calvin as film noir detective Tracer Bullet, the intergalactic adventurer Spaceman Spiff and the be-caped hero that is Stupendous Man!.
I still daydream from time to time, taking myself out of the drudgery that adulthood can be and off on various flights of fancy, although these days they tend to be more
And then to the whimsy, my favourite moments where the cartoon steps outside of itself to offer a view of the world that at times is sad, at times poignant and usually played out simply. A wonderful mix of visuals and words to convey a simple message, played out with the wonder and awe that a small boy still has.
These latter strips are the ones that stick with me and I as slowly reshape my life, simplifying, reducing negativity and noise as best I can, they continue to resonate.
It’s funny how quickly we forget the sense of awe we had as children, it’s something I’ve been aware of for a while and I do try and see something beautiful (if not awe inspiring) every day in an effort to retain some external view that isn’t about me or my life; I’m very prone to being introspective too quickly (I give you this blog as a perfect example!).
The child-like sense of the wonder of ‘other’, delivered through the keen eye of Calvin’s creator Bill Watterson, is what rings true. A view of the world free of pessimism, with a healthy dose of skepticism, and no small amount of sarcasm seems to match why own. Or at least the one I try and maintain.
It’s what keeps me coming back to these wonderful comic strips. Whimsy. Silliness. Pathos. Not a bad way to lead a life.