Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book
The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary BookBy Bill Watterson
- Length: 208 pages
- Format: Hardcover and Paperback
- Color and black & white
- Size: 11.85 x 9 inches
- First Published: 1995
Of all the Calvin and Hobbes books (with the possible exception of The Compete Calvin and Hobbes, The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book is the best one.
This is not simply a compilation of the latest year or two of Calvin and Hobbes strips, and neither is it a "best of" collection in the traditional sense. Rather it is a historical retrospective of the most significant strips of the comic's 10 year run, chosen by the artist for their role in developing the strip and establishing the characters.
The outstanding feature of this book are the extensive comments and essays by Watterson which provide a unique insight into the mind of one of the 20th century's greatest cartoonists. Most other cartoonists, it seems, either do not want to verbally express their feelings or views, or are not encouraged to do so. So it is a welcome opportunity to discover what lies behind the pen and ink drawings of such a popular comic strip.
The book opens with 20 pages of text and then devotes a further 7 pages to provide background information about the main characters that make up the Calvin and Hobbes universe. Throughout the rest of the book, Watterson adds notes to various cartoons giving us an idea of where some of his inspiration came from, and explaining some of the recurring themes of the strip.
For the casual reader this may be too much history and analysis, but for avid fans it makes for fascinating reading, providing a rare glimpse into the mind of an exceptionally talented cartoonist.
Watterson freely expresses his opinion about the comic strip industry in general, the history and future of comics, and the roll newspapers and syndication play. Other topics that will be of specific interest to comic strip artists and writers, as well as aspiring ones, include Watterson's early comic strip influences, the mechanics and restrictions of the standard Sunday format, and the process of creating a comic strip.
The account of his continuing battle with the syndicate over his refusal to allow any licensing or merchandising is rather ironic since this is what ultimately precipitated his early retirement. With the end of Calvin and Hobbes it seems everyone lost out, the public, the syndicate, and the artist.
Watterson's commentary is thoughtful and honest, often revealing the inner struggle of the artist and his fight to maintain a level of quality that few ever achieve. His somewhat unconventional views may at times be controversial, but are always interesting, articulate, and well reasoned.
But even if none of that is of interest, there are still plenty of superb reasons to enjoy this book: the comic strips themselves. With over 300 dailies and Sundays to savor, The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book provides a great deal of reading pleasure.
This large-format book permits the reproduction of the daily strips at a generous 9" x 2.8" and the Sundays (in full color) at 10" x 7.15". This allows the detail of the artwork, and the care and talent that went into it, to be fully appreciated. It's unfortunate that all comic strip book collections aren't printed this size.
Strips selected for the book include the famous "injured racoon" sequence where the racoon dies, the invention of the cardboard box transmogrifier (and the new-and-improved duplicator box), Spaceman Spiff and Stupendous Man episodes, and some inspired dinosaur adventures. Other strips showcase Rosalyn the babysitter, Calvin's wagon, club G.R.O.S.S., Tracer Bullet, and Calvin's unfettered imagination. It also includes the first Calvin and Hobbes strip which shows how Calvin initially acquired Hobbes (Hobbes was caught in a tiger trap baited with a tuna fish sandwich.)
The later Sunday strips, where Watterson was allowed the opportunity to use the entire space as he saw fit without the traditional limitations on panel layout, are much more creative and artistically successful. Not to imply that the early Sundays were lacking, but the unrestricted format quite literally opened up new possibilities.
If you want to not only read some of the best comic strips available, but to see what went into their production, then The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book is a must read.
Five out of five stars
Feb. 5, 2006