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WSJ: Calvin and Hobbes is America’s Most Profound Comic Strip

The title is of a recent Wall Street Journal article (‘Calvin and Hobbes’: America’s Most Profound Comic Strip) is perhaps a bit hyperbolic. I’m not sure it’s the most profound, but certainly one of.

Here’s the money quotes with my thoughts:

?Calvin and Hobbes? would have faced big challenges if Mr. Watterson had decided to carry on. The Internet has cut a swath through the press. There are no longer hundreds of independent newspapers to which a cartoonist can syndicate his work.

Calvin and Hobbes would be a smashing success even if launched today. It’s a strip of such high quality, it would naturally be in demand. Richard Thompson’s Cul de Sac did well in today’s newspaper environment. I will concede that it would take longer probably not hit the 2,000+ papers as it did enjoyed in the 1980’s and 1990’s, but no doubt in my mind it would clear the 1000 paper mark.

And today?s cultural climate might have made it more difficult for him to render a boy?s imaginative life in a realistic way. Calvin fantasizes not just about dinosaurs flying F-14s but also about shooting up his school with a tank. At one point, he tells Susie Derkins?his neighbor, rival and secret crush??I?m sure it?s frustrating knowing that men are bigger, stronger and better at abstract thought than women.? That these are all jokes matters little. Enforcers of taste are not known for their humor.

Given today’s culture and the speed of communication to stir-up controversy, I can see how the strip would occasionally run into controversy. If I remember correctly, Bill wrote that one of his strips depicted Calvin imagining flying a fighter jet which bombed his school generated letters from offending readers. And that’s when it required effort to compose a letter, find the syndicate address (Google/web search hasn’t been invented), find a stamp and stick it in the mailbox. Imagine what the protests would be like today without those barriers keeping lazy people quiet.

Community Comments

#1 Graison Tapper
March/14/2015
@ 11:36 pm

Calvin and Hobbes & Peanuts are the two most compelling and enduring comics in the last half of the 20th century. No other strips come close. Which one is best will be discussed for years to come, but the excellence established by Bill Watterson and Charles Schulz are once in a generation events. Each will entertain for many generations to come.

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