Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Review - The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes
by Bill Waterson
2006 Eisner Winner for Best Archival Collection/Project: Comic Strips
Also contains all material from Calvin and Hobbes: The Revenge of the Baby-Sat, 1992 Eisner winner for best comic strip collection, and Calvin and Hobbes: Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons, 1993 Eisner winner for best comic strip collection

The past few years have been good to comic strip fans. While the newspaper strips have been dying off new efforts to compile the high points of the medium have been occurring. Fans used to have to get their collection of strips in what were essentially "Best of" sets where an editor picked out a handful. Now there's a movement toward being complete and there are more of these projects than I can count. One of the major triggers for this movement was the publication and success of The Complete Calvin and Hobbes.

For those who have never seen Calvin and Hobbes (and I suppose that's possible since the strip ended fifteen years ago) it is about a young boy and his best friend who happens to be a tiger... or a stuffed animal if anyone else is looking. Calvin is prone to flights of fantasy and has an off-kilter world-view that's grounded by the tiger Hobbes. Together they get into every kind of mischief that a hyperactive six year old can get into and enjoy the suburban adventures of childhood.

This might be the easiest review I've ever written: I highly recommend this collection. Extremely highly. Doubly extremely highly. Adverbly doubly extremely highly. Calvin and Hobbes easily ranks among the greatest comic strips ever published. And unlike some strips Waterson ended it before it sank into a daily grind. That means that the more than three thousand strips are of a consistently terrific quality. Having the entire set in one beautiful package is well worth it.

The strips themselves possess a kind of timeless sense of humor. Anyone who spent their childhood wandering through imaginary vistas will be able to instantly connect with the strip. And anyone who knows the sheer volume of mayhem a six-year-old can cause will see that reflected in the stories.

The typical artwork in Calvin and Hobbes is great as Waterson is a master of character acting. As wonderful as it is to see how a tiger and boy can play off each other visually it goes from great to absolutely gorgeous when Waterson illustrates the lunatic imagination of Calvin. A dinosaur at the kitchen table looks just as natural as the mundane schoolrooms.

Okay, enough selling the content to those six people on Earth who are unfamiliar with Calvin and Hobbes; the main event is The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. It's a three volume set with either one sunday strip or three daily strips presented on each glossy page. Each volume is about five hundred pages and is just large enough that it isn't unweildy to read though I wouldn't want to hold it up for too long. The slipcase is heavy duty even has the cloth binding of the books. As a unit it is the heaviest publication I own. The production values could not be higher for this set.

The set is gorgeous and durable enough that I think that replacing any paperback collections that you have is worth it. This is the definitive format for owning one of the greatest works of comic art ever created. If you have any affection for Calvin and Hobbes then you will want to get The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. And if you don't then I pity the shriveled, black stone that passes for your heart.