Monday, December 17, 2012

Day 17: Dancing with Calvin and Hobbes

Welcome to Day 17 of our 24 Days of Books. "Calvin and Hobbes" is unquestionably one of the most popular comic strips of all time -- and definitely one of my favorites. The imaginative world of a boy and his real-only-to-him tiger was first syndicated in 1985 and appeared in more than 2400 newspapers. Bill Watterson, the man behind the strip, retired on January 1, 1996, leaving many ardent followers (including me!) bereft. The entire body of "Calvin and Hobbes" cartoons is now available in four full-color paperback volumes in a sturdy slipcase: The Complete Calvin and Hobbes -- and it's only $100!!

Combining the richly conceived characters and efficient drawing of "Peanuts" with the visual virtuosity and linguistic playfulness of "Pogo" and "Krazy Kat," Watterson applied his intelligence and supple cartoon skills to come up with a creation beloved by millions who still mourn its passing.

As you probably already know, the strip featured a precocious and adventurous six-year-old boy, Calvin, and his sardonic stuffed tiger, Hobbes. Hobbes' dual nature is a defining motif for the strip: to Calvin, Hobbes is a live anthropomorphic tiger, while all the other characters in the cartoon strip see him as an inanimate stuffed toy. But did you know that the pair are named after John Calvin, 16th-century French Reformation theologian, and Thomas Hobbes, a 17th-century English political philosopher? Come to think of it, you probably did.

Bill Watterson was designing grocery ads, a job he detested, when he began devoting his spare time to cartooning, his true love. When asked how autobiographical the series was, he said, "I'd say the fictional and nonfictional aspects were pretty densely interwoven. While Calvin definitely reflects certain aspects of my personality, I never had imaginary animal friends, I generally stayed out of trouble, I did fairly well in school, etc., so the strip is not literally autobiographical. Often I used the strip to talk about things that interested me as an adult, and of course, a lot of Calvin's adventures were drawn simply because I thought the idea was funny. In any given strip, the amount of invention varied. Keep in mind that comic strips are typically written in a certain amount of panic, and I made it all up as I went along. I just wrote what I thought about."

Available for the first time in a paperback boxed set,  this is a treasure sure to create jubilation in all Calvin and Hobbes fans. And really, who isn't?

As always, you'll find many more great gift ideas in our Holiday Books guide, available in our store. Hope to see you soon!

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