Dear Mr Watterson

The Technician and I first became friends over a shared love of Calvin and Hobbes. On the first Christmas that we exchanged gifts we bought each other Calvin and Hobbes books. I could even go so far as to describe our wedding as the day on which we merged our Calvin and Hobbes collections. Your knowledge of, and response to, the inquisitive little mischief-maker and his pet tiger will probably determine whether we’re willing to befriend you.

Collection of Calvin and Hobbes  books.
A sample of our collection.

We recently discovered the documentary ‘Dear Mr Watterson‘ on Netflix. I was initially skeptical – Bill Watterson doesn’t do interviews and Calvin and Hobbes ended in 1995 so what more could anyone have to say? As it happens, the documentary is a delight. There are no pushy attempts to track down Mr Watterson, instead the documentary focusses on fans, and on comic creators, asking them what the strip has meant to them and how it has been an influence. The documentary also spends some time analysing one of the key differences between Calvin and Hobbes and most other comic characters – Watterson’s refusal to turn Calvin and Hobbes into a licensed brand. There are no cartoon shows, no sticker sets and colouring books, no t-shirts or lunch boxes, and no Hobbes toys. There are just books featuring the original comic strips. One of the questions the documentary asks is whether, with the comic strip having ended, this prevents new readers from finding the comic and will lead to it eventually being forgotten.

I won’t spoil the documentary (you should definitely watch it), but, as every Calvin and Hobbes fan I’ve ever met is a committed evangelist, I personally doubt that it will be forgotten; both the writing and the art are too good and too timeless, the flights of imagination too glorious, for the strip not to pick up new readers. There is also something enjoyable about the feeling of being part of a community that relies on word of mouth; unlike many other fandoms people don’t assume that they know all about it because they’ve seen the marketing everywhere.

So while there will be no stuffed toy Hobbes for my child there will be the joy of introducing them to the books, and for that I’m grateful.