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Bill Watterson

Aug 12 2011

ShareReads: Looking for Calvin

by David T

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it. The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it. The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading. Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

Though it had a comparatively short life on the comics page, ending its original run more than 15 years ago, Calvin and Hobbes still has a tremendous following. As a longtime fan of the strip, I was intrigued by Nevin Martell’s Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip.

C&H creator Bill Watterson is an intensely private man who has succeeded in doing something quite unusual for a famous person in 21st century America – he has largely kept his personal life out of the media. He seldom gives interviews, discourages interest in himself as opposed to his work, and maintains his integrity to a degree for which he has sometimes been criticized. He turned away millions of dollars by refusing to allow his syndicate to license Calvin and Hobbes merchandise, and ended the strip early rather than see it outlive its freshness and originality.

Not surprisingly, Watterson chose not to give his biographer an interview, or otherwise participate in the creation of Martell’s book. That could have been a fatal blow to the book, but it’s not. Martell visited Watterson’s hometown, met people who knew him, including his mother, and interviewed many other cartoonists, most of whom hold Watterson’s work in high esteem. The result is a book that tells those of us who love Calvin and Hobbes a little more about how it came into being, explains why it stands out as something special, and, best of all, encourages us to revisit the strips themselves. In addition to Martell’s book, DCPL has more than a dozen collections of C&H strips; if you haven’t checked them out, you’re in for a treat. Don’t miss the ones in which Calvin shows his own unique uses for libraries and reference librarians!

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