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Eric: If we built a time machine and went back in time, would the time machine turn black and white or would we reenact Pleasantville?

(From Calvin and Hobbes. Click on the thumbnail for full sized explanations.)

There are many things Bill Watterson gets credit for, when people talk about Calvin and Hobbes. The sense of imagination. The sense of freedom. The Funny -- oh yeah, Watterson brings the Funny.

But there's one thing that leaps out at me that I really wish more strips would do. It's the deeper lesson than Watterson's (or Breathed's) surreal humor. It's what makes the whole strip hold together. And that's Watterson's willingness to let Calvin be a little kid.

Yeah, he sometimes uses words a kid his age probably wouldn't, but for the most part Calvin has a child's understanding of the world. He believes what he's told, if it fits his childlike world view. And that's very, very cool.

Alice is the strip that's come the closest to echoing this, in my opinion. (Though Alice has sadly dropped onto my "You had me and you lost me" list -- though I haven't looked in on it for a while so maybe I can be pulled back in.)

Also, Watterson was unafraid to make Calvin's father a complete bastard. Seriously. We see redeeming qualities in Calvin's mom from time to time, but Calvin's dad clearly takes what amusement he can from the kid and couldn't care less the rest of the time.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at September 21, 2004 12:29 PM

Comments

Comment from: Ben G. posted at September 21, 2004 1:22 PM

Just thought I'd share a couple quotes from Mr. Watterson that seemed apropos:



"Calvin's vocabulary puzzles some readers, but Calvin has never been a literal six-year-old. Cumbersome words are funny to me, and I like Calvin's ability to precisely articulate stupid ideas."



"Early on, Calvin's parents were criticized by readers for being unloving and needlessly sarcastic. (Calvin's dad has remarked that what he really wanted was a dog.) At the time, I think it was unusual for a comic strip to concentrate on the exasperating aspects of kids without a lot of hugs and sentimentality to leaven it. We usually only see Calvin's parents when they're reacting to Calvin, so as secondary characters, I've tried to keep them realistic, with a reasonable sense of humor about having a kid like Calvin. I think they do a better job than I would."

Comment from: Ben G. posted at September 21, 2004 1:23 PM

Man, it didn't look like there was so much white space when I previewed the post. Sorry!

Comment from: Chris Anthony posted at September 21, 2004 1:53 PM

Ben, did you use <br> tags? The software adds a <br> after every new line, so you don't need to type them manually - but it doesn't tell you that in Preview mode (which is somewhat lacking in, y'know, showing you what the post is going to look like).

Comment from: Ben G. posted at September 21, 2004 1:57 PM

That, dear sir, is exactly what happened. Now I know better!

Comment from: Johnny Assay posted at September 21, 2004 3:49 PM

That's funny, I never quite got the feeling that Calvin's dad was a complete bastard. Not terribly involved with his son a lot of the time, perhaps, but not uncaring. I always saw Calvin's dad's BS sessions as his sly but essentially harmless way of getting back at Calvin for being such a hellion.

Besides, what good are little kids if you can't feed them misinformation?

Comment from: tynic posted at September 21, 2004 10:42 PM

*agrees with Johnny* Actually, my father behaved towards his children precisely as Calvin's dad does, and that doesn't mean he's uncaring.

(He now says he was teaching us not to be gullible, but it was really purely for his own amusement).

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