Bill Watterson - The Complete Calvin And Hobbes

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There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want - Calvin

Oct 9, 2005 (Updated Oct 9, 2005)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Its the COMPLETE Calvin and Hobbes

Cons:Expensive, few "extras"

The Bottom Line: A nice tribute to Bill Watterson and his strip, Calvin and Hobbes, though I wish it had also included a few details on how the strip impacted readers and society.


Bill Watterson’s The Complete Calvin and Hobbes is a three volume 1440 page Hardcover Collector's Edition containing all of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon’s published during its 10 year syndication run from 1985 to 1995. It follows in the successful tradition of The Complete Far Side collector's edition, which was released a couple years ago, and looks very similar to that set. Anyone who read newspaper comic strips during this time remembers the world of Calvin and Hobbes, life from the eyes of an intelligent, caring, but very self centered 6 year old. This world always revolved around Calvin’s friendship with Hobbes (a stuffed tiger), but featured grotesque snowmen, Calvin's alter-ego's like Spaceman Spiff and T-Rex, his teacher (Mrs. Wormwood), his Dad (always falling further behind in Calvin’s “polls” for the next “father” runoff) and a few other interesting characters and situations (like playing games of Calvinball).

The supporting characters in Calvin’s world were never more than supporting characters, but they were consistently interesting, and contributed to the strips popularity, running in 2400 newspapers at its peak. For example, Calvin’s father always seemed destined to fall further and further behind in the fatherhood polls. In one strip, he described the “facts of life” to Calvin like this:

Calvin: Dad, How do people make babies
The Father: Most people just go to Sears and buy the kit, and follow the assemply instructions.
Calvin: I CAME FROM SEARS???
The Father: No, YOU were a Blue Light Special at K-Mart, almost as good, and a lot cheaper.
Calvin: AAUUGHHH!


As usually happens at this point, Calvin’s Mom steps in to straighten things out. Calvin’s Mom, his "friend" Susie Derkins, and the babysitter Rosalyn were equally memorable parts of Calvin’s and Hobbes’ world, but they were the few parts that they couldn’t always control, though the surprisingly intelligent 6 year old Calvin never gave up trying…..

Calvin: Hey Mom, Can we go out for Pizza tonight?
The Mom: No, we had Pizza last night, and besides, its too expensive to eat out all the time.
Calvin: Oh, You’d rather blow the evening cooking and washing dishes than spend a few bucks?


Later that evening, sitting at a restaurant…..
Calvin’s Father: It seems like we go out for pizza a lot these days….
Calvin’s Mom: If you’d rather fix a dish of cereal at home, be my guest.


Though the strip was almost always written from Calvin’s viewpoint, Watterson often found ways for Calvin to unknowingly comment on problems in our adult world. In one strip, published in 1993, about 1 year before the season ending baseball strike in 1994, Calvin asks his father, after missing a baseball with a bat several times, and losing interest in the game, Can you make a living playing silly games? Calvin’s father replies: Actually, you can be among the most overpaid people on the planet. The next scene shows Calvin sighing unhappily, but trying to hit the ball again.

The publisher, Andrews McMeel Publishing , has printed 350,000 copies of The Complete Calvin and Hobbes in its first print run, and is predicting it will be the heaviest (22 lbs!) and most expensive book to make the New York Times bestseller lists. (This honor is currently held by The Complete Far Side.) The set, released on Oct 4, 2005, lists for $150, and is currently (just after its release) available from Amazon and other stores for about $95 or a bit less. Even with 350,000 copies printed, I’d not be surprised if it sells out for Christmas. I ordered my copy from Amazon back in August, when it came up as a “gold box” special for $85, and received my copy just after the release date.

What's in the Box and in the books?

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes is split into three hardback volumes, in a boxed set. Each volume contains almost 500 pages, and contains about 3 1/2 years worth of strips, presented in chronological order. Each volume weighs about 7 lbs, a bit heavy for bed time reading. The strips are present 3 to a page, and the pages are large 10.5” x 12”. Every third page features a single Sunday strip, which are presented full size and in full color. Watterson really labored over his Sunday strips, larger than other strips, oddly arranged, very effective, but likely annoying to the printers who had to fit them in. Each page in the books shows the dates the strips first appeared.

The pages are thick, semi-glossy, and the printing appears to be high quality. I expect the books to last for decades, but they’re not so fancy or expensive that you wouldn’t want to read them. The books are made to be read and enjoyed, not to be “collected” or stored away. Expect for the weight of the books, they are very easy to read, either for an extended period, or just for a few minutes.

Bill Watterson introduces the books himself with a 13 page autobiographical summary of his writing career. It explains the origin of Calvin and Hobbes, his other attempts at creating comic strip characters, his aversion to licensing Calvin and Hobbes, and why he ended the strip. The piece is interesting, you learn that Watterson majored in political science because he wanted to be a political cartoonist. That didn’t work out, but he does say that …I read some Plato, Machiavilli, Hobbes, and Locke. I found this provided very little insight into the gas crisis, but one of those authors gave me the name for a comic character several years later…… (Calvin and Hobbs trivia listed at the website linked at the end of this review states that Calvin is named for a sixteenth-centurn theologian who believed in predestination, while Hobbes is named after a seventeenth-century philosphoer with a dim view of human nature.). Still, I’d have loved to have seen a lot more about how the strip developed and how it affected readers. Unlike The Complete Far Side, which was interspersed with reader letters and other related info about that strip, there are few other additional features to provide additional insight into the strip or its creator. The publisher's web site, linked below, does provide a few more of those additional insights that I wish were in the book.

At a street price of $95, before tax and shipping, this is a more expensive book than most of us would want to buy. But if you appreciate Calvin and Hobbes commentary on life, The Complete Calvin and Hobbes is still a good value. I think it would make a much appreciated gift for anyone who read the strip during its first run. The set is well packaged, and is an effective tribute to the strip and Watterson, and reading the strips again will provide anyone days of enjoyment.

Andrews McMeel Publishing Press Release and other info can be found at the publisher's website for this this collection:
http://www.andrewsmcmeel.com/calvinandhobbes/pr_calvin.html

Here you'll find (arguably) interesting insights like:
Weighing 23 pounds per complete set (or 250 metric tons for the entire first print run), The Complete Calvin and Hobbes is composed of more than 34,957 reams of paper and 12 metric tons of ink (for the first printing alone!). More than 125 twenty-foot shipping containers were used to transport the paper from the mill to the printer.

and Watterson's comments on Calvin's babysitter:

Rosalyn - Probably the only person Calvin fears is his baby-sitter. I put her in a Sunday strip early on, never thinking of her as a regular character, but her intimidation of Calvin surprised me, so she's made a few appearances since. Rosalyn even seems to daunt Calvin's parents, using their desperation to get out of the house to demand advances and raises.



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