||[Mar. 7th, 2010|04:09 pm]
100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)
#39 CALVIN AND HOBBES – Bill Watterson
“Every Saturday I get up at six and eat three bowls of Crunchy Sugar Bombs. Then I watch cartoons till noon and I’m incoherent and hyperactive the rest of the day.”
Where other comic-strip brats like Dennis The Menace or the kids in The Family Circus are vile little shits whose only redeeming moments come when they recite their homespun homilies, Calvin is a believable childhood terror who feels guilt for breaking his dad’s telescope or drowning a bucket of worms, and when he philosophises it’s about something meaningful: death. His brushes with mortality while hurtling downhill on rickety wagons and sleds turn the six-year-old into a font of wisdom.
Most of that wisdom comes out of his mouthpiece, Hobbes. Unlike your typical only child’s imaginary friend, Hobbes is constantly contrary, saying everything Calvin thinks but can’t put into words. Hobbes gives voice to his subconscious – Calvin throws snowballs at Susie, but Hobbes admits he wants to smooch her. Susie has her own animal friend in Mr. Bun the bunny as well as fantasies where she’s a high-powered executive wife. Calvin’s father fantasises about being a manly provider, spending his days fishing and providing for his family. Calvin’s mother fantasises about not being Calvin’s mother. Everybody has their own imagined other life, but Calvin’s overflows.
When Hobbes isn’t around for Calvin to project onto, the boy’s alter egos come out. There’s Stupendous Man the superhero, Tracer Bullet the private eye, Godzilla, a menagerie of wild animals and, most of all, Spaceman Spiff the intrepid explorer. Spiff is always being marooned on a hostile and barren world by malfunctioning equipment given unlikely names like the bizarrotron and the atomic napalm neutralizer. The barren world he’s trapped on is usually his school, where dreaming up atomic napalm neutralizers has no place. Calvin And Hobbes is a celebration of this overactive imagination, of the unchallenged brain working at a speed of megazorks a second with too much freem-drive in the thruster blasters and too much sugar in the cereal.