Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » October 2005 » High atop the list of Holiday gifts I'll be giving myself.....

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10/25/2005: High atop the list of Holiday gifts I'll be giving myself.....

is The Complete Calvin and Hobbes.

In honor of the release of TCCaH, CNN gives us an update on the whereabouts and recent activities of Bill Watterson, creator of the devilish 6 year old and his preternaturally wise stuffed tiger.

Bill Watterson, 47, hasn't made a public appearance since he delivered the commencement speech in 1990 at his alma mater, Kenyon College. But he recently welcomed some written questions from fans to promote the October 4 release of the three-volume "The Complete Calvin and Hobbes," which contains every one of the 3,160 strips printed during its 10-year run.

Among his revelations:
  • He reads newspaper comics, but doesn't consider this their golden age.
  • He's never attended any church.
  • He's currently interested in art from the 1600s.
Never attended any church? I knew there was a reason I loved Watterson and his work so much.

There are two things you have to admire about Watterson. First, you have to admire anyone that can walk away from a tremendously successful media property at the height of its popularity, while he's still on top of his game. Second, and more important in my mind, is his incredible artistic integrity. During its heyday, you could make a damn good case that "Calvin and Hobbes" was simply The. Best. Newspaper. Comic. Strip. Ever. And it was certainly the most popular of its time (possible exception: "The Far Side"). And in a time when syndicated comic strips were considered cash cows, especially for lucrative marketing and licensing deals (see, e.g., "Garfield"), Watterson was known for his unwillingness to market or license "Calvin and Hobbes".

Especially admirable, when you realize that if Watterson had licensed the rights to just one "Calvin" spin off--a stuffed "Hobbes"--he would have probably received wealth far in excess of that of Bill Gates. And that's just his share; whoever he'd granted the licensing rights to would be richer than Croesus as well.

This steadfast unwillingness to cash in on the "Calvin and Hobbes" cash cow makes me especially saddened when I see unauthorized "Calvin" merchandise out there. Like t-shirts, or the ubiquitous "Calvin pissing on a" [insert symbol of object of derision here]. Like the "Calvin pissing on a Chevy logo" you'll see on some Ford trucks. Or "Calvin pissing on a Ford logo" that you see on Chevy trucks. (I'm sure you can think of others).

Worst of all, though, is a Calvin sticker I see way too much of here in the Bible Belt. That's the "Calvin kneeling reverently in prayer in front of a cross" sticker.

This one pisses me off for two reasons. First and foremost is, of course, that it's an infringement on Watterson's rights to his character, and the violation of Watterson's own integrity in not exploiting Calvin for commercial gain.

But even worse, the production of that sticker rubs me the wrong way because it evidences such a complete and utter lack of understanding of everything that Calvin stands for (to the extent that Calvin stands for anything, which is debatable). Anyone who's a true "Calvin and Hobbes" fan knows that Calvin has reverence for nothing, and the likelihood of his kneeling reverently before the cross anytime before his 45th birthday is about zero.

Now Calvin pissing on the cross would be much, much more in keeping with the character. And watching the Jebus lovers pop a few blood vessels in their brains wrapping their minds around that would be well worth the price of admission....

Len on 10.25.05 @ 08:04 AM CST

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