Our book today is Bill Watterson’s 1989 compilation, The Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book, but really it could be any collection of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips that ran for far too short a time – one brief decade of inspired artwork, pure whimsy, and a deep, cleansing breath from the grinding insanity of the real world. The adventures of Watterson’s psychotic little 6-year-old and his sagacious stuffed tiger had the wry humor of Bloom County, the social commentary of Doonesbury, and the zaniness of The Far Side, but it was also brimming with something none of those strips could manage: innocence. You could briefly breathe in that innocence, just by reading one of Watterson’s full-color Sunday spreads.
John Mortimer’s immortal Old Bailey barrister Rumpole once opined that long after empires had fallen to ooze, England would be known for three things: The British breakfast, the Oxford Book of English Verse, and the presumption of innocence. We might likewise say of the American newspaper strip medium that if for nothing else, it will one day be known for three things: Pogo, Lil’ Abner, and Calvin and Hobbes.
I’m assuming all of you have already long since made the acquaintance of this little miracle of a comic strip – whose life is so barren that it contains no Calvin and Hobbes? But if by chance there’s somebody out there who’s missed these books, run to your nearest library and absorb them all. It’s a sad probability that there’ll be no more, but the ones we have will make you smile.