Monday, September 18, 2006

Classic Peanuts should have a companion

Every Sunday I read classic Peanuts and continue to admire how relevant and timeless the strip is. But it got me to thinking about other comic strips that could be just as good today as during their heyday.

There is only one other comic that I can think of that could still work day in and day out as a "classic" offering like the fine work of Mr. Schultz. Sure, the syndicates could probably get away with throwing old Garfields, Wizard of IDs and Beetle Baileys out there without many people suspecting, but that is because for the most part, they are bland and don't really speak to reader on any significant level. There is no spiritual or philosophical depth to those strips.

Now, I have a feeling that most of you are catching onto where I am heading with this, and have a good idea of which particular strip I am talking about. If you don't, I will spell it out: Calvin and Hobbes. Even though I have almost all the books for this strip, I still miss seeing it week in and week out, and it sort of saddens me that a whole generation of kids may be missing out on this wonderfully well-thought out strip.

I know that Bill Watterson grew tired of having to meet the deadlines and fight for the integrity of his work, and while I was saddened at the time that he decided to move on, in adulthood, I now understand his decision, and respect it. He knew that there was going to be a point where the comic was going to slide into a safe, comfortable mediocrity, or he was going to be pressured to make compromises he thought would ruin the strip. In retirement, he can now pursue his artistic whims with total freedom and probably just as importantly, with some privacy as well, and I can't begrudge him that.

After he retired, I also learned that he fought battles to have his strip run the way he wanted so that he would have the artistic freedom to try new things and experiment visually with his elements, and some of my favorite comics from the series are the result of this fight.

Watterson showed great admiration for Peanuts, and demonstrates his modesty when he wrote: "May there someday be a writer-artist-philosopher-humorist who can fill even a part of the void "Peanuts" leaves behind." Because at least in my eyes, Calvin and Hobbes was my generation's Peanuts, and even after over a decade away, I wish there was more. Or at least a reminder every day from an old, warm-hearted friend.

It was a magical world indeed.


Mr. Fabulous said...

I agree with everything you said. Peanuts was amazing, and I plan on buying those yearly collections every time they come out.

I also desperately miss Calvin and Hobbes and have all the books.

I miss the Far Side as well. I have those two big hardcover issues that house the whole collection.

Now, it's just me and Dilbert.

MC said...

Well, the end of 1995 was a dark time, as we lost Berkeley Breathed for a while there too...

Granted, his work is a little more... topical than Schultz/Watterson's so his older stuff probably wouldn't fly to well.

Jess said...

I've never been a huge Peanuts fan, but I miss Calvin and Hobbes so much. As far as I'm concerned, it's just the perfect comic strip.

I went through a period where I was really into The Far Side, but it doesn't seem as unique as it once did as absurdist humor has become more and more common.

DutchBitch said...

Oh! I think both Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes are great!

Your cartoons come close as well of course ;-)

The Foo said...

I love Calvin and Hobbes! use to read them all the time when i was growing up (was as mischievous as him too) - i didn't realise Watterson didn't do comics anymore. I thought he was into doing books instead as I see tonnes of them at the bookstore.

Oh yes, Dilbert is one that will stay for a long long time like a Peanuts comic strip.

MC said...

jess: There are still Peanuts strips that I remember virtually verbatim from 20 years ago so I think that may also have something to do with my opinion on the matter.

I think the comics of the internet really pushed surreal out there, so that could also have something to do with the Far Side not seeming to be what it once was.

Dutchy: I don't think I am in the same league as those guys. I'm not even in the same sport.

Foo: Well, work situations are pretty universal, so it is a highly relatable comic as well.

In thinking about topic, I had forgotten about the gentle Blondie as well.

Jeremy Barker said...

I too mis my daily hit of Spaceman Spiff and the transmogrifier. I have keppt all my collections and hope to introduce them to a young one of my own sometime in the future.

I also miss Opus and Bill the Cat, but I agree that it would be hard to rerun them now as they were so of its time. My yearbook said my likely destination post high school would be Bloom County.

Nobody is really hitting those heights these days. Dilbert has its moments, but is too focused on the cubicle. I like Sherman's Lagoon and Get Fuzzy, but they don't have the depth of Calvin and Hobbes. I suppose that is a testament to the brilliance of Bill Waterson.

MC said...

Maybe he will someday return to us with a new comic... maybe.

Southern said...

I'm with you, man. I miss Calvin a lot. And like Mr. Fabulous said, I also miss Far Side. Sure, we have Opus back, but it's just not the same as the old "Bloom County." And there are a few minor players that are okay, like "Fox Trot" and "Non Sequitir."