Of the handful of cultural phenomena from my childhood, few have had as much resonance — or are remembered with as much affection — as Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, which I still believe to be the greatest comic strip in history. The simple tales of a boy and his stuffed tiger that came to life and provided him with friendship and love and endless adventure were absolutely perfect representations of all the wonders of childhood. I loved Calvin and Hobbes, and was devastated when Watterson effectively retired, mostly due to a frustration and anger at the industry.
Watterson has been a notable recluse, refusing to do interviews, refusing to allow his characters to be licensed, absolutely refusing to allow any sort of commercialization of Calvin and Hobbes. And while their absence is a hole in my heart, my respect for that kind of dedication and artistic integrity is huge. But I miss the strip. It touched on so many themes, of love and curiosity and fear and sadness and coming-of-age and innocence. Just look back on the series of strips when the family’s house was robbed, and you’ll see how amazing Watterson’s ability to connect with his audience was. The entire series — Calvin forgetting Hobbes during a family trip, their horror at coming home to a broken-into house, and his absolute devastation at the thought that something might have happened to his best friend (not to mention the glorious and hilarious and sweet reunion) — was just so deftly written and illustrated that it almost, just like Hobbes himself, felt real.
The documentary is likely to be a mixed bag. It comes to us via a Kickstarter campaign, directed by Joel Allen Schroeder. It does not feature Watterson in any capacity, which is as disappointing as it is predictable. However, it features dozens of likely fascinating interviews with everyone from Berke Breathed to Bill Amend to Seth Green, as well as Lee Salim, who was his editor for the entire run of Calvin and Hobbes. It should prove bittersweet and riveting, and I cannot wait. Here’s the trailer:
I have a one year-old now, and I’m looking forward to the day when I can share the world of Calvin and Hobbes with him. And I look forward to Dear Mr. Watterson to hopefully let me re-live them a little, as well as teach us a bit more about the man behind them.
Dear Mr. Watterson will be released in theaters on November 15th, 2013.