The (Modern) Golden Age Of Comics

I enjoyed Richard’s post on Bill Watterson, and it reminded me of how much I miss the comics pages from the late ’80s and early ’90s.  At that time, there were three comic strips that were must reading:  Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, and Dilbert.  All were radical departures from the popular comic strips of the ’60s and ’70s, strips like Blondie and Peanuts. Unlike the standard strips, Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, and Dilbert often involved bizarre situations, distorted realities, and plots that assumed that the reader was reasonably intelligent and well educated.  Perhaps for that same reason, unlike the standard strips, Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, and Dilbert were consistently hilarious.

These three strips hold up remarkably well.  At home we’ve got “treasury” collections of each, and they remain a pleasure to read even today, decades after the strips were first published.  And they also pass the true comic strip acid test:  stroll among the cubicles in any office building, and you are sure to see Calvin & Hobbes, Dilbert, and The Far Side strips tacked onto cubicle walls or slid under glass desk tops, there to forever brighten the days of white-collar workers.

Bill Watterson Speaks

Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin & Hobbes, recently gave his first interview in over twenty years. He didn’t say much, unfortunately, but he did talk about his reasons for ending the strip:

“By the end of 10 years, I’d said pretty much everything I had come there to say,” Watterson says. “If I had rolled along… for another five, 10 or 20 years, the people now “grieving” for “Calvin and Hobbes” would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher, livelier talent.”

When asked if he will buy Calvin & Hobbes stamps when they are released, Mr. Watterson answers, “Immediately. I’m going to get in my horse and buggy and snail-mail a check for my newspaper subscription.” I detect Calvin’s father’s sentiments in that answer. His hatred of television, cars, and other aspects of modern busy life was one of the themes of the strip.

It’s interesting that Watterson gave this interview so soon after the death of another reclusive genius, J.D. Salinger. I wonder if Salinger’s death helped change his mind about his silence.