Thank You, Mr. Watterson

Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I absolutely love Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. I was raised on the comics, learned how to read with them, gained a broader imagination through them, and I still read them to this day. I want to use this post to explain just how much I love this strip and how it has impacted my life. However, I don’t know if the words I have are adequate or even enough to really show my apprieciation for Mr. Watterson. 

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All strips featured in this post are from The Indispensible Calvin and Hobbes (1992). [View Larger]

For quick reference, Calvin and Hobbes is a comic strip about a mischevious, intelligent 6 year old boy and his stuffed tiger. Written by Bill Watterson, the strip ran from 1985-1995 and ran in 2,400 newspapers worldwide.

When I was little (probably about 5-7 years old), my dad would pull out a book of Calvin and Hobbes and read me to sleep. Dad’s only mistake was thinking that it would put me to sleep. Calvin’s adventures and vast imagination filled my head with stories and my own possible adventures that kept me awake. Now, about 17 years later, I’ve begun making my own comic strips and incorporating many things I’ve learned from Mr. Watterson and Calvin.

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Spaceman Spiff is one of Calvins’s many alteregos. Thanks to Spaceman Spiff, I wanted to grow up to be an Astronaut-Princess who piloted her own spaceship and faught menacing aliens. [View Larger]

From his comics, I’m learning how to organize my comics in an asthetically pleasing, yet readable way, how to write the dialogue of comics, and how to turn everyday experiences into fantastical adventures.

I could say here how clever, creative, enduring, intelligent, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and hilarious Calvin and Hobbes is, but anyone who’s read the comics already understands. And if you haven’t read them, stop what you are doing and go read them. I suppose I don’t have much more to say, other than Thank You, Mr. Watterson.

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My take on Bill Watterson’s style. I created this comic in response to hearing a lot of Christmas talk before Thanksgiving. (It’s actually one of my biggest pet peeves.)

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Comics Spotlight: Blondie

On September 8, 1930, Chic Young’s now insanely popular comic strip, Blondie, appeared in newspapers across America. It began with a pretty flapper girl, Blondie Boopadoop, and a bumbling, awkward, billionaire’s son, Dagwood Bumstead. At the beginning, Dagwood was just one of Blondie’s many boyfriends, but eventually, the two fell in love. They tied the knot in 1933, in a highly anticipated and memorable comic strip. As a result of their marriage, Dagwood was almost immediately disinherited and written out of his father’s will and “Dagwood and Blondie had to go out into the world and hack it like the rest of us” (Dean Young).

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Before I drew a comic inspired by Blondie‘s style, I figured I’d practice by drawing the two main characters and the logo.

Today the strip is written and illustrated by Chic’s son, Dean as well as head artist, John Marshall. Dagwood and Blondie’s day-to-day escapades revolve around their work and home lives. The Bumsteads have two teenage children, Alexander and Cookie, and a dog, Daisy, all of whom make frequent appearances in the strip. The strip also features the Bumstead’s neighbors and coworkers.

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A Blondie strip from Oct. 25, 2015, which includes characters from other newspaper strips such as Dustin, Zits, and Baby Blues. 

In its early years, the strip’s success led to the creation of several “Blondie” movies spanning from 1938-1950, and a 26-episode TV series in 1957. Blondie was portrayed by Penny Singleton in the movies and Pamela Britton on TV while Dagwood was played by Arthur Lake in both.

I think the strip’s enduring popularity comes from its ability to represent and show the absurd and hilarious in the mundane. While this is the aim of most comics, Blondie does it particularly well as it comes off extremely relatable and makes me laugh almost every time. Another reason I find Blondie so funny is that I see a bit of my dad’s personality (and maybe a bit of my own) in Dagwood. I think the most incredible thing is that the strip has been in print for almost 90 years. I can’t think of any other comic that has endured so long. The creators must be doing something right!

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My comic inspired by the Blondie comics. I wanted to find a way to include Dagwood’s famous sandwiches and it just so happens that I really DO get excited about sandwiches.

The Funnies

It comes as no surprise that print newspapers are on a steady decline to obscurity. So what does this mean for the comic strips published in the papers? Will they die out too, or will they continue in the digital realm? It’s hard to say, but with webcomics and apps like Webtoons, comics like Blondie, Beetle Bailey, and Garfield might be able to continue on.

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Garfield by Jim Davis (October 6, 2017)

While the “golden age” of comics tends to focus on comic books, it was a golden age for all comics. Newspaper strips also featured recurring characters and entertaining storylines. These comics were more aimed at small cracks of humor rather than a drawn out story. By creating comics featuring the same characters each day or week (depending on the comic’s publishing schedule with their syndicate) helped keep consistency and a loose focus for the overall comic. It also helped readers connect to the strips and develop a dedicated fanbase. However, it was the ability to have the characters in different situations or center on different topics that appealed the casual scanner of comics as well as readers looking for a little variety.

Typically, most comics (both strips and books) have simple backgrounds so the focus is on the action. Comic strips often simplify the background quite a bit, where some have no background (just white behind the character) while others use a flat color, sometimes to indicate emotion. To indicate place or setting, many comic artists just use a line to represent the ground, counter, or wall, while others will include simple furniture—such as a chair or table—to aid in the storytelling.

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Blondie by Dean Young and John Marshall (October 2, 2017)

Another difference between the two comic forms is the overall art style. Newspaper comics are all about simplicity. Most newspaper cartoonists have a daily strip and can’t afford to spend a lot of time on it. On the other hand, comic book artists have longer deadlines and typically use a more detailed style. I think the simplicity of strips is appealing because they allow a reader to fill in the details and see themselves in the comic if they wish.

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Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson (this particular comic is from the collection The Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book)

My love of comics began with newspapers. As a little kid, I looked forward to the weekends when I’d get good breakfast and could sit on my dad’s lap while we read the comics. He introduced me to the comics I still love to read today—Blondie, Garfield, Peanuts, Zits—and my all-time-favorite, Calvin and Hobbes. Bill Watterson’s comic about an imaginative, troublemaking 6-year-old and his stuffed tiger remains my favorite because it presents mature themes through a child’s eyes.   

A quick note about my comics for today: I really focused on emulating the simple backgrounds. I often feel the need to fill the background space with something but I never know what to do. I think I’ve learned that comics don’t always need a background, and the simple addition of color can just as effective as a setting.

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A witchy comic I did for Inktober day 3. Here I use the flat color background I was trying to emulate.

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Nessie Vs the Tourists- Inktober day 4