In honour of it inspiring the name of this blog, the first “stories” post will be about Bill Watterson’s Calvin And Hobbes, a daily comic strip that appeared in various newspapers at different times (Wikipedia tells me it was 2,400 at its zenith).
I never read it as a strip, only ever out of books that were collections of the work. As a younger child, I loved them for Calvin’s uncontrolled imagination, Hobbes’ “split personality” of teddy vs full size tiger, and the dry humour presented both directly and indirectly by Calvin’s mother. As I got older, I started to pick up on the episodes that were metaphors for ideas, or problems, and I appreciated a whole new level of the work: the melancholy within the funny strips, and the (often surrealist) humour that I found in the more straight-laced ones.
The comic concluded with an absolute treat of a final strip in 1995, and though there are hundreds (probably upwards of a thousand – it did run for 10 years!) of episodes I’ve never read, I find myself still occasionally using the ones I know as references in my day-to-day life, particularly the ones that commented on universal themes via specific instances.
Personally, I find calling people out on hypocrisy, prejudice, etc., is much easier when done indirectly – “this reminds me of blah thing that happened”, “have you seen/read this thing, there was a situation like this in that…” and I have (once or twice) found myself indirectly comparing people to Calvin instead of snapping “why didn’t you grow out of this when you were eight?!” at them, which is discouraged in social situations generally, and workplace ones especially…!
I think what endures in Watterson’s storytelling is the irreverence. I can’t think of a single character who gets away unscathed from the “stupid stick” – everyone gets egg on their face occasionally, not least the titular characters. Despite having dinosaurs, spaceships and Shakespeare-quoting spinach, it’s some of the most believable narrative because of this lack of heroes, gurus, villains.
We all try. We often fail. We make imaginary tiger friends to help us through it all.