Friday, May 24, 2013

Book Review: The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: "The Score is Still Q to 12!"
Cons: "Bats Aren't Bugs!"
The Bottom Line:
Classic comic strip
Lots of imagination
And even more laughs

"What Could Possibly Go Wrong?"  "Whenever You Ask That, My Tail Gets All Bushy."

The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes is the third treasury of this classic comic strip.  It contains all the strips from the original, smaller books The Revenge of the Baby-Sat and Scientific Progress Goes "Boink."  It has all the Sunday cartoons in their original color and includes some poems at the beginning that are also new to this book.

And if you are new to Calvin and Hobbes, you are in for a treat.  Calvin is a hyper-active, overly imaginative six-year-old.  Looking for proof?  His best friend is Hobbes.  Now to everyone else in the world, Hobbes is a stuffed tiger.  But to Calvin, he's a real tiger that walks upright and talks.  Somehow, Hobbes does seem to be the smarter one of the duo.  Other characters populating the strip are Calvin's parents, next door neighbor Susie, school bully Moe, Rosaline the babysitter, and his teacher Miss Wormwood.

The strips in this book represent a year and a half of time (although the characters never age).  Some of the strips are one offs with a punch line at the end of the panels.  Others tell a story with a joke each day leading up to a climax of some sort.

This book seems to be pretty big on Calvin's imagination.  For example, we get lots of stories involving Spaceman Spiff, Calvin's astronaut alter ego and his fight with the aliens who want to make him do his homework of go to bed (ie., Miss Wormwood or his parents).  This book also contains a classic series where Calvin must write a report on bats for school, and he tries to make it up as he goes along.  We get plenty of appearances by Calvin's superhero identity Stupendous Man (Calvin in a cap and mask) as he tries to defeat Rosaline or get out of homework.  Speaking of homework, there's a long sequence when poor Calvin gets in trouble for not doing his homework after his personal gravity reverses so he falls up.  Once that is resolved, Calvin finds himself growing to the size of a galaxy.  And Calvin invents a duplicator that makes enough copies of himself so he only has to go to school one day a week.

This book also features two first that would later become common themes in the strip.  This is the first time we see a meeting of G.R.O.S.S. (Get Rid Of Slimy girlS).  Before the tree house became their meeting place, they tried to meet in the garage with disastrous results.  Finally, we get the first few strips involving Calvinball, the only sport where you can't play it the same way twice.

As you might have guessed by now, I love this strip.  It doesn't matter how many times I've read it, I also laugh at some of them.  Calvin can get pretty philosophical at times, especially while careening down a hill on a sled or wagon, and the results of those are usually pretty funny as well.  Yes, there is general humor, but there are also jokes that take stabs at our culture with dead on results.

The strips collected here are some the late 80's and early 90's, so some of the references are a bit dated.  Calvin talks about renting a VCR for example, instead of having a DVD player to watch movies.  Outside of that, most of the jokes are something that will appeal to all ages.  True, Calvin is not a good role model, but his antics are so wacky that I think most kids would recognize that fact.

Even after 20 years and countless reads, I still find something to laugh at every time I read The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes.  If you haven't read anything from classic comic strip, do yourself a favor and pick up a book today.  You'll be laughing before you know it.

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