05 November 2008

Human id & Superego

From Magic on Paper
Though the strip lasted just 10 years (1985-1995), Calvin & Hobbes remains the funniest, most poignant comic strip to hit newspapers in decades. Sadly, we may never see its like again. As Bill himself said, the newspapers demand smaller and smaller comics these days, to fit more on one page. It's gotten to the point where newspapers really can't have a strip as visually intensive as Calvin & Hobbes. Characters must be simplified to the point of absurdity, and dialogue must be kept to a minimum. The Sunday comics pages, once a gorgeous pasture for the art lover to graze in, have become a sullen wasteland where the strips are increasingly small, the layouts depressingly unimaginative. Bill managed to work out a very special deal with his syndicate (the people who market the strips to the newspapers), wherein he was able to ensure that Calvin & Hobbes would have a larger size than other strips on Sundays. Using that privilege, he spun tales and wove tapestries of wordplay that dazzled the reader with their inventiveness and color.

The characters themselves were memorable as well. Calvin, the walking embodiment of the human id, is basically a good kid who can't control his impulses. Standing at his side is Hobbes, his stuffed tiger, who embodies the superego, trying his best to keep Calvin in check with only occasional success. Calvin's put-upon mom and dad are as realistic a portrait of American parents as I've ever seen. By turns loving, angry, and exasperated, they remind us that it's possible to raise a kid like Calvin and still keep our sense of humor. They never resort to feel-good platitudes either, and what more can you really ask for from a comic strip?

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