Review by Woodrow Phoenix
Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes is one of the most popular comic strips ever published. The first dailies of six-year old Calvin and his best friend, a tiger called Hobbes, were syndicated in 1985. By the time Watterson retired the strip on January 1, 1996 it was appearing in more than 2,400 newspapers. It continues to be republished worldwide.
The Complete Calvin and Hobbes is three large hardcover volumes in a slipcase, compiling every Calvin and Hobbes strip that ever appeared in syndication, plus cover art and all the other illustrated material created for the book collections. Book One features the comics produced from 1985-1988. Book Two spans 1988-1992. Book Three spans 1992-1995.
Book One is introduced with a fourteen page retrospective by Bill Watterson, who writes about his early years, becoming a cartoonist, his attempts to break into newspapers, and the invention and evolution of Calvin and Hobbes. He also writes a little more about what happened when he refused to license his strip for merchandising, a decision that complicated his life enormously for years (for some detail on this, see his introductory essay in The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book). This fascinating commentary contains much information about the famously private man never aired before, so it’s valuable and noteworthy stuff. He includes photos of early work and a previous version of Calvin and Hobbes. The rest of the book and the two other volumes are laid out identically. The strips are spaced on the pages with the dates of original publication for each one underneath. The additional art, poems and strips are interspersed in date order.
This collection presents the work in luxurious fashion, and if you haven’t got all the books already it’s simpler and maybe even cheaper to pick up this hefty slipcased block of paper. However, there is one thing completists should be aware of. Although this is called The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, it isn’t quite. The original yearly collections reprinted dailies and Sundays together in sequence, which meant an occasional empty space on some spreads. Watterson drew lots of little vignettes to fill those spaces. He also drew big images for the beginning and end pages of these collections. Those drawings are not reproduced here. The new layout doesn’t need them, but there’s no reason why they couldn’t have been included elsewhere in these volumes. This curious omission won’t bother most people but it is an annoying detail for any collector who expects to have everything in one big package.
The Complete Calvin and Hobbes is a well-produced collection that will delight fans, and a worthy showcase for the brilliant work of Bill Watterson.