Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes was an extremely popular newspaper strip during its ten-year run, and the collections were published in two different forms. First, there were individual yearly collections, each covering one year of strips. These were square books for the first seven years and then landscape after that. Then there were also the ‘treasury series’ of tall, album-sized books which combined the strips from two years of Calvin and Hobbes in a single volume. The treasury books present the strips at a much smaller size than in the yearly collections, but each treasury book contains more strips, so the choice is yours as to which way you prefer to read them. However if you are a completist who wants everything Bill Watterson has made, then you will probably have to buy this volume as well as the first two yearly collections, because each contains something not present in the other books. The two yearly collections have additional drawings not reprinted in the treasury, and the treasury has new features of its own.

The Essential Calvin and Hobbes is the first book from the ‘treasury’ collection, containing every strip from the self-titled Calvin and Hobbes and the second volume Something Under The Bed Is Drooling. The most important difference between this collection and the individual volumes is that the Sunday pages are here reprinted in colour. If you have only read these Sundays in their grey versions, you won’t have experienced them in their full glory as Watterson’s colouring is beautiful, and more than just decorative. It adds a great deal to the stories and situations of his strips. Sometimes the colour is what the strips are about.

This volume is introduced by Bill Watterson with a new poem, illustrated with a water-colour drawing.