Saturday, November 24, 2007

Calvin and Hobbes - A Comic Strip Appreciation class

I know it bores people to pay much attention to something ‘trivial’ as comic strips. But why is Calvin and Hobbes so much better than the rest of the comic strips out there.

Let us take a look at the above Calvin and Hobbes Strip and the Garfield strip.

If you look at the Calvin and Hobbes strip, you notice that there is actually nothing funny in this. The Garfield strip on the other hand works on a particular step by step process.

All the regular comic strip follow a particular routine so to speak:

1) Setting (here it is Garfield’s owner calling him)

2) Buildup (the stress given to the calling becoming higher)

3) More buildup. (Same as above)

4) Final buildup. (Maximum stress given to the call)

5) Catchline. (Meow)

If you look at the Calvin and Hobbes strip, there are certain things that sets it apart; let me try highlighting it here:

1) Notice the size of the panels. It is never the same size throughout. Bill Watterson (author of Calvin and Hobbes) sets the frames of his strip according to the scene which he is trying to depict. Few frames in consideration here will be:

a. Last frame in the second row. Here Calvin is deeply observing Hobbes sleeping. The frame depicted here is like a camera focusing tightly on the scene. It shows how cuddly Hobbes is when he is sleeping, and also shows the bright face of Calvin who is happy to have a friend like Hobbes.

b. Second ‘frame’ last row. Actually there is no frame for this strip. Within the darkness around Calvin and Hobbes, there is the light that is their friendship. This is like a picture postcard kind of scene and Bill Watterson do not want to put a frame around it to take the life out of it.

2) Now the story:

a. Actually there is no story: Calvin is scared of dark, but hes happy hes got Hobbes around; so, tell us something new.

b. It is the way Bill Watterson puts it across to the reader. He just builds the story up (about Calvin’s fear) and puts the story slowly to rest (about his happiness with Hobbes) and what is like a Grandmother’s fairy tale kind of climax of ‘and they lived happily ever after’. All problems in the world has a solution; and its almost always a simple one.

c. If you have read enough of Calvin and Hobbes to have understood the personality of each character, you will feel a warmth when Calvin says ‘Good ol’ Hobbes. What a friend.’ And he says it when Hobbes is actually not doing anything; hes sleeping remember. This just shows how beautiful true friendship can be.

I hope I did not bore you with all the details, but it really shows why grownups (many of them) are such huge fans of Calvin and Hobbes.

Hail, Bill Watterson, because he did something beautiful for everyday of his life from November 18, 1985 to December 31, 1995.


Mystic Bard said...

Excellent points there Vnp. Completely agree with you about the genius of Bill Watterson.

i have always found him to be a philosopher-cartoonist.he goes beyond just giving us an entertaining strip. You can revisit the same cartoon again n again n find something new in it.

Jawahar Santhoshkumar said...

ya.. great observation and analysis... i like the way u anlayzed and the points that you put out thr...

VnP said...

@Mystic Bard:
Bill Watterson is a genius, and i find this problem with Indians a lot these days... they are too lazy to analyse anything thats outside of their work. Movies are supposed to be entertaining, comics are supposed to make people laugh... I am scared of seeing an invisible Toohey at work here...
Again thanks man... about the points analysis... IT does that to you...

Also I watched Taare Zameen Par, and one sequence is completely lifted off from Calvin and Hobbes. Strips (you can find it here )