My love of Bill Watterson and Calvin and Hobbes is no secret. I’ve got a bunch of book collections of the beloved comic strip sitting on my shelf, but this book is a little different.
A journey by writer Nevin Martell to both document the history of the comic strip, and also try and find Watterson himself (a notorious recluse even when he was actively cartooning), “Looking for Calvin and Hobbes” is an interesting book. Martell’s journey to contact Watterson does end up fruitless, something that’s happened almost every time someone tries, though he certainly doesn’t regret it.
The book documents what public record can tell us about Bill Watterson’s early life, his first works in cartooning, and his uphill fight to eventually get Calvin and Hobbes picked up for distribution by a syndicate. He also talks to some of his contemporaries and subsequent cartoonists that have since appeared in papers post-Calvin and Hobbes, inspired by the boy and his tiger.
The unique charm of Martell’s book, I think, is that in the end he’s not necessarily that worried about ever realling “finding” Watterson versus just trying to understand him. And you sort of do feel like you also understand Watterson’s past and influences and how they helped make him such an amazing cartoonist whose work has touched so many people, myself included.