In case you missed it, the Washington Post did a fun review of the new three-volume art book on the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. For a parent who raised two daughters during the strip’s 10-year run from 1985 to 1995, it’s refreshing to learn that creator Bill Watterson rejected all attempts at further commercializing the adventures and musings of the young boy and his stuffed tiger.
It seems that every children’s flick and television series of the Calvin and Hobbes era – remember those greedy orange cats, troubled baby dinosaurs looking for their mothers, and rebellious mermaids? — was released with the primary motive of selling everything from beach towels to underpants. Many children’s films were – and are — simply 90-minute commercials intended to convince children they needed to own junk emblazoned with registered trademarked likenesses.
Watterson quit while he was ahead and his strip is still vibrant, witty and charming. He had no interest in turning Calvin and Hobbes into a Spielberg film, television series, calendars or anything else. Those atrocious stickers you see on vehicles with a young boy resembling Calvin urinating on Chevy bow-ties and Ford blue ovals? Rip-offs.
Instead, Watterson held firm to the integrity of his strip, which featured characters named after John Calvin, Thomas Hobbes, and a teacher named Wormwood — Satan’s nephew in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. The strip was imaginative, frequently hilarious and often discussed philosophical concepts without coming down definitively on any side.
The beauty of the free-market system is that it grants us freedom to earn as much as possible, but also grants us the freedom to say “enough.” We can know how much money is enough for our individual needs – and that art and literature might suffer terribly at the hands of merchandisers who would dilute its value for a quick buck.