Film of the Day (09/11/18): Dear Mr. Watterson

Directed By Joel Allen Schroeder

Calvin and Hobbes has been one of my favorite things on the planet since I first discovered it in the newspaper as a kid roughly thirty years ago. It was something I looked forward to every day (especially Sundays), and I am fascinated that it is still as beloved as itby such a wide and varying audience, more than twenty years since it was last drawn. This simple documentary may not be a groundbreaking work, but it is a love letter to the strip, as well as the comic medium itself. It doesn’t shed much new light onto its subject, or Bill Watterson himself, but it is nice to get the perspectives of many different cartoonists, between peers of his time like Berke Breathed (Bloom Couty, Opus) and those he clearly influenced such as Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman (Zits). It is interesting to get into the inevitable discussion of licensing and merchandising, where Jim Davis took Garfield from comic character to pop culture phenomenon, and try and get into the mind of the man who refused every shred of it every step of the way. Art should be personal, and while it can absolutely be commercial as well, it should never lose itself for the sake of mass consumption. The integrity of the artist is tantamount and shouldn’t be sacrificed at the altar of the almighty dollar…even if I would have KILLED to have a stuffed Hobbes as a kid. This is a fairly saccharine 90 minutes, but it accomplishes the celebratory nature that is its goal and made me smile relentlessly, much the same as these characters always have and still do to this day. Whether I am revisiting the books myself, or introducing my son to them (he is absolutely enamored and has read every strip ever made, and did so in short order), Calvin and Hobbes continues to leave its stamp on society, like footprints and tiger tracks in freshly-fallen snow, as full of wonder and possibility as ever. Let’s go exploring!

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