Monday, June 02, 2014
Locating Calvin and Hobbes in Time and Space: The Platypus Reads Part CCLXI
There's something I noticed while working my way through the first two Calvin and Hobbes collections: the regular appearance of certain trees, streams, and logs in the background. There's the big tree that Calvin and Hobbes spend time sitting under. There's the big tree with a smaller fork that they pass on their way into the woods. Finally, there's the stream with the log bridge that Calvin and Hobbes spend so much time crossing with their arms spread wide for balance. The repetition of these items began to frustrate me this time through: too many repeated scenes. At first, I began to think that they might have metaphorical meaning -and that may be true- but then a simpler answer hit me: Watterson is drawing a real place. I knew that the comic is set in Ohio and often has Easter eggs from the town where Watterson grew up. The connection I'd failed to make is that Watterson isn't pulling random images to create backdrops for jokes, but (I think) has carefully selected images from his Ohio home and reworked them into a coherent and consistent area for his creations to inhabit. Calvin and Hobbes always pass certain trees and streams because that's what happens when you use the same path to walk through the woods. Why this didn't strike me earlier is a little baffling. Maybe since I grew up reading the comics I've taken the actual level of Watterson's artistry for granted. Maybe I still have some hang-ups about the level of craft I expect in a comic book. Whatever the case may be, I'm glad to see that the imagined world of Calvin and Hobbes continues to have depths left to fathom; here, now, and in Ohio...
*Picture taken by author of this post and shows Indian Wells State Park in Shelton CT. Growing up in places like this formed one of the author's chief points of connection with Watterson's comic.