Saturday, July 19, 2014

Coming to the End of Calvin and Hobbes: The Platypus Reads Part CCLXXI

I finished There's Treasure Everywhere last night and began It's a Magical World.  About half way through the first book I began to feel apprehensive.  As my reading progressed, it became harder and harder to turn the page.  The reason is simply that it's coming to an end.  I already know what the last comic will be and can picture it clearly in my mind.  After that, there's nothing more.  The dynamic duo sled off into the morning sunlight and are gone.

The art and imagination evident in the last three Calvin and Hobbes treasuries is astounding.  Here is where Watterson finally has enough creative control to go all-out with his vision of comic book excellence.  In truth, he probably had a few years of creative productivity still to go.  His decision to end Calvin and Hobbes at its peak is bittersweet.  On the one hand, what we have is pristine -the work of art as it was meant to be.  On the other hand, there is the Iliadic sense of a work cut off in its prime.  Calvin and Hobbes has no homely Odysseian denouement to give us a sense of closure -to make us feel that there are no more tales left to tell.  Perhaps that's fitting, since Watterson has always been more of an Achilles, raging at the Agamemnons of the Syndicate and sulking in his tent until he gets his way.  It's only natural that like Achilles he should leave the stage in his prime.  Perhaps it's also only natural for some to long for a more Odysseian turn for their favorite comic book heroes.  Witness the small cottage industry on the net of creating grown-up Calvin and Hobbes fan fic.  Then there are the successors, conscious or unconscious, such as Sandra and Woo.  Whatever these artists may produce, Watterson's part in his creation ended and two decades have added their dignified moss to his monument.

So what then?  The poet Goethe has Faust sell his soul to the devil on the condition that the devil provide him with some moment that can forever satisfy -the same pleasure over and over again -without diminishing- for all eternity.  In a way, then, asking for Calvin and Hobbes to go on and on is asking for something we can't have.  Eventually, the land would be explored -every nook and cranny.  We'd come to the shores of the last sea and find that the world was bent -that the strait way had been lost.  We can argue that Watterson should have pushed on to the bitter end -until all the territory that he opened had been settled- but an end still would have come.  When we realize that, we also begin to see the wisdom in Watterson's constant attacks on consumerism.  Watterson knows that humans aren't meant for continuous consumption and that the world lacks the material for it.  To consume is also -eventually- to destroy.  In order to preserve anything, whether it be the environment, a food source, or even the pleasure of a good book, at some point our consumption of it has to stop.  We must set aside that last bit of land as open space, we must get up from the table and say "that was a good meal".  In choosing to end his series at its height, Bill Watterson prevented us from consuming it.  Calvin and Hobbes maintains its power precisely because there can always be a further adventure.  It's still a magical world.

No comments: