Thursday, September 4, 2008

My Childhood

Ever since I began to read, I always loved to read comics. Not the Marvel or DC comics, but the comics in the newspaper. I used to love reading Peanuts, figuring what Snoopy was up to while Charlie Brown was gone. I liked to read others, but I found myself skimming through all the colorful panels looking for something to catch my eye until I read Calvin and Hobbes. I became an instant fan of Bill Watterson's work.

I always saw myself like Calvin, having such a crazy imagination and coming up with different ways to make any normal day seem like an adventure. Whenever I went to a Crown Book Store, I had my mom buy me one of the many volumes that were out for purchase. Every time I got a new book, I'd spend all night reading it and taking it with me when I went to school.

To say I was a huge fan is an understatement. I used to actually come up with a game of CalvinBall. If you are familiar with the comic strip, Calvin Ball was this made up game by Calvin and Hobbes where the rules were a twist of every sport imaginable with a sprinkle of zaniness. I had a bunch of younger kids as friends when I was in elementary school and they were always up for whatever I could come up with to play. Calvin Ball was a mixture of tag, basketball, freeze tag, pickle, and dodge ball. You got points for every safe zone you got to and we used a basketball court as our play area.

I also remember taking the graphic novels with me to class and asking the teacher if I could recite the poetry that Bill Watterson had added to some of his large books. I remember imagining myself as Spaceman Spiff, sitting in class as our teacher interrogated us for our homework or math problems.

One day I decided I'd be brave and try sending a letter to Bill Watterson. I asked him numerous questions as to if there would ever be a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, and if there would be if I could play Calvin's voice. I specifically remember asking him that question with high hopes he'd reply with an "Oh yes of course you can!" One day I came home from little league and there was a letter for me with Calvin being pounced through the letter by Hobbes. I was so excited I threw all my equipment into my room and dashed back to the kitchen to open it carefully with a knife.

Inside was a cute Calvin and Hobbes stationary stating along the lines that Bill was really busy and gets a ton of mail but he appreciates the letter. I felt a little upset, but also inside the envelope folded up nicely was an actual printed out comic with Calvin and Susie. I felt a little better and I have kept this letter with me even to this day.

Reading and re-reading the Sunday comics was the only thing I enjoyed on Sundays. If the comic made me laugh or grin stupidly, I would cut it out of the newspaper and tape them up on my wall. Eventually, I had almost an entire wall covered in Calvin and Hobbes cut up comic strips. It looked like a mess because of all the tape but I loved to re-read the comics each time I went by to my closet for something. I specifically remember this one being my favorite:

The one thing I really admired about Bill Watterson was his imagination and his incredible drawings. Especially his backgrounds. If you ever take the time to re-read some of his comics, you'll notice the incredible backgrounds especially in his Spaceman Spiff comics. He never really half-asses his work unless there was a punch line coming up

I loved the humor Bill Watterson gave in each of his strips, some of which were so beyond my time that I'll often re-read a panel and laugh hysterically over the subtle adult humor it had. That really reminded me a lot of the old Looney Tunes cartoons where some jokes you never got as a kid, but older you realize just how funny it was.

You can imagine how stunned and shocked I was when Bill Watterson announced he was ending Calvin and Hobbes series. I felt somehow betrayed and a little lonesome that I wouldn't be reading new adventures of Calvin and Hobbes. When the last comic came out that Sunday, I cut it out and saved it along with my letter and other cut outs from the Sunday comics. To this day I still read the large thick Calvin and Hobbes volumes that are stored under my bed. I still miss the feeling of waking up to a Sunday morning and finding my way to the kitchen table where the comics had already been placed aside for me.

Here's to Bill Watterson, the man who got me into cartoons and taught me to never give up my childhood imagination. Thanks Bill for everything.

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