Calvin & Hobbes: The end of an era

by Erik Tanouye | 11/17/95 6:00am

Students reacted with shock and disappointment to news that cartoonist Bill Watterson will end the popular comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes" on Dec. 31.

Watterson announced last week he would discontinue the strip, which first appeared on comic pages in 1986, at the end of the calendar year, because he said he has exhausted all the possibilities of the format.

"I believe I've done what I can do within the constraints of daily deadlines and small panels," Watterson wrote in a letter to newspaper editors last week. "I am eager to work at a more thoughtful pace, with fewer artistic compromises."

But students at Dartmouth said they think the comic continues to rate as one of the best on the funny pages.

Will Scarbrough '98, who reads the strip in Comic Relief magazine, said he was "devastated" by the news. Watterson "regularly came up with cartoons that surpassed all the others," he said.

Chris Miller '97, who draws the "Sleazy the Wonder Squirrel Show" cartoon for The Dartmouth, said he thinks "it is a real shame to put it to rest. I'd say it's the best comic strip published in America."

Watterson's strip is distributed daily to nearly 2,400 newspapers across the world.

Miller said in his strip he tries to emulate the dynamic between Calvin, who Miller termed "the destructive one," and Hobbes, "the voice of reason."

"Dartmouth will be hard-pressed to find a comic strip that lives up to the standards" of "Calvin and Hobbes," Miller said. "It's bar none the best comic strip."

Most students agreed that their lives will not quite be the same without the daily presence of the six-year-old wild child and his imaginary pet tiger.

"It's really too bad," Mark Seery '98 said. "It was one of my favorite strips."

Seery said Watterson's announcement surprised him, given the relative youth of the strip and the potential for future humorous story lines. "It wasn't a 20-year-old strip or anything," he said.

Sarah Kelmenson '99 also said she is disappointed by Watterson's announcement, and said she is "very surprised."

"I really liked 'Calvin and Hobbes,'" Kelmenson said. "I always looked forward to reading it in" The Dartmouth.

Luke Dalton '99 said while some comic strips are not consistently funny, "'Calvin and Hobbes' is the one cartoon that's good every time."

Kathy Miller '97 said, "I wish it wasn't ending." She said Watterson might have chosen the right time to put his daily product out to pasture.

"If he doesn't feel like continuing it, I guess it's good that he's quitting while he's ahead," Miller said.

Although many students expressed disappointment with the pending doom of "Calvin and Hobbes," others took the news a bit more in stride.

"I'm not a really big fan of comic strips at all," John Garber '99 said. But Garber did say he appreciated the use of Scholastic Achievement Test-type words in "Calvin and Hobbes."

Dave Berenson '99, who draws "Bear Bones" for The Dartmouth, said he understands why Watterson is killing the strip.

"He did it for like six years. He's sort of exhausted the subjects," Berenson said.

Although Berenson said "Calvin and Hobbes" did not influence him greatly, he said it is consistently funny.

Miller also said he understand the difficulty of trying to come up with a creative and witty strip day after day.

"You look at ['Peanuts' author] Charles Schulz who has degenerated into [writing about] a kite-eating tree," he said. "I'm glad [Watterson] stopped before becoming a nutcase."

Miller said Watterson is following in the footsteps of fellow cartoonist Gary Larson, in that both of them "went on a sabbatical, came back, and decided they didn't want to put up with the stress of writing a daily strip." Larson retired his strip, "The Far Side," in 1994.

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