Monday, November 22, 2010

Assignment 3 - Calvin

Character analysis of Calvin from Bill Waterson's Calvin & Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes is a daily comic strip created by Bill Waterson that originally ran for ten years from 1985 to 1995. The strip was very popular in its time, and it was featured in more than 2400 newspapers worldwide. It still continues to gain new fans thanks to the books that keep selling millions worldwide.

I first came to know Calvin in 1996 when Remzi Kitapevi printed first of the five Calvin books that were translated to Turkish. As a teenager obsessed with cartoons and drawing I fell in love with Waterson's style first and foremost. It was nothing like I've ever seen before. It looked effortless and naive, but the art was chock full of flair, dynamism and rock-solid knowledge. It was inimitable. The narrative style and the humor in the comic was even more alien to me. I had seen nothing like that before. Thankfully the translation by Erol and Ömer Erduran was excellent and I was able to appreciate the whole Calvin and Hobbes experience.

Calvin, is a 6 years old American kid who lives in a northern state of United States. In one of the strips Miss Wormwood, Calvin's teacher wakes Calvin from one of his daydreams about dinosaurs and asks, what state he lives in. Calvin answers, "denial". So, that's the canon information about Calvin's whereabouts. He lives with both his parents and he has no siblings. Apart from Rosalin, the occasional housesitter teen, Calvin has only his pet tiger Hobbes to keep him company at home. While he's a living and breathing tiger to Calvin, Hobbes is an ordinary tiger doll to everyone else. So throughout the strips, we watch a 6 years old boy's daily life, which isn't much more than going to school, coming back home, and playing in the yard and surrounding woods. Personally I can't get enough of it.

I love Calvin. I love how he reminds me of childhood, which is essentially the same for anyone in the world. It gives a sense of belonging. I love how he knows what he enjoys doing. I love his passion, his energy and his wild, wild imagination. This is what the creator Bill Waterson himself says about Calvin “I guess he’s a little too intelligent for his age. The thing that I really enjoy about him is that he has no sense of restraint, he doesn’t have the experience yet to know the things that you shouldn’t do.” This is the main reason I love Calvin so much. He is intelligent enough to actually understand the workings of the social life. Then he tells people in his childish wisdom things they can't deny. Facing us with the hypocrisy of grownups.

In one of my favorite strips Dad tells Calvin he heard Calvin signed up to play ball. Calvin admits he only did it to stop getting teased. Dad tells Calvin team sports are good for teaching teamwork and cooperation, winning graciously and accepting defeat. He says it builds character. Calvin says he's regretted every time he's built character. He says he doesn't want to learn teamwork or how to learn about winning or losing. He doesn't even want to compete. He asks what's wrong with having fun by yourself. Dad tells him when you grow up, it's not allowed. Calvin says that's all the more reason he should do it now.

In Nobel awarded Seamus Heaney's poem The Railway Children, there is this beautiful tercet. "We were small and thought we knew nothing worth knowing. We thought words travelled the wires In the shiny pouches of raindrops." This is what Calvin is about for me. The world he sees is so much more extraordinary and he actually knows all the things worth knowing. While we grownups think we know better, he knows awesome-r. So whenever I see calvin's evil smile as he pees into the gas tank of a car as a kitsch sticker, I am reminded of all these awesomeness, and I smile back.

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