Monday, September 24, 2012

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Above is one piece of terrific sequential art, done by the man who is now a household name due to the generation that grew up with it is now part of the main labor force. Hell, even my high school Physics teacher showed a few Calvin and Hobbes strips in the 1st few days of class, to help us understand what kind of questions we need to ask to be successful in the scientific field. That is how far reaching the strip has become, and for the record I hated that class, the teacher gave the worse lectures in my schooling years, but I digress.

The message though in this particular panel is an interesting one and provides an insight to the life and times of cartoonists. Artists in the comic business can do work for years, either doing full blown issues or variant covers, but it seems like for creators of comic strips, their shell life much lower. Let’s look at a few other cartoonists and their professional career length spans:

Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, 1985-1995
Bill Amend, creator of Foxtrot, 1999-2006 (now only does Sunday editions)
Aaron MacGruder, creator of The Boondocks, 1999-2006
Gary Larson, creator of the The Far Side, 1980-1995,

All four of these strips were a major part of my childhood, just as much as any other “serious” literature pieces. Calvin and Hobbes showed what one can do with imagination and also how “simple” kid logic can seem to trump conventional wisdoms and beliefs. Foxtrot made it fun being a nerd. The Boondocks showed how a measly comic strip can politically influence and teach its readers, and The Far Side seem to answer every mystery in the universe.

I remember reading in a Calvin and Hobbes collection, that had some of Bill Watterson’s thoughts written below each strip, and how he said that his retirement was due to the fact that he was burned out and simply out of ideas for stories. While I imagine he did not exactly exhaust his well of ideas, but I am sure he was tired of working and just not able to execute them. For the time for someone to read a comic strip, say a regular weekday edition should take no longer than a minute, is way disproportionate to the effort put by the creator (Hours of creating, story, concept, and art). They are slaves to the drawing board and the deadline, as depicted so elegantly by the strip above. 10 years of hard work of creating these characters, these men deserve their syndication and publication money.

While these 4 people might not have the longevity of say Charles Schultz’s Peanuts, but it safe to say though that while Charlie Brown and his friend’s adventures were adorable, they did not have the depth and sophistication of these other strips. They were more than just the “Funnies,” the stories brought up thought provoking anecdotes and situations to light. While I have not read every Peanut strip ever printed, the ones that I did read seem to have that light hearted and innocent feel.  I do love that Peanuts song, Linus and Lucy,from the TV series. Dang, is that song catchy.

Also, I could never get behind the The Boondocks cartoon, not because it lacked the same pizazz and oomph the strip had, Aaron MacGruder works closely with the production,  it is just the it was not the same thing. Sequential art, in all of its form, is something that is truly enticing that just connects with its reader. It is simply lacking something that cannot be described.

Point here though is to appreciate the good while it’s going, or the good that is gone. I just recently was reunited with my copies of The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes and a Right To Be Hostile, and have been reading them in bed. Now, as I am older, it still makes me smile and ignore my bed time. 

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