Saturday, September 4, 2010

The simple truth

It's not easy to publicly admit, but the simple truth is that I am a thief, albeit a rather guilt-ridden one. And to be stealing from the very person I idolize, both for his creative output and for his principled and happy existence often times projected through his creations is even more unforgivable. Bill Watterson spent a lifetime fighting off the pressures of his comic book syndicate; refusing to lend his brilliant Calvin and Hobbes characters for any kind of commercial promotion and here I was knowing everything about all that, yet using a panel from one of his Sunday strips as a header for my blog, in a rather obvious and lame attempt to pull in readers already familiar with his brilliant work, even though my writing had absolutely nothing to do with the comic strip or its themes. Since then I have even tried to change my blog header a number of times but for some inexplicable technical reasons, I seem unable to do so. For now it seems that I am condemned to have my conscience pricked every time I open my blog's home page. The panel of the strip which I have as a background for my blog's title will hopefully disappear at some point in the near future if I put my head to it but it'll still be impossible to see a snow covered slope, and not be reminded of a tiny kid talking to his stuffed tiger as he drags his toboggan up the slope of Rigor Mortis Cliff.
A lot of logic and rationalization is pumped out by the gallon about how downloading bootleg version of music MP3s, TV shows, movies and books is actually not 'stealing', rather it is essential to 'popularizing' the artist and helping 'more' people appreciate the content but I will skip all that nonsense. Though I have been guilty of the aforementioned acts myself multiple times over, I'll never console myself by saying that it is perfectly acceptable. It may be the smart thing to do but it certainly is never the right thing to do! More so in the case of Calvin and Hobbes, and for those to whom these things matter, here's throwing some light on the exemplary artist that is Bill Watterson and the most famous products of his imagination.
Bill Watterson's speech for the commencement ceremony of his alma mater Kenyon College ( is a masterpiece and a very precise encapsulation of everything that he wanted to convey through the delightful 10 year existence of Calvin and Hobbes. Achieving the roaring popularity which the strip saw was far from easy and the only thing that kept him going before his strip made it big was in his own words was "self-belief bordering on delusion" But when the peak of success did arrive, he stopped short of what could have added on millions of dollars to his bank account. That Calvin and Hobbes would never sell T-shirts; that they would not line toy store shelves as soft toys; that they would not sell insurance and that they would not keep running forever in newspapers scripted and drawn by ghost artists while Bill Watterson holidayed in some exotic Pacific resort is a testament to the guy's deep attachment to his protagonists and to his repeated stress on the higher purpose of art, disguised as a entertaining comic strip though it may be. Watterson wanted them to exist solely as comic strip characters true to the intentions he had created them with and he managed to keep them that way. My recent purchase of the "The Complete Calvin and Hobbes" is a minor attempt by me at damage control because I believe that an artist as dedicated as him deserves every single cent or paisa of what is due to him.
Not that any amount of money could ever come close to repaying the debt of laughter and food for thought that I and millions of other fans owe to the story of an imaginative 6 year old and his philosophical talking pet tiger. The painstaking artwork whether it be a stretch of imagination as ridiculous as T-Rexes flying F-16s or a scene as sublime as the pair jaunting through the woods in the beautiful season of fall speaks for itself. The humourous dialogue laced with sharp observations about the follies of people manages to establish a unexpected common boundary between deep wisdom and all-out entertainment magically retaining the essence of both. The man himself is candid enough to admit that the struggles of life that he had to face on the way were essential so that when Calvin and Hobbes finally came out, the content was just right for it to find the right audience at the right time snowballing into the world-wide phenomenon that it became. All I can say that I feel lucky that I was the part of the right audience, the supposed right group whose fancy Mr. Watterson's incredible work caught. Because whenever I think of life, philosophy, happiness, childhood, friendship, adventure, imagination and the incredible satisfaction gained out of just being yourself, the first thing I think of is Calvin and Hobbes.
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Srirupa said...

hey..visited ur blog after a long time..nice same old good posts.

Roy said...

@Sugarcube: Thanks! The changes are all I that I have done in the past couple of weeks. Hopefully will get writing again soon.