Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Great Calvin Expressions

Above is an extremely unconventionally paced strip, but it works beautifully. Ususally in comedy things aren't done strictly in twos, yet here the action is broken up into two sections, two setups, two frames each. What Watterson demonstrates here is a mastery of Unreal Time. The sense of a tempo is so well conveyed that the strip is free to break the tedious numerical rules of joke-telling.

Cartoons are either superhuman or incompetent. It's not that there's no in-between, it's just that anything that's funny is at least partially one or the other. Calvin's expression above wavers between overconfident showmanship and a willful embrace of his own incompetence - "If she buys it she's an idiot, look at my mouth for chrissakes. If she doesn't, so what? I'm just being an asshole 'cause it's fun!"

Watterson's ability to suddenly draw down and dirty little kid crudeness never ceases to amaze me. His style gravitates toward a very light touch, characters with understated features, a loose yet assured way with other words, he flirts with the kind of "gentle genius" appeal that Shultz has. But that's just a front - his style strays WILDLY off that course, sometimes out into Scribnerland (or something like it), or into a kind of coarse, MAD Magazine territory where typically downplayed features like lips and nostrils -or even the crease made by buttocks pressed together- are fodder for cartoons.

Did newspapers allow nude boy art in the 1990s? I forgot...
Watterson loved any expression that involves curling one's lip over the teeth.

Sorry the rest of the strip is missing - basically Calvin looks at his Dad and sees a baby boomer, the cause of all the nostalgic, self-aggrandizing crap he's just been hearing on the oldies' station.

A perennial only-in-Calvin-and-Hobbes moment: comic-strip-as-zoetrope. This is literally nearly-finished full animation. (Well, limited really - but there are subtle changes.)

Wrinkled forehead!

Calvin chewin dinner above? THAT is some rude-looking construction, boy....



Anonymous said...

Hey, very nice post!! I love when it appears his head is just a layer of skin stretching and twisting around a sphere.

BTW, to do links in a comment you have to use < a > tags. Here's how:

<_a href=URL_>TEXT THAT WILL SHOW UP<_/a_>

Delete the underscores.


Zoran Taylor said...

Thanks, M.R. !

Trevor Thompson said...

Long live Bill Watterson!

Seriously. That cartoonist was a one-man brilliance factory.

For the 80's and 90's, anyway. Ooo! Berke Breathed was also awesome right til the end ( and I mean four months ago ).

I love how Bill fought to be allowed to do all that great art at the expense of his sanity and no extra money whatsoever.

I have stories about him through friends of mine who are also newspaper cartoonists. Wanna hear?

- trevor.

PS: Jim Borgman and Mike Peters are also quite good. Okay, I'm rambling.

Hans Flagon said...


Re: your question on John Ks blog regarding clickable links?

do you know any HTML? View a web page in source sometime, preferably an old school site without much CSS.

Oh, wait. What Darbyshire said. But I think you need to put the URL in quotes. _a href="URL"_...

I still say Watterson retired to go into the lucrative vinyl cutting business.

Zoran Taylor said...

Vinyl cutting, eh? What kind of vinyl? Consider for a moment that Calvin has abused more discs in plain sight than pretty much any of his cartoon contemporaries - He throws the Scrambled Debutante album in the trash, he plays a '33 at '78 in the middle of the night....

But then again, maybe you're right - maybe Watterson was revealing his fascination with the stuff through Calvin's severe insomnia after his Dad explains to him the fourth-dimensional conundrum of a rotating record. (Speaking of which, I think I forgot to post that. That's a great specific expression too!)

Zoran Taylor said...

BTW - I'm sorry this is so haphazard. Technically I don't have a regular blog at all. Being a student, I am therefore a) just some tool who doesn't really know anything, and b) very busy. So I have a blog just to post stuff when I feel like it. It's something to link stuff to.

The technical side of this is so new to me that I didn't really stand a chance of organizing these images in any tangible way. My biggest peeve is that some of the funniest stuff is irritatingly, self-defeatingly tiny on the screen. That gum-chewing-warmup strip, at a reasonable size, is pretty much unquestionably the FUNNIEST thing out of all of what's here. If you can find that strip reprinted properly, you're in for a treat indeed.

Zoran Taylor said...

And yes trevor, ANY story regarding Bill is of interest to me. The man is an enigma to this day.

Ivan D said...

There are some awesome expressions here. I've never really picked up Calvin and Hobbs and actually read it until now. Thanks!

James Sugrue said...

Thanks for putting these up. These brought back alot of good memories. Newspaper comics suck now ever since Calvin and Hobbes and Far Side ended. BTW you profile pic is hilarious.

Zoran Taylor said...

@James Sugrue - You know who I'm supposed to be, right? Well, you'll never believe who didn't (or pretended not to just to piss me off).....

Zoran Taylor said...

Fester Fish on CartoonBrew

This post on JohnKStuff

Aaron: 1

Zoran: 1

Tie breaker: Aaron's actually a fucking God at making cartoons and an all-around class dude. All I'm good for is pointing out shit.

You've won THIS round, Long.....