“Dear Mr. Watterson” tells the story of Calvin and Hobbes, a comic strip that defied industry standards and ended in its prime. There is a lot more to this strip than a simple cartoon boy with an active imagination. The strip itself has been lauded as one of the greatest of all time. The stylized social commentary is genius in its own rite and is then combined with some of the best artistry in the industry. The stereotypes and social issues of our society are exaggerated in the imagination of this young boy, but always in a comical way. It appeals to all age groups, from kids who think that the tiger is cute to adults who are amused by Calvin’s view of the adult world. But this documentary explores even deeper layers by examining the man behind the comic. Do not expect to see an interview with Bill Watterson in this documentary. That is part of the mystery. After completing Calvin and Hobbes, he removed himself from the public eye and lives in privacy with his wife. He rarely gives an interview, not even for a documentary about his life. Watterson ended the comic after a mere ten years to avoid a formulaic comic that repeated itself. He also passed on tens of millions of dollars that could have been made in merchandise because he did not want to cheapen his characters. Many of his colleagues share their perspectives on Watterson’s choices throughout this documentary and it is amazing to see the level of respect that the community has for Watterson and his Calvin and Hobbes comic. He did not create this comic to make money. He created it for his love of comics, and consequently impacted most people who lived between 1985-1995. I have personally felt this impact of this comic, selecting a panel from a Calvin and Hobbes strip to be recreated as a painting in first grade. Perhaps the greatest moment of this comic was its final strip. It is so simple and perfect, and open to many different interpretations. I believe that Watterson is telling us that our childhood never has to end. That even when we move on to something new, we should approach it with the open-mindedness and imagination of a child, and that we should never stop exploring. If you were not a Calvin and Hobbes fan before watching this documentary, you certainly will be afterwards. Now please excuse me while I borrow one of the Calvin and Hobbes collections to relive my childhood.
[Pictured: The final Calvin and Hobbes comic, December 31, 1995]