Monday, December 2, 2013

Dear Mr. Watterson

I was in cartooning class in high school when my friend busted out and showed me the very first Calvin and Hobbes compilation book. I could not get enough. The comic struck a major chord with me. I collected all the books until the very BIG complete box set came out, then I ditched the small books for the sake of simplicity. I regret that now. Here we are, years later now, and I'll likely be ordering a bunch of the small books for my two sons, 6 & 12 years old. This documentary had us glued to the TV. We did not surf the web on iPads, we just sat and watched. And when it was over what did the boys do? They asked me to try and find the few remaining small Calvin and Hobbes books floating around the house. The missing ones are now in my Amazon cart, waiting for "Santa" to deliver them. Whether or not you are an artist or just a reader, Dear Mr. Watterson has something for everyone. The documentary is not obsessive about Bill Watterson either, like some nut job banging on J D Salinger's door and demanding answers. It's just a "thank you" of sorts, and that fine.

It does attempt to explore Watterson's motivations behind his refusal to commercialize Calvin and Hobbes. This is fine and it does shed some light. To me though, the real question is: What is wrong with us as a culture that when someone does not care about money we all sit around scratching our heads endlessly debating why? The focus, if you ask me, should be on us, not Bill Watterson. The ones speculating are the ones that need analyzing. Still, the documentary does not get too obsessive, which is nice. It felt very sincere and included enough points of view and info so as to not seem dominated by one single point of view.

In the film some talk about how print comic strips are changing as a result of the print industry in general changing. This is obvious. The question is posed as to what will come down the pike as far as how media will be discerned to be worthy enough to become popular on a large scale again. The answer to that question lies in the very way the film itself was created--Kickstarter! And enough people deemed this film worthy that it was able to get off the ground and actually get made. This, people, is the new way worthy media hopefully will get made.

In Dear Mr. Watterson someone says there will never be another Rolling Stones or another Beatles. That may be true to some extent as the catalyst to have such bands might no longer exist. Still, I feel, the internet will do a great job of removing "the syndicate" and giving direct control to artist and appreciator. Maybe millionaires will no longer be in the mix. As an artist myself who has witnessed many other artists, I can attest to the very destructive influence that the lure of the possibility of fame and piles of money can have on an individual's creativity. Money skews perspective. It pulls you away from what you love and fools you into thinking you want something you don't. Will the lure of fame and big money eventually be removed by the more democratic playing field of pure appreciation that the Internet can perhaps provide? I hope so. The absence of big money to drive creativity can only be a good thing. With fame and fortune eventually removed from the mix, all that will be left is drive, talent and content. And that is all we really need. We don't need another stuffed animal in every mall. And really, if you truly wanted a stuffed Hobbes for your kid, there is nothing stopping you from making one.


Thanks Mr. Watterson.




***Addition***

The comic strip industry is changing for sure. Just today I learned that the comic strip Gil by Norm Feuti that I follow via my dad clipping me the strip is ending. While Gil is ending after 2 years and that sucks I did find this website, Dailyink, where for $20 a year you can get 90+ strips a day. That's a deal, especially when you compare that to the cost of getting a daily newspaper delivered. Another holiday gift for the family taken care of! :) I hope Gil lives on in some form on Dailyink.com!