80 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dealing with Loss
Apparently, we have moved through denial, anger, and bargaining; we have survived the deep depression and now have reached acceptance--there will be no more Calvin and Hobbes. It is no wonder that Bill Watterson wants us all to go away, he gave birth to a wonderful creation but it lived its natural life and passed on. It is not coming back and let's be honest, we aren't...
Published on October 8, 2009 by J. Brian Watkins
151 of 156 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Oft-Interesting Labor of Love (3.5 stars)
There are problems with Nevin Martell's book, Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip. While the title encourages the reader to think he or she will be reading the story of how Calvin and Hobbes came to be, what we get instead is one man's personal odyssey to score an interview with the elusive creator...
Published on October 25, 2009 by Timothy P. Young
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151 of 156 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Oft-Interesting Labor of Love (3.5 stars),
This review is from: Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and his Revolutionary Comic Strip (Hardcover)There are problems with Nevin Martell's book, Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip. While the title encourages the reader to think he or she will be reading the story of how Calvin and Hobbes came to be, what we get instead is one man's personal odyssey to score an interview with the elusive creator of the strip, Bill Watterson. It's true that we DO get to read the results of Martell's research (which include lots of tidbits regarding the aforementioned story), and it's often interesting. However, the book suffers from the plethora of personal asides about his wife, prior writing projects, and rock star interviews Martell had done.
Another problem rises due to the fact that Bill Watterson owns "Calvin and Hobbes" lock, stock and barrel. As a result, there are no comics printed in the book. Instead, Martell resorts to taking page upon page to describe individual strips, from first panel to last. While I acknowledge that this wasn't the author's fault, it adds a level of tedium to some sections of the book.
And yet another issue with the book comes in the writing itself. Martell primarily writes for magazines, and that's how this book reads: as a series of magazine articles on the same subject, rather than as a coherent whole. He repeats quotes from earlier parts of the book, summarizes earlier chapters in later ones, and so on. This would be fine if we were reading the book one chapter at a time over several weeks or months, but it doesn't work in book form. Also, his description is sometimes clumsy: "Everything was drenched in pure white, as if God had forgotten to shake the Earth as he would a snow globe." That's a long way to go for a simple image. In addition, Martell sometimes makes errors when discussing the comics themselves. When talking about Calvin's use of the cardboard box (one of the great conventions of the strip), he states that the Atomic Cerebral Enhance-O-Tron is one of the box's many uses. Well, the ACE was a colander that Calvin put on his head. A small error to be sure, but one that a fan will easily catch. Several more are scattered through the book.
However, the book is worth reading. His interviews with Watterson associates are illuminating, and his chapter on how Calvin and Hobbes influenced other comic artists is a must. He rounds up a who's who of current and former comic artists and syndicate bigwigs for these chapters. No one can fault the man's legwork.
Overall, I'm not sorry I read it. It was obviously a labor of love for Martell, and that comes through on every page. The problem is, that often comes through too strongly. It's interesting, but not essential to ones' appreciation for, or understanding of, the wonder that was Calvin and Hobbes. 3.5 stars.
80 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dealing with Loss,
This review is from: Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and his Revolutionary Comic Strip (Hardcover)Apparently, we have moved through denial, anger, and bargaining; we have survived the deep depression and now have reached acceptance--there will be no more Calvin and Hobbes. It is no wonder that Bill Watterson wants us all to go away, he gave birth to a wonderful creation but it lived its natural life and passed on. It is not coming back and let's be honest, we aren't so much interested in Mr. Watterson as we are in somehow squeezing out more of the joy he brought to us with Calvin and Hobbes. To this end, Mr. Martell tells the story of his attempt to recapture the joy of Calvin and Hobbes by coming to understand something more about its creator. Intriguingly, the book ends up teaching us more about life than about either Mr. Watterson or his creation.
Calvin and Hobbes, alas, is dead. I count myself as fortunate enough to have lived in a world where every morning brought a new Calvin strip. My children need not wait; they can merely rip through the complete work by taking down my well-thumbed books off of the shelf. I think it is unanimous that Calvin and Hobbes ranks as one of the great creations and it seems to annoy folks that the creator survives. Sure, we can always revisit Calvin, but the experience is fraught with a kind of ineffable sadness; rather like remembering happy times with a parent or friend who has passed away. As all great art does, Mr. Watterson's efforts have profoundly changed and affected all who encounter them and it is quite understandable that he has no desire to assist us in dealing with the emotions engendered by his unique exploration of life as Calvin and Hobbes spoke on so many different levels to so many people.
The value of Mr. Martell's fine effort is found in the examination of how to deal with loss and change. It is literally the story of bereavement and the finding of joy in what remains. Mr. Watterson tapped into something great and was pleased to share his talents; now, the man wishes to be left alone to enjoy life's journey in his own private manner. There is a lesson to be had in Mr. Watterson's devoted efforts to keep Calvin and Hobbes the purest expression of its medium, free from exploitation and complications. It is the highest evidence of Mr. Watterson's wisdom that he recognizes and appreciates that fame and fortune are more punishment than reward and this volume succeeds by highlighting this fact.
In nothing do we honor Mr. Watterson's creation more than by recognizing that--it's a magical world, let's go exploring.
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fan Nonfiction,
This review is from: Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and his Revolutionary Comic Strip (Paperback)I expected this to be a book about Bill Watterson, and not a lengthy blog about the author. After the introduction, when Martell says he would have to write the book as though the author were dead, he should have subsided mentioning trying getting in contact with Watterson, and he should have adopted a more formal, respectful tone, rather than the whiny, redundant, "why won't you talk to me?!"
The book is some two-hundred pages of fillers. Many vague quotes and anecdotes could have been cut. Most of Martell's material comes from very polite reaction stories, lacking depth and uniqueness.
That said, the quotes from Watterson--which can be found in full in /his/ books--provided perspective as to why he has made the choices he did. It is almost funny, that Martell, with his wealth of resources, was unable to provide any insight into his subject. It seems that Watterson has already explained everything. Why grant further interviews just to repeat yourself? Because this magazine wants their own? So this guy can put his name on it? Answers to why he refused commercialization, further work, and interviews have already been provided. From my understanding, Watterson is not a grouchy, old man--he is a serious writer, and when he finds subjects he is passionate about--say old comics that have lost relevancy but remain in publication for profits--he speaks on it. I see him as more selective than reclusive.
When Martell writes about Watterson's process, he mentions a quality filter on anything that left the drawing room; this is one of many lessons which Martell should have taken away from his own project. Had the book been rewritten with the tools obtained--instead of being about the search for tools--I think this could have been an excellent read.
I believe Bill Watterson has chosen intelligently in his non-participation with /Looking for Calvin and Hobbes/.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Buy a Calvin & Hobbes Book Instead,
This review is from: Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and his Revolutionary Comic Strip (Paperback)This book was simply awful. I won't reiterate that this book was about Martell, not Watterson; that ground has been covered by other reviewers. Instead let me complain about the entitled attitude of the writer. He spends much of the book explaining how reserved Watterson is; that he does not give interviews, he prefers his privacy, etc. Yet, the author still manages to feel shock that Watterson won't talk to him! Aside from that, there are plenty of pure writing problems; clumsy sentences, ridiculous metaphors, and tediously repeated phrasing. I read this book because I love Calvin & Hobbes, and miss it dearly. This book did nothing for me. I know nothing more about the characters or creator now than I did before I erad it. In all seriousness, go buy a Calvin & Hobbes book instead. If you read the forward, you'll learn more about Watterson than Martell will tell you.
It's also a little creepy that he describes the room Mrs. Watterson sits in while she grants him the interview...even though he's on the phone with her. Is the call coming from inside the house?
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Easy, uninspired read,
This review is from: Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and his Revolutionary Comic Strip (Hardcover)Nevin Martell wanted to write about Bill Watterson and the comic strip Martell loved growing up. He ended up writing about himself, and, with a hipster CV boasting appearances in High Times, Paste and the online edition of Rolling Stone, it comes as no surprise.
Works like this can be done well--Nick Tosches' "Where Dead Voices Gather" immediately comes to mind--and they can be fruitful. The effort is clearly there, the writer has painstakingly taken any number of conceivable angles to get at the locus of his project; but, as others here have mentioned, he vacillates amongst being a fanboy, hipster, man-child and journalist, often several times on the same page. It is neither self-deprecating, like the Sklar Brothers' humorous and sentimental "Utility Man" documentary on St. Louis Cardinal cult figure Jose Oquendo; nor truly insightful on micro and macro levels, like the aforementioned Tosches work on minstrel performer Emmett Miller. Instead, it comes off as a self-indulgent odyssey, guided by passions and fetish interest but ultimately going nowhere but into the depths of Martell's ego.
The copy itself is trite and uninspired, no small feat considering the gushing adoration the writer holds for his subject matter, and reads more like an interminable blog entry or a hack effort of a magazine feature. Ultimately, a long-time fan of "Calvin and Hobbes" will find little of new interest or insight here. Some subjects, as much as the curious mind may persist in its hunger to know, should just be left alone.
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Should have been a magazine article, not a book,
Completists will read this book and not learn a thing. Casual or non-fans will wonder if they can get their money back. I'm sorry to say this book is a waste of time.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Get it at the library, if you must read it at all.,
This review is from: Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and his Revolutionary Comic Strip (Paperback)In the middle of reading this book, I felt dirty. As if by reading it, I was contributing to the privacy-invading, money-driven machine Watterson despises, and that I was therefore personally deserving of his contempt as well. At least I hadn't bought the book directly; it was on the shelf at the local library. I'm the kind of person who craves privacy and the desire to be left alone in peace, and so that sympathy is one of the reasons I will never buy this book or read it again. I'm also glad that by not buying it, none of my money is going to the publishers or Mr. Martell, for reasons explained below.
The prose is entirely too casual, and in a tone I found unprofessional. It felt like reading a fawning hipster fanboy's college thesis in blog form, not the work of a professional writer. Martell does all the dirty work for the fans, collecting the old articles, speeches, and interviews, conducting a few of his own, and even quoting Watterson's own collections, which any C&H fan will already own and probably recognize. I did learn a couple of things I didn't before; now I can't wait to take a trip to the comics museum at OSU. By the end of the book, I was ardently hoping Watterson would never dignify Martell with a response, and I was relieved when he didn't. First and most importantly, because it would have gone against everything Watterson has stood up and fought for in his career; and secondly, Martell is just not that good a writer to be worth talking to. His writing does a disservice to his subject by not demanding to be taken seriously; in contrast to the subject, who went to great lengths to ensure quality and demand respect for his work.
It is disappointing to me, because the subject of Watterson, his work on C&H, its relevance in comic and American art history, and its lasting cultural influences is a rich and fascinating topic. It would be better taken up by a writer like Sarah Vowell, who has the chops as a intelligent, interesting historical researcher, with an art history background to boot. (Only an example. I know Vowell's work centers mostly around early American history, where the subjects are long dead. Anyway - tangent over.)
I think it's at best okay, but if you already have read and own all of the collections, you probably won't learn anything new that you can't learn with Google and Wikipedia. Leave the man alone, let him live his life privately with his family, and respect his values and principles. Don't let bad writers profit off of him. You already own it, technically, through your local library, paid for through your taxes.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing,
This mess alternated between: actual interesting history of Watterson's early career and the evolution of newspaper comic strips; summary of "Calvin and Hobbes" strips; and the author's desperate attempts to contact the reclusive artist or interview his contemporaries, while making sure to let readers know how much he loves or hates their strips.
There are plenty of volumes out there about writing. This book adds nothing to that discussion, and sheds little insight on Watterson's work that couldn't be gleaned from Wikipedia, or "Calvin and Hobbes" collections themselves.
Interviews with the strip's editor recount bitter licensing battles, Watterson's lengthy hiatuses, and his eventual decision to walk away are compelling. If you're a die hard fan, this is worth a skim. But watch out for Martell's distracting misuse of quotation marks and self-indulgent, dated pop culture references.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars bummer...,
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not informative at all.,
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Looking for Calvin and Hobbes by Nevin Martell
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