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Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and his Revolutionary Comic Strip Paperback – August 19, 2010

3.7 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Nevin Martell's book provides a rare glimpse of the riddle wrapped inthe mystery inside an enigma that is Bill Watterson and his brilliant work, which I now know wasalmost called 'Marvin and Hobbes.'"- Stephan Pastis, creator of Pearls Before Swine


"Wattersoncanhide,buthecan'tdie.Hisworklivesonandwe'reluckytohave Nevin Martell reminding us so colorfully in this joyful book."- Berkeley Breathed


"Martell gets as close as anybody can to Watterson in a book that takes the reader behind the strip, a well-researched portrait of the cartoonist that is both fascinating and revealing." -Currents (Barry Goodrich)

"Martell gives us a tantalizing...glimpse of Bill Watterson in this journalistic exploration of the press-shy cartoonist's life. ...Readers who still hold Watterson's strip in their heart should enjoy the ride." -AM New York

"[A] Don Quixote story that is humorous, well-written and (if I mayborrow that tired summer-reading platitude) a real page-turner." - The Strippers Guide (A website for comics)

"[T]his really is a wonderful, warm, and informative book that managesto capture just the right amount of magic about the creator and hiscreation."—Comics Worth Reading

"Martell, who wears his fan heart on his sleeve, travels far and wide to gather pieces of Watterson lore. He interviews former syndicate employees, comic strip artists from the past and present, and some of Watterson's closest confidants. By doing so, Martell walks a fine line between diligent journalist and obsessive fan. But his journey is a reminder that some things can't be recaptured, no matter how much we may wish otherwise."
-The New York Times, "The Moment" blog



"This story of Nevin Martell's search for the elusive Bill Watterson, the J.D. Salinger of the cartoon world, is so richly infused with the spirit of "Calvin and Hobbes," the genuine innocence and affection and humor, it doesn't even matter that the author never meets his subject. Watterson has never allowed the licensing of his work — no merchandise, no TV, no movies. After doing a few interviews in the 1980s, he wrote a "manifesto against celebrity": "People love to have you, and then they use you up and there's nothing left." Early on, Martell wrote Watterson, who disappeared from public life after he stopped writing the strip in 1995, but never heard back. Discouraged but determined, he researched Watterson's life, interviewed friends, editors, even Watterson's mother, visited Watterson's childhood home in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, talked with other cartoonists, studied the influence of Peanuts, Krazy Kat, Pogo and Winnie the Pooh and pondered the effect of "Calvin and Hobbes" on his own life. Is this a definitive biography? No. But it's in many ways better and truer to the spirit of Watterson's creation."
-The Los Angeles Times Book Review


"This is essential reading for die-hard Calvin and Hobbes fans who want to stalk Watterson. Martell will give you all the reasons why you will never find the man. So instead of attempting something both discourteous and criminal, read this book instead."
-The San Francisco Book Review


"Nevin Martell has written a curious book, although one would probably best consider it a biography. Bill Watterson so consistently shunned the media that one is put in mind of the Shakespeare biography industry in which a few facts are churned in an attempt to generate a larger picture of a life... In spite of Watterson's refusal to speak for himself, Martell has written an engaging and informative book while avoiding most of the traps that catch fan writers."
-The International Journal of Comic Art


Mini review in the '7 books you should own' section of Belfast Telegraph Evening, 28th August (UK)

'An education for some of us and a treat for the fans'



"Nevin Martell's book provides a rare glimpse of the riddle wrapped in the mystery inside an enigma that is Bill Watterson and his brilliant work, which I now know was almost called 'Marvin and Hobbes.'"- Stephan Pastis, creator of Pearls Before Swine


"Watterson can hide, but he can't die.  His work lives on and we're lucky to have Nevin Martell reminding us so colorfully in this joyful book."- Berkeley Breathed


"Martell gets as close as anybody can to Watterson in a book that takes the reader behind the strip, a well-researched portrait of the cartoonist that is both fascinating and revealing." -Currents (Sanford Lakoff)

“Martell gives us a tantalizing...glimpse of Bill Watterson in this journalistic exploration of the press-shy cartoonist's life. …Readers who still hold Watterson's strip in their heart should enjoy the ride.” -AM New York

“[A] Don Quixote story that is humorous, well-written and (if I mayborrow that tired summer-reading platitude) a real page-turner.” - The Strippers Guide (A website for comics)

“[T]his really is a wonderful, warm, and informative book that managesto capture just the right amount of magic about the creator and hiscreation.” —Comics Worth Reading

“Martell, who wears his fan heart on his sleeve, travels far and wide to gather pieces of Watterson lore. He interviews former syndicate employees, comic strip artists from the past and present, and some of Watterson’s closest confidants. By doing so, Martell walks a fine line between diligent journalist and obsessive fan. But his journey is a reminder that some things can’t be recaptured, no matter how much we may wish otherwise.”
-The New York Times, “The Moment” blog



“This is essential reading for die-hard Calvin and Hobbes fans who want to stalk Watterson. Martell will give you all the reasons why you will never find the man. So instead of attempting something both discourteous and criminal, read this book instead.”
-The San Francisco Book Review


Mini review in the '7 books you should own’ section of Belfast Telegraph Evening, 28th August (UK)

'An education for some of us and a treat for the fans’

About the Author

Nevin Martell is the author of Standing Small: A Celebration of 30 Years of the LEGO Minifigure, Dave Matthews Band: Music for the People and Beck: The Art of Mutation. He is a Contributing Editor at Filter magazine and his music journalism has appeared in Paste, Giant, Men's Health, High Times, and Flaunt, as well as online at RollingStone.com. Currently, he lives with his wife in Washington, DC, where he writes full time. You can find him online at www.nevinmartell.com.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic; Revised edition edition (August 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1441106855
  • ISBN-13: 978-1441106858
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #184,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Timothy P. Young on October 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: 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/.
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