Watterson is sort of like the Salinger of syndicated comic strips. Despite the popularity of Calvin & Hobbes, he has shunned the
media spotlight and steadfastly refused to license merchandise (even including
stuffed Hobbes dolls). Yet, years after he inked his final panel, people still
feel like they share a deep personal relationship with his characters. Director-editor
Joel Allen Schroeder proclaims his love for the comic characters and invites others
to do the same in the tribute-documentary, Dear
Mr. Watterson (trailer
opens this Friday in New York.
will probably never be a Calvin &
Hobbes Christmas special, so devotees of the Christopher Robin-like boy and
his probably imaginary tiger will have to settle for Schroeder’s doc. Do not hold your breath waiting for the
titular Mr. Watterson to sit down and remember when, either. Instead, Schroeder talks to a number of fans
and fair number of Watterson’s fannish-sounding fellow cartoonists.
that is all very good, it is not exactly earthshaking stuff. More interesting are the behind-the-scenes
reminiscences of Watterson’s professional colleagues at his newspaper syndicate
and his book publisher. What emerges is
a portrait of an art form bordering on e-driven extinction. Sadly, viewers get
a sense C&H was not the peak of
daily comic strips, but the last great hurrah.
is too bad Watterson’s participation was such an “as if,” because he rather
sounds like someone with something to say.
He is still remembered for a blistering and some say prescient address
to a professional cartoonists’ assembly warning of the consequences of the
commercialization of comic strips and the erosion of creators’ control. Bloom
County cartoonist Berkley Breathed sort of fondly discusses the pointed
letters Watterson once set him, not so gently calling him out for his Opus
plush toys and other merchandising.
of the open questions of Dear is
whether the now defunct C&H strip
will retain its cultural currency without the TV specials and various toys to
drive awareness for younger readers.
Schroeder and his talking heads are sure it will, because it is just so
darn good, but clearly they are speaking out of optimism and affection.
is a gentle film that celebrates the wholesome
values and artistic integrity of Calvin
& Hobbes, which is refreshing, but not particularly cinematic. At times, it almost plays like the DVD extra
to a non-existent C&A animated
feature. Pleasant and well intentioned
(but almost terminally nice), Dear Mr.
Watterson is mostly recommended for Calvin
& Hobbes diehards and those who harbor daily cartooning ambitions when
it opens this Friday (11/15) in New York at the Cinema Village.
Labels: Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes, Documentary