Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Philosopher meets theologian

W. wanted to be a political cartoonist. He got a job as one for a paper in Cincinnati after graduation, but wound up in the unemployment line six months later. He designed ads for a weekly shopper in the windowless basement of a convenience store. After hours and on weekends, he developed comic strips no one wanted. He eventually drew one populated by a dozen characters including a kid named Marvin and his stuffed tiger, Hobbes. On the suggestion of one syndicate, Watterson kept the stuffed tiger, gave Marvin's Beatlesque mop a haircut, changed his name and dumped the rest of the cast. And lo. Universal Press Syndicate picked up the strip in 1985. There were clues all along that this was about more than slapstick. Calvin was named for the 16th-century Protestant theologian who believed in predestination, Hobbes for the philosopher a century later who once observed that life is "nasty, brutish and short." Miss Wormwood, Calvin's teacher, was named after the apprentice devil in [C.S. Lewis'] The Screwtape Letters.
The Washington Post looks back on Calvin and Hobbes, now ten years retired. They were awesome while they lasted and I do not find Bill Waterson's reclusive behavior odd but admirable. The man seems to be grounded.

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