Ten years ago Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, left newspaper cartooning for painting. Since then, no new comic strip has matched the quality, longevity, or cultural dominance of Watterson’s daily drawings about a boy and his tiger. There remain good strips, such as Jef Mallett’s Frazz; acclaimed strips, such as Aaron McGruder’s Boondocks; and venerable strips, such as Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury. But these days, the best-selling comics books tend to be either graphic novels or hardbound anthologies of the greats, such as Fantagraphics Books’ The Complete Peanuts. Peanuts invented the newspaper comic strip as we know it: Charles Schulz scrapped big, colorful melodrama and substituted a tiny series of boxes featuring spare drawings of characters who tell jokes and muse on the meaning of life. With October’s publication of the new—and best-selling—23-pound, 1,440-page hardback anthology The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, it’s become apparent that, just as Charles Schulz was the first master of the modern newspaper comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes’ Bill Watterson was likely the last.
Click here to see a slide-show essay about Calvin and Hobbes.