Sometimes in pop culture there are clear end points, and — effective or not — they can provide insights to a whole series, oeuvre, or discography.
I think it’s reasonable to say that the last time a daily newspaper comic strip could reach a point of real cultural importance — could really matter — was the the era that spanned the nineteen-eighties into the beginning of the nineteen-nineties. In that stretch, there were three strips, launched at roughly the same time, that unquestionably dominated. And all three ended at roughly the same time, too, rejecting the common practice of continuing a funny pages success in perpetuity. One of those three strips, Berke Breathed’s Bloom County, returned as a regular web presence almost five years ago, and another, The Far Side, is evidently poised for its own, far more unexpected revival. All this dusting off of bygone highlights of the daily newspaper has, for me, mostly served to stoke further appreciation for the comic that remains retired: Calvin and Hobbes.
The inspired creation of Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes found its humor in the mischievous adventures of a towheaded boy and his faithful pet tiger, the latter always seen as a mere stuffed animal by everyone else. I miss having new Calvin and Hobbes strips appear every day, but I’m also grateful Watterson has stuck to his retirement. I’m happy enough to revisit the pop culture creations I love most; rejuvenations aren’t necessary. In the case of Watterson’s strip, bringing it back would diminish the poignancy of the final strip, perhaps the most elegant — and beautifully fitting — ending a comic strip has ever had. I’m content to believe Calvin and Hobbes remain out there on their own in the magical world, freed from the attention of others. They don’t need readers to pry into their endless exploring.
Other entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Last Call” tag.