Friday, January 06, 2006

Aslan or Hobbes?

Here's a link to a quite refreshing and inspiring article about Bill Waterson's cries of "Beware!" about marketing associated with the Narnia movie. (What would this blog do without Christianity Today's e-mail newsletters? I am grateful to them.)

Watterson is the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, that wildly successful comic strip, which Watterson retired in 1996 (after ten years). The cartoonist explains why he did not grab up millions of dollars in marketing tie-ins to capitalize on the success of the strip. And in the short process, he says some wonderful things about maintaining fantasy and imagination , avoiding commercialism, and understanding "spirit." I commend it to you.

I hesitate on a couple of facts in the article. For example, I am certain that I have seen Calvin & Hobbes calendars, and the article suggests that Watterson even eschewed that avenue. And let's not forget the new 3-volume compilation of all the C&I strips, available for a mere $150 (list).

Still, I think the author of the article, who teaches at Wheaton College (home of the Marion E. Wade Center, housing collections from the Inklings and hangers-on -- including Dorothy Sayers; what an amazing place that is, too). makes some excellent points about "marketing God."

If I ever get my seminar on consumerism up and running, this will be one of the articles I'll throw in for consideration.


Paul Koch said...

I defend the integrity of Watterson and his decision not to commercialize Calvin and Hobbes. Dwight, I believe you've identified the only two commercialized pieces of the comic strip: the calendars (and I recall seeing only one of them years fact, I can't even find them on ebay or amazon) and the books. Whether the books are packaged individually or in a collection is irrelevant. The newest collection is printed on higher quality paper than earlier books, and since I received it for Christmas I can stop looking for the other books to round out my Calvin and Hobbes library. The abundance of marketing and commercialized trinkets associated with other comic strips (keychains, stuffed toys, greeting cards, telephones, wallpaper, etc. etc. etc.) shows how much Watterson has turned down. That Watterson allowed his comics to appear in book form shows his commitment to preserving the integrity of his artform. Reading his introductions in the books concerning his decision to turn down marketing offers has been an inspiration.

Dwight P. said...

Sorry, Brother,

I didn't mean to overstate my scepticism about Watterson's integrity. I, too, think he has done a great service and set a really remarkable example. (I'm still seething that the Peanuts syndicate has pulled the Peanuts gang from the theme park at Mall of America. But I think that Schultz typifies the ultra-merchandizing of a popular series -- perhaps only bested by Garfield.)

On a personal note, I didn't know that you are a C&H fan. I think I once had an autographed copy of a C&H volume, that I cannot find, that I would have gladly given you. (In reference to my Garfield slam, I also have a signed copy of -- I think -- the first Garfield paperback. That, of course, I can find!)