Funny Like That

Hey guess what: It's a holiday week. So we're going to bring you Jog (or rather, we'll ride on his endless coattails) today, and then tomorrow we'll toss an archival interview at you, and then, fair warning, we're gonna take Thursday and Friday off. Let's all take this opportunity to read back issues and catch up on Floyd Gottfredson archive books. Just stick to comics.


Well, this sure seems like a lot of dough to spend on Calvin and Hobbes. Watterson held onto his originals, so there aren't many of these on the market. Combine that with a generation regarding the strip as iconic, and that generation now in a position to act on that regard and... well... it's still a ton of money. More than a McCay or a Herriman, but less than a McFarlane. What a world.


Tangentially comics-related (she was instrumental in Maus being published by Pantheon): Graphic designer Louise Fili has a new monograph out.

Another early 20th century humorist to think about.

-The Peacemaker!

-I am thankful for Gene Ahern, above many, but not all things. Gene Ahern. Would've liked to have asked him some questions, mostly about beards and pot.

10 Responses to Funny Like That

  1. Ayo says:

    It’s not “a generation,” who regards Calvin and Hobbes as iconic. The strip was, is and continues to be appreciated as a magnificent work. There’s basically no call for sideways dissing like “it’s no Herriman.” Just sniping for the sake of doing it. Calvin and Hobbes is worth whatever it goes for.

  2. Dan Nadel says:

    I don’t see any “sideways diss” in what I wrote. Calvin and Hobbes is a generational icon and a great strip, but that’s a very high auction price for so recent a strip. Auction results are notorious for NOT reflecting the actual worth of a body of work, as you’re suggesting. Rather, an auction result means that one particular object was bought for a particular sum of money. That could suggest a trend but it could also be a fluke. A broader statement of value would have to be determined by looking at the entire market for the work. which, as I alluded to, doesn’t really exist. Thus the interest.

  3. Kim Thompson says:

    I think we can all agree that $200+K is a disproportionately high price by any standards of relative greatness, and I think we can also agree that voicing this opinion really isn’t any kind of a diss on Watterson (any more than pointing out the scarcity/generational affection aspects, which are clearly true). Well, Dan’s Crumb-ish “What a world” kicker might have been one curmudgeonly step too far.

    And obviously the hand-colored aspect was a big factor.

  4. Wane Franklin Roman says:

    Calvin & Hobbes was an anachronistically well-crafted strip, but embarrassingly overrated, even by people who should know better. Were it a 50 year-old-strip, no way would it be as highly regarded, nor would the general non-comics public care about it at all. It’s essentially a comfort strip for people who can’t accept the fact that junk like Dilbert or Cathy were actually something new, and despite/because of their limitations/faults, better represent their era of decline.

  5. Eric Hoffman says:

    Well, if Calvin & Hobbes can be considered an overrated comic strip then I guess the same can be said for pretty much anything.

  6. Paul Tumey says:

    Thanks, as always, for the link to my screwball comics blog and for appreciating the fine comics of Gene Ahern. The essay I wrote, which connects Ahern to Hank Williams to a 17th century preacher to Winsor McCay attempts to expand the discussion of comics beyond the hermetically sealed boundaries of just the form of comics themselves. I think Dan’s broad-stroke comments on why a Watterson original would sell for so much money, relative to originals by earlier more influential masters of the form (Herriman was an influence on Watterson, who wrote a wonderful introduction to the first Richard Marschall color Krazy Kat collection, which was reprinted in the Abram’s book on Herriman) is a similar attempt to see comics as part of a larger picture, including being part of an economic law related to supply and demand. If I had two-hundred thousand zingas to spare, I’d look for a complete run of Ahern’s comics and let someone else frame the Watterson. That being said, my 12 year old son loves Calvin and Hobbes and I was one of the first positive reviewers of the strip way back when I was a newspaper writer…. and I am stunned stunned to read about the recent auction. So, no diss… just a “dat.”

  7. Kim Thompson says:

    I’d submit that CALVIN AND HOBBES is almost indisputably the best syndicated strip of the last quarter century, and equally nearly indisputably wouldn’t crack the Top 10 best strips of any preceding quarter century. I’d say listing it among the all-time greats, as some have done and will no doubt continue to do, would constitute overrating.

  8. R. Maheras says:

    “Calvin and Hobbes” was a great strip by any measure — especially in context of its era.

    Where in the heirarchy of “best comic strips ever” it falls depends on who you ask, and while I agree it doesn’t belong in the Top 10, It most assuredly belongs in the Top 100.

  9. Mike Hunter says:

    There are factors to explain why the piece went for such a high price. As the original article explained, “it was anticipated that the piece would reach a high final price due to the scarcity of original Watterson art on the market.” (emphasis added.)

    Moreover, it’s a Sunday strip, rather than a mere daily — much more artwork, more impressive-looking to display.

    And, it was watercolored by Watterson. Presumably after the art was photographed for reproduction, the colors to be added by newspapers printing the strip. Even more scarcity-value!

    Wane Franklin Roman says:

    Calvin & Hobbes was an anachronistically well-crafted strip, but embarrassingly overrated, even by people who should know better.

    Indeed so! Masterfully composed, rendered in a scruffy yet appealing style, with nice doses of wit:

    Yet, as with another talented, but massively-overrated creator, Chuck Jones, too-frequently formulaic, relying on schtick. (Stuff which the masses love, though; it’s like the catchy refrain in a song.)

    The Top 100 comic strips? Sure, I’d put C&H there.

  10. Kim Thompson says:

    Big difference between “great” and “one of the very greatest.” (We go through this kind of semantic mudwrestle every time someone makes a list of the 10 greatest cartoonists of all time and there’s no women on it. “How can you say XXX isn’t great?!!” Sure, there are “great” women cartoonists. But the “Greatest Of All Time” shortlist is a tough nut to crack.) I can see CALVIN & HOBBES falling in the middle or low part of the Top 100, sure. And while I’m sure some contrarians would argue to knock it off the “best daily syndicated strip of the last 25 years” perch with gusto, I doubt even the most contrarian among them could knock it down below the Top Four or so.

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