Calvin County

I tapped out on Berke Breathed back in the ’90s when Bloom County had become the weekly strip Outland, and had only seen a handful of reposted examples since he brought it back as a Facebook-exclusive strip with really ugly computer lettering. So I’d totally missed, until this week, that Bill Watterson has been doing guest jams once or twice a year (!!) with Calvin & Hobbes appearing in Bloom County (!!!).

Back on April 1st 2016, Breathed posted that Watterson had signed “the franchise over to my ‘administration’,” followed by a “Calvin & Hobbes 2016” daily by Watterson and Breathed (with some even clunkier computer lettering on C&H).

In 2017, they teamed up again for a full-on Calvin County comic, in which Spaceman Spiff is accompanied by Bill The Cat in place of Hobbes. This April Fools’ strip was also accompanied by a fake news story about Breathed and Watterson (revealing that Susie Derkins has grown up to write for the New York Times), discussing the likelihood of Donald Trump appearing in their fully-merged strip*.

In November that year, Hobbes made a two-day guest appearance, filling in for Steve Dallas – portrayed as an antediluvian PUA even in 1981, now benched from the strip for harassment. This pair very nearly manages to feel like 1980s Hobbes invading 1980s Bloom County!

I’m tempted to check out one of Breathed’s new collections, though the lettering and digital brushes still hurt my eyes.

2018 saw Spaceman Spiff back again for April Fools, and the classic vibe of a Spiff Sunday is really in effect. Though some effects lettering by Watterson, sloppy though it is, really shows up Breathed’s “Watterson” font, created for this instalment.

The pair now have a full-on tradition running, with Spaceman Spiff appearing for his third April 1st this week. Breathed has given up and just used his regular font for Calvin’s dialogue this time around.

Beyond Breathed’s joke announcements in 2016 and 2017, there’s no word from either on how the collaboration has worked. From the look of the strips, I’m assuming Breathed is digitally inking and colouring pencils sent by Watterson. With some squinting, though, one can imagine the latter scribbling on an iPad in a shared document, just for this once-a-year-ish fuck-about. (All Watterson’s other public 21st century work has been analogue: a 2011 painting of Petey Otterloop from Richard Thompson’s Cul de Sac strip, a 2014 poster for the Stripped! documentary, and a full-colour one-page comic for Angoul√™me FIBD later that year.)

*Trump asterisk

*Bloom County, whose inital run covered late 1980 until 1989, couldn’t escape the influence of Trump in its acerbic, humanist view of 1980s America. In the final year, Breathed did a month of strips where the repugnant, incoherent Bill The Cat had his brain replaced with Donald Trump’s, to become even more incoherent. Then, months later, the entire comic ended because “Trump” purchased the strip, and rebranded it as his own nonsensical vanity project to himself, before firing everyone. I was a child on the other side of the planet, reading these clipped and mailed from a newspaper in another state. Breathed’s depiction of Trump’s stunning narcissism and complete inability to convey humour or understand other humans having a place in the world were a valuable grounding in, 30 years later, living in an entire country purchased and rebranded by the racist hot-air balloon.

Furthermore from 2017: fake sues.

Strips stolen from this article by Raymond Cummings; someone’s nicked the final Bloom County volume from the library, and my own books are on another continent.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *