08 October 2007

Earnest, Serious, and Smart

A friend of mine wrote a suitably indignant post a week or two back about how a leading freight company had delivered a hefty chunk of his stuff in a manner that might charitably described as nonchalant, crudely 'forging' his signature in the process. I'm really loathe to call a mildly depressed squiggly line a signature, but perhaps among the illiterati it would pass.

The brother, reading the post, laughed at my mate's singling out his Calvin and Hobbes books as among his most prized possessions. I hadn't found this remotely odd, and indeed a few days ago I raised this very point to one of my charming hostesses over the water. To my horror, she was - to all intents and purposes - ignorant of the pinnacles of human achievement that are these tales of a boy and his tiger.

What? You don't know Calvin and Hobbes? But it's the best thing in the world! And in a rush of deranged enthusiasm I explained how it was better than sandwiches, gargoyles, cheesecake, toffee, and my ex.

She wasn't convinced, especially on the last claim, but I sent her some links, and am still hoping they're doing their work.

Anyway, so the other evening I was flicking through an old Peanuts collection, and was stunned by a strip from 1950, back in the dawn of the strip.

Charlie Brown ribbing Patty

Try not to get hung up on how odd and babyish the characters looked so early, and just read it again. And look at Charlie Brown's face as he runs away. This is Calvin and Susie, isn't it? Or at any rate, it reads like a template for that wonderfully repressed non-relationship.

You know Susie Derkins? Here's what Bill Watterson has to say about her:
Susie is earnest, serious, and smart - the kind of girl I was attracted to in school and eventually married. "Derkins" was the nickname of my wife's family's beagle. The early strips with Susie were heavy-handed with the love-hate conflict, and it's taken me a while to get a bead on Susie's relationship with Calvin. I suspect Calvin has a mild crush on her that he expresses by trying to annoy her, but Susie is a bit unnerved and put off by Calvin's weirdness. This encourages Calvin to be even weirder, so it's a good dynamic. Neither of them quite understands what's going on, which is probably true of most relationships. I sometimes imagine a strip from Susie's point of view would be interesting, and after so many strips about boys, I think a strip about a little girl, drawn by a woman, could be great.
Anyway, better to show than to tell, so here's Calvin and Susie jointly presenting a project on the planet Mercury. Understandably, Susie's been dreading this moment, having already wailed that they were going to flunk because of Calvin's messing about and that she'd have to go to a second-rate college because her idiot partner spent the study period drawing Martians.

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