Before starting this review I want to set some parameters. I have never been a Calvin and Hobbes fangirl. I’ve never lived anywhere that the paper carried the strip, so I have only very rarely seen them. I’m so out of touch that I didn’t even realize that Calvin and Hobbes’ adventures had ended n 1985. After reading Looking for Calvin and Hobbes I now want to start saving up for The Complete Calvin and Hobbes.
Looking for Calvin and Hobbes is as much the story of Nevin Martell’s journey of discovery as of what he discovered about Bill Watterson. Martell spent months searching the public records and talking to people who knew Watterson at various stages of his life. He traveled to Watterson’s hometown looking for clues. On some level, this process taught him almost as much about himself as it did about Watterson.
Watterson is legendary for his reclusiveness. An intensely private person, he dropped out of public view after retiring from doing Calvin and Hobbes. His friends and family are very protective of him. Martell managed to talk to a lot of people close to Watterson (and scored one real coup, though I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you exactly who agreed to an interview), but he never managed direct contact with Watterson.
I guess you’d have to call Looking for Calvin and Hobbes an unauthorized biography, then, except that the term conjures up, at least for me, opposition on the part of the biography’s subject. In this case, while Bill Watterson did not cooperate in any way with Nevin Martell, he didn’t actively try to thwart him either. Watterson knew that Martell was working on this book, yet Martell was able to talk to people who would probably have refused his requests if Watterson had made it clear that he didn’t want them to do so.
Looking for Calvin and Hobbes is respectful of its subject. There’s no muckraking, or even any hints that there might be muck to rake if only Martell wasn’t restraining himself. Martell regrets that Watterson won’t talk to him, but he doesn’t criticize him for it.
Looking for Calvin and Hobbes includes a select bibliography (including a list of the people interviewed) and a short index.