Calvin and Hobbes comic strips have been discontinued for years, but the impact of Bill Watterson's legendary characters still remains. Video essayist kaptainkristian discusses Calvin and Hobbes' impact on how we think about art and captialism in a new short called Calvin & Hobbes - Art Before Commerce. In it, he cites Watterson's refusal to merchandise his characters, numerous efforts to defy traditional comic panel formats, even abandoning "panels" altogether, and his direct meditations on art in the comics.
"People always make the mistake of thinking art is created for them," reads a simple, single-panel comic, but it speaks multitudes about Watterson's approach to the art world. Another comic tears apart the common perception of "High Art" and "Low Art" by suggesting scenarios in which a painting is in a comic strip, a comic strip is in a painting, and a comic strip is in a painting in a comic strip. "He firmly believed that an artist's work shouldn't be judged by the medium in which it's created. There was no such thing as low and high art, just creations that either speak to people or don't," kaptainkristian narrates.
Calvin and Hobbes is timeless for many reasons, and kaptainkristian explains those at length in the video. But one point that stands out is that, by refusing to merchandise, Watterson has forced those that love his work to invent new stories, create toys and memorobelia, and keep the characters alive themselves. Now Calvin and Hobbes is as much the community who loves it as it is the product of the incredible and principled storyteller who let it go.