What’s wrong with this picture?
If you’re thinking it looks eerily like an adult Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes, you’d be right. Two bloggers have drawn their version of the grown-up troublemaker as a father. That’s Calvin with his WIFE—who happens to be Susie (yes, that Susie).
I can’t decide whether to be amused or disturbed. Sure, the comics are pretty funny (there’s two total, here and here), and Hobbes makes a welcome return. Calvin, in truly ridiculous form, has even named his kid Bacon (what’s that short for, Begonia)?
But it also feels profoundly weird and a little bit wrong. We don’t expect comic strip heroes to ever get older. In fact, most of the comics only work because the characters never age. You’d hardly expect a teenage Calvin to run around with a stuffed tiger, and Zits relies on its everlasting adolescent-parent wars.
In that sense, comic strips seem exempt from the basic laws of storytelling (not to mention time). If the characters never age, then there are limits to how much they can mature and change. Week after week they rely on the same tricks: Garfield is always ravenous, Paige Fox will always like shopping, Alix Stone never runs out of energy…the same formula when applied to books quickly gets boring (just think Sweet Valley High or The Boxcar Children). So why does it work for comics? Is it because of their brevity? Their humor? One of the few comics to break that trend—Lynn Johnston’s For Better or For Worse—never worked for me. It often got me to smile but rarely a laugh. Maybe I just didn’t like its style; or maybe it’s because the characters kept aging, changing too quickly, it seemed, before I could get a grasp on them. What do you think? Why do most comics keep their characters in stasis, and why doesn’t it bother us?