It’s snowing here.
Even though I dislike snow -it’s slippery, dangerous and it rarely meets its potential of a free day from work and/or school- something always stirs inside me. A certain urge to use this white canvas that so gratuitously comes down and give it a unique palette of tints, hues and feelings.
Those that I always find in the snow-embracing Calvin and Hobbes strips by Bill Watterson. Although snow-related strips were intrinsic, and perhaps of the most iconic depiction of experiences for a child-experienced-theme comic strip, there is one specific strip created by Watterson that comes back every time I get to look at snow.
The very last strip of Calvin and Hobbes. A true magnus opus in terms of comics craftsmanship, storytelling artistry and evocative soul-stirring.
I am not only throwing around big words to add some elan in my writing. Firstly, in terms of comics craftsmanship, the final comic strip of Calvin and Hobbes is synergic to a soul-soothing level: the white negative space delivers the feeling of a whiteout, of a next destination that is opaque. It has all the lines and colours it needs to tell a story, and that is a few. The rest is said by the white of the page, by the white of the snow.
In terms of storytelling, it is just as open-ended as a finale can be.
Calvin and his best friend Hobbes set out into the great unknown, holding true to their raison d’être: to savour their careless childhood, their adventures, a blur of imagination and a real world vying to be discovered. Throughout the series, I, along with scores of readers, was taught that our reality is as multifaceted, as colourful, as kaleidoscopic as the stories we make of it. There is a house of snowman horrors, epic skirmishes with snow and the constant squabble with gravity, whenever Calvin would thrash down the hill on his sleigh.
There was nothing holding him or Hobbes back, because Watterson told a story of a kid that didn’t worry with limits or barriers. And since he didn’t worry about them, they didn’t exist. So, this closing image of a kid and his best friend, who happens to be an overthinking tiger, pushing past the limits of the paper is an ending matching the stories Watterson told us so far.
Finally, there is message that I read in this is one of hopeful adventure. Throughout the series, Calvin and Hobbes have gained notoriety for being explorers: of playgrounds, of the dark underbelly of beds, of playgrounds, of imagination. They have challenged the great outdoors by walking through fields and forests. In the final strip, there is their foraging into the uncharted white of snow.
And what I think Bill Watterson wants to say is that this is the end, because it’s not easy. Calvin and Hobbes, and their readers subsequently, go to explore and make their own course into the most perilous and unpredictable of sceneries explores have set to chart: snow.
Perhaps the most appropriate ending for Calvin and Hobbes, would have the two of them crossing a field under a starry night. But, as the famous quote goes “If only life were as simple as crossing a field”. Life is more difficult to discern, more challenging to navigate, more bristling with potential than we dare realise.
This is why the ending of this strip, never fails to stroke an emotional chord. There is so much life in, by encapsulating a candid essence of life, and telling us that there is a need for ends, as much as there is for beginnings.
So, when it snows like today, I will always think of Calvin and Hobbes and hopefully sneak a quick read of it during day.