Friday, September 23, 2005

There's treasure everywhere (or at least in my mailbox)

The postal service has been very good to me this week. In the past few days, I've gotten review copies of the new "Burnout" and "Katamari" games, not to mention "Sly 3," "Pump It Up: Exceed" and a preview copy of "Loveless," the new Vertigo comic by the creators of "100 Bullets."

Oh, and then there was this:

Now, before you start crying "no fair," I should let you know that Andrews McMeel only sent me the first volume of the soon-to-be released Complete Calvin and Hobbes Collection (it officially hits stores on Oct. 4), and not the whole thing (a smart move on their part, as it manages to get the word out to the media without paying high shipping costs). However, having looked closely at this one volume, I'm not entirely sure this collection is the absolute must-have it's being trumpeted as.

First, the good stuff. The strips themselves look great, particularily the early ones, which look much sharper and cleaner when compared with the initial, squarebound collections. It should be noted, though, that the later, rectangular collections ("There's Treasure Everywhere," "It's A Magical World") are equal in print quality and printed at a larger size to boot (though maybe the third volume runs the later strips larger, but I doubt it).

The real gem of the volume is the nice introduction by Watterson which includes childhood sketches and early versions of the strip, where Calvin has his hair in front of his eyes and Hobbes plays poker with raccoons. Watterson is his usual forthright, frank self here, and he's refreshingly open about his early years, his fights with the syndicate about licensing the strip, and life after Calvin, which apparently consists of painting desert scenes.

So my problem with this "Complete Collection" isn't the content, but the packaging. Though the cover itself is sturdy and attractive, the interior pages leave something to be desired. I'm not sure why the publishers decided to color the interior pages a dull tan (perhaps to provide more contrast to the white daily strips, drawing out the art more?) but it's a distracting choice, and gives the pages a slapped-together feel. The design editor at my paper wondered upon looking at the book if they wanted to make it look like the original paste-ups.

There are other concerns. All the art from the previous collections are included here, even the covers and goofy poems, but they're inserted in the book rather haphazardly, without any reference or notes as to where said art work originally appeared. Organizing this material in either the front or back of the book (and perhaps including a table of contents) would have been a much better idea.

Much has already been made of some of the alterations in the original strips, so I won't go into that. Tom Spurgeon at the Comics Reporter mentioned the piss-poor Q&A Watterson did with folks from around the U.S. It's included in the press kit I received with the book along with a suggestion to run it in the paper as a plug for the strip. Other suggestions include exploring "Calvin and Hobbes folklore." the strip's recent return to newspapers and interviewing the various syndicate folk.

Perusing through this first volume, I can't help but escape the feeling that this package was rushed together in slapdash fashion, with little thought given to overall presentation or design. Sure, the strips still look great and the humor is as strong as ever, but when compared other recent high-profile strip collections like "The Complete Peanuts," this package falls woefully short. Even the introduction, as good as it is, isn't as revealing about the creation of the strip as the Watterson's notes in the "Tenth Anniversary Book."

Still, "Calvin and Hobbes" is a modern classic and it is nice to see the material all collected here in one place. If you've already got all the original trade collections, though, there's little reason to upgrade to this "high end" version. This is more of a book for those who have a few gaps on the bookshelf or, god forbid, don't have any of the original trades at all.

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2 Comments:

At 3:35 PM, Blogger Michael said...

That's a real shame. I was looking forward to this, but you've convinced me to wait until the price drops significantly (and it almost certainly will - Far Side was 40% at Amazon (now running at 37%).

I love the 10th Anniversary book, so if it's actually better, I'll be waiting some time to get this.

 
At 3:36 PM, Blogger Michael said...

That's a real shame. I was looking forward to this, but you've convinced me to wait until the price drops significantly (and it almost certainly will - Far Side was 40% at Amazon (now running at 37%).

I love the 10th Anniversary book, so if it's actually better, I'll be waiting some time to get this.

 

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