On the days when I fumble over the existence of God, the one our father told my brother and I about growing up, when the picture painted by that big floppy book I was given on my first communion comes across on the tenuous side, I reach for another slightly bigger floppy book, cast my eyes over the pages and feel the removal of all doubt wash over my mind in a wave of clarity.
God is Bill Watterson.
God wrote Calvin & Hobbes over a decade from 1985 to 1995. By the time he finished it was in 3,600 newspapers around the world and his book sales around the 50million mark. Nevertheless God was a hermit, never went to collect any of the awards he won, rarely did any press, content to merely sit at home at his drawing board and paint a picture of the world as seen through the eyes of a six year old and his imaginary stuffed tiger. Google him and you’ll find one photo of him. One. The only one that exists.
You don’t see Calvin & Hobbes dolls, or calendars, or films because God turned down literally millions of dollars in merchandising and tv rights, insisting his creation should remain only in its original format. The syndicate that owned all his rights were so pissed at this potential source of revenue squandered, that they considered firing him and getting someone else to write the comic in his place. The problem being the only person in the whole world who could do that job was… God. So they relented, million-less, and let him carry on.
But as time wore on God became more and more disillusioned by the powers that be. Where the comic had been always so full of life and enchantment and childhood innocence, day by day it was taking on a more cynical tone.
I don’t even understand some of the later ones.
In July of 1995 he announced he would be stopping Calvin & Hobbes at the end of that year. It was a bombshell. Millions of families, children and parents alike, feared the apocalypse of their breakfast reading rituals. The news was unfathomable, the equivalent of Messi announcing his retirement, uninjured, playing the best football of his life, aged 27.
As Christmas of that year went by, a time when Calvin would usually embark on his standard yuletide morality crisis of trying to secure as much sweet loot as possible while still lobbing snowballs at his neighbour, God chose instead to have a dig at the season’s mindless consumerism.
Christmas rolled towards New Year and fans all over were getting tetchy, it was squeaky bum-time. How would it all end. What famous last words would the world be left with. How would God distill all he had dedicated the last decade of his life to, into one last hurrah. New Year’s Eve was the last strip. Falling fittingly on a Sunday, God had an entire half page to play with.
I think it ranks alongside the greatest parting shots in all of art. The Last Judgement on the wall of the Sistene, the last sentence of 100 Years Of Solitude, Red walking down the beach at the end of Shawshank, Rocky’s speech to a stadium of Soviets post taking out Ivan Drago in the 12th.
Every time I read it, it makes me smile.
And just like that… he was gone.
Ending in the only way possible. With a new beginning.