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From Strip To Script – Calvin And Hobbes

By Josh Hechinger

Welcome once more to From Strip to Script, where I take a shot at reverse-engineering a script from a finished page of someone else's comic.

Did y'all catch that #fourcomics wave on Twitter? Jim Zub asked the Internet to name four comics that influenced them growing up, and the whole thing kinda blew up as, y'know, a bunch of people who love comics took the opportunity to give shout outs to comics they really, really loved from waybackwhen. Personally, I had a lot of fun seeing who all else had matches to my four (even down to things like "specific Calvin and Hobbes collections"), and gibbering excitedly to people about their excellent choices (shout outs to Andy Liegl and Gabriel Hardman for indulging me on that front).

You can catch my four over on Twitter here, and I thought it might be fun to use them as a springboard for the next three pieces.

I say "three" because I already covered our old friend Uncanny X-Men 295 in my first piece for the site. So, next up would be something from the beloved, venerated, and in this case, capital-E-Essential Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson.

(Apologies for the slightly janky scan, it's from the copy of this treasury that I've had since I was in short-pants…)


PAGE 121.2

P1. CALVIN and HOBBES, sitting in the grass. CALVIN turns to HOBBES.

– CALVIN                                       Want to go fishing?

– HOBBES                                     Sure.

P2. They walk along a dirt path, CALVIN leading the way, HOBBES carrying the pole and tacklebox.

– CALVIN                                       Fishing is one sport I really like.

P3. HOBBES sits on the bank, looking at the reader. He's got the pole in his hands, and is dangling CALVIN by his swim trunks, as CALVIN tries to brain fish from above with a baseball bat. There's splashes coming up from the lake, and ripples, like CALVIN'S taken a quick whack or two already

– HOBBES                                     I can see why…it's so contemplative.

– CALVIN                                       There's another one!!

So, What'd We Learn?

– Textbook three panel gag strip: introduce the premise of the gag (Calvin and Hobbes go fishing) set up the joke (Calvin really likes fishing), land the punchline (Calvin's fishing technique is…something else, that's for sure).

– I like how understated the conversation is. It's a little thing, but things like starting off with both characters sitting, even Hobbes just saying "Sure." instead of "Sure!" sets up a more laid-back tone to the strip, which makes the punchline at the end land that much more strongly.

– Less a straight-writing-effect to glean, and more some general-comics-effects to keep in the back of my mental toolbox: keeping Calvin static within the panel, but using various water displacements (the splash up, the surrounding ripples, the little drip coming off his bat) to indicate motion. Right, sure I'm 90% just-a-writer, but that's not an effect that would've occurred to me to script and…it's just too good to not try and file away for future use, y'know?

Philly-based comic writer Josh Hechinger is a Cancer, and his blood type is A+.

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Hannah Means ShannonAbout Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.
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