I have always been a fan of the web comic, Pearls Before Swine.
The medium allows for writers to be more self-referential, more subversive, and less inhibited.
Stephan Pastis, who writes and animates the strip, has always been really good at all three, and the controversy that Pearls draws is indicative of that.
For the most part, my favorite Pearls strips are the ridiculously drawn out and painful puns that one of the characters forces a set-up to lead into it with the equally painful payoff.
Here's one of my favorites:
And Pastis also enjoys calling himself out on such things, doing so at the end of this comic, as well as frequently throughout the strip on his jokes, and his own artwork.
Which was the basis for this set of comics that ran last week.
In them, we get introduced to a character named Libby, who is an aspiring cartoonist.
She decides to call out Pastis on his abilities, and his characters (Rat, of course) are more than supportive.
So Pastis decides Libby try her hand at drawing his strip.
The results are... impressive, to say the least.
But they are also... so vaguely familiar. An artistic presence I have not felt for...
It's just all too familiar.
Who is behind Libby's hand? Surely, Pastis does not magically have this ability hiding in his t-shirt this whole time.
That style, the shading, the lines, the perspective... It all seems so naggingly familiar.
Of course it does. Because Pastis managed to have Bill Watterson guest draw his strip.
Yes. That Bill Watterson.
Calvin and Hobbes ended in 1995, when I was quite literally still a child. To have now grown up in a lifetime that now consists of more years without new Calvin and Hobbes strips than with, is mindblowing. Mindblowing and heartbreaking.
Even though I feel the collection to be complete, it's thrillingly disappointing that Watterson will never pen another.
Appropriately, Libby's departure from the strip, harkens back to Calvin and Hobbes' own finale.
As Pastis recounts in his blog linked above, Watterson is extremely
reclusive and he and his iconic artwork are so rarely seen but his
legacy is undeniable. The idea that so many people who were so touched
by Calvin and Hobbes, like me, who later became Pearls fans, had this
happen right under their noses is wonderful. It was a nice little
tribute to a personal hero, someone whose characters inspired me, made
me laugh, comforted me, and became my friends in some of my most
formative and unsure years.
Thank you, Stephan. And thank you, Bill.