Thursday, January 27, 2005

Calvin & Hobbes, Conspiracy Theory, and All that Frazz...

So first off, I admit with little or no embarrassment that one reason I subscribe to newspapers that aren't the N.Y. Times is to read the daily comics. I've been reading the "funnies" ever since I could first read at all, and have as much affection for certain strips as I do for my favorite books.

Among these, the standout among standouts is - or was - Bill Watterson's "Calvin & Hobbes." The saga of a spiky-haired six-year-old boy possessed of a wild imagination and a faithful stuffed tiger, it's hands-down the best comic strip ever written, though it was with us for far too short a time (mid '80s to '90s, I think). (Runners-up, for very different reasons: "Tintin"; "Peanuts"; and Lynn Johnston's "For Better or For Worse," a strip I also grew up with.) For every funny thought, experience, desire, or fear - real or imaginary, but esp. imaginary - anyone ever had as a kid, there is a C&H strip that captures its essence perfectly. It's the "Seinfeld" of childhood, only better and truer. I have four collections of C&H and still read them about once a year.

Then, upon moving to L.A. last year, I began subscribing to the L.A. Times. And soon noticed a comic strip called "Frazz," about a school janitor who's also a bibliophile and (apparently) a successful songwriter. Frazz keeps his day job because he likes having contact with kids. (Ok, that came out wrong, but I'm not going to revise my phrasing for all you fellow sickos.)

The strip itself I found unremarkable, except for one startling feature: Frazz is a DEAD RINGER for Calvin all-grown-up. And the illustration style generally is eerily similar to Watterson's, though not exactly the same.

My first, stunned thought (the thought of a lawyer, alas) was: this is a TOTAL knockoff - how is the cartoonist's ass not getting sued by Watterson et al?

Nevertheless, over time, I grew rather fond of "Frazz." It's not as good as C&H, but it's still pretty good. Its humor is gentler, but of a kindred spirit to Watterson's.

Then, in today's "Frazz," there was a direct reference to C&H:

(Sorry, still can't do links. Also, I just realized the cartoon will turn over tomorrow for the new one, but I'm sure there's a way to access the previous day's.)

That was surely a wink-wink-nudge-nudge too broad to be ignored, I thought. So I began googling "Frazz Calvin & Hobbes" and discovered that there's a long-running conspiracy theory that the cartoonist behind "Frazz" is really Watterson under a pseudonym. Watterson apparently became something of a recluse after he quit the C&H drawing boards. And "Frazz" is of relatively recent origin.

The best summary of the Frazz/C&H conspiracy theory is here (again, sorry you're going to have to cut & paste):

I don't quite buy it. But it's intriguing food for thought. And why else isn't Jef Mallett getting sued?

(Yes, I am very, very busy. That doesn't stop me from finding silly ways to procrastinate!)


Blogger Angelo Dimitriani said...

I don't think Watterson should sue Jef Mallett... I just think he should kick his ass for plagiarism.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Kaz said...

This is late and I don't care, I'm gonna comment anyway.
I don't think Bill Watterson should sue Jeff Mallett nor kick is butt.
But if he kicks his butt, then Stephanie Meyers, J.K.Rowling, and Christopher Paoini should also get in line and get their butts kick as well by the ones who they copied. (And I suppose Suzanne Collins and the girl who wrote Juno could get in line. Stories inspired by Asian films. Classic)
Plagiarism is running rampant and no one is doing anything about it.

I take Frazz as The Matrix. Someone pointed out that The Matrix is some sort of prequel to the Terminator series. Go fig.

8:58 AM  

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