Spencer and Locke is Calvin and Hobbes grown up. If you’ve not read the issue, trust me: this isn’t a distant homage, this is a direct type of pastiche, and holy hell, am I conflicted about it.
Spencer & Locke #1 (Action Lab)
Calvin and Hobbes was a huge part of my childhood. An entire wall of my childhood bedroom has hundreds of painstakingly saved strips, cut out of the newspaper, detailing their various adventures. This new book, while inventive and smart in its use of these narrative tricks, feels like sacrilege.
I’m all for killing your darlings–I’ve advocated it in other reviews, and I think a slavish devotion to how things were before, or how a character used to be, stymies creativity–look at the new Zelda game for instance. You take the blonde elf kid out of the green jumpsuit, and open world him, and blammo: – 10 out of 10s.
This doesn’t work for me.
Here’s my review: the art and story are decent. Weird kid grows up with an imaginary friend/stuffed animal, becomes a cop, uses the stuffed animal as his “partner” on solving crimes and stopping criminals.
That? That’s pretty good. The broken psyche of a career homicide detective, relying on a stuffed toy to be his other half to see the things at a crime scene that he missed? That’s a good piece of work. There are tons of awkward social encounters you can create, and I’m sure there’s going to be some run in with the police captain at some point who can’t understand this weirdo, but can’t disagree that he gets his job done.
Where it veers into Nope-land is that it’s too close to Calvin.
Bill Watterson, when he hung up his comic strip, said this:
It’s always better to leave the party early. If I had rolled along with the strip’s popularity and repeated myself for another five, 10 or 20 years, the people now “grieving” for Calvin and Hobbes would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher, livelier talent. And I’d be agreeing with them.
He let Calvin and Hobbes roll off into the sunset, just like he never discussed the actual properties behind Hobbes’ existence, because it wasn’t necessary and more would be too much.
This is too much.
The six year old and his stuffed tiger are forever together in the old strip. Calvin doesn’t grow up because he doesn’t need to. His creator told his story and decided that it was enough.
I like the creativity here, and the broken psyche cop doesn’t connect too much with the cliched washed out detective ala Riggs and Murtaugh. There’s good material here, but I think connecting themselves too close to the C&H strip is hurting more than helping.
Nostalgia is a great thing. My son has a stuffed Calvin like tiger that is in room at all times that would not be there if I wasn’t reflecting fondly on my favorite strip. Where it hurts? When it stops someone from branching out, or becomes sequel-itis. This could be a totally fantastic series with a tongue-in-cheek connection to the strip that everyone could see, but more original.
Still. Overall it’s a good issue, with those creative narrative tricks I mentioned, and my own personal distaste for the C&H connection means others might love this.
I’ll give it a 7 out of 10. If I removed my personal conflict, I bet this would be an 8 or 8.5, so your mileage may vary.
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