Children’s Comic Strips, Not just for Kids Anymore (or Ever for that Matter)

A timeless memory I’m sure any adult has of their past was waiting for their parents to be done reading the Sunday paper, or making an order in their school Scholastic Book sale, in order to satisfy their need of social hilarity that was the comic strip. I am quite certain that every person reading this blog had some type of comic strip hero that was used to entertain them throughout childhood and adolescence. For some however, the idea of a comic providing the same amount of stimulation as it did when they were children seems to become more and more of a farfetched idea as a person begins to enter adulthood. In fact, many of this writers friends claim that they no longer read comic strips because they only provide simplistic ideas of a repetitive fashion, such as Garfield being always hungry, Charlie Brown always receiving bad luck, and Calvin always getting into trouble with Hobbes, which seems to therefore only entertain the simplistic mind of a child. Is this truly the case however? This writer says no. The idea of comic strips only having a simplistic ideas seems to truly be interpreted by a person who did not experience the new messages and interpretations of these same comic strips when read by an adult. These once believed simplistic repetitive comic strips of the past seem to give new life of human understanding in all aspects of life that can only be experienced by an adult who has observed the world around them and has used their knowledge and understanding to develop questions of this world. An old favourite comic strip of this writer that can be best used as an example for this idea of adult understanding would be none other than Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes. Here, Watterson took his past knowledge to intertwine broad issues into his comic strips like environmentalism, public education, philosophical perspectives, and the flaws of opinion polls. For many children, such topics would seem to be above the concepts of child comprehension, this writer as a child had at least never considered the ideas of dual existence of the spirit being separate of the body, or ideas of life around us symbolizing expressions and emotions within the concept of being human. Watterson however, intertwined adult and children ideas so well that he was able to entertain both young and old, a young child laughing at Calvin and Hobbes crashing into a tree on his sled, while the adult ponders on the ideas of human nature of being good or evil that Calvin mentions on their ride down. So perhaps it would be a good idea to reread those comic strips of our past and be entertained once again not only by the “simplistic repetition”, but also with the new ideas provided to increase our understanding of the “Magical World” around us in which only adults can discover.
Calvin and Hobbe

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7 Responses to Children’s Comic Strips, Not just for Kids Anymore (or Ever for that Matter)

  1. Ali Bayne says:

    Just because an adult has the capacity to understand the deeper meaning here, doesn’t mean that they can’t enjoy the silliness as well. The illustrations themselves provide a form of entertainment, simple as they are. They allow us to connect with our own childhoods, by reading them again we not only re-experience the joy of simplicity (or even remember the joy it brought us back then), but we’re able to understand the ironic juxtaposition of this comic. Also, who says kids can’t ponder a question like this? Perhaps not to the extent that an adult could, but sparking the idea of human nature in a child’s mind might prompt him to ask questions, think about it, make connections, and maybe even learn something.

  2. Kristen Mortensen says:

    I love reading old comic books from when I was a kid, especially Calvin and Hobbes, for that reason exactly. It’s like watching movies you watched as a kid and suddenly being able to understand political references or being able to get the “adult” jokes that were slipped in there and missed when you were younger. You can look back and enjoy the comic just for it’s own entertainment vaule as well as get something new out of it. Like rereading a good book, you can pick up something you missed reading it the time before. Writers who can put those kind of dimensions into their work really make sure that their cartoons or books or whathaveyou will never get old with their fans.

  3. OliviaH says:

    Hey, great blog! I love reading Calvin and Hobbes and your blog post just got me thinking about how I felt when I was reading the comics when I was younger. I did not understand all of the deep concepts and ideas that popped out of Calvin’s mind, but I did understand how he felt when he did not want to eat certain foods, or when he did not want to do homework but watch TV instead. Overall, I did enjoy reading the books because of the illustrations and entertainment that it gave me. Now, when I read the comics, I think I connect more intellectually and emotionally. I connect intellectually because the ideas that Calvin brings up causes me to think about it too, and I finally understand what he is talking about whereas back then, I would not get the idea behind the words. I connect emotionally because the comics remind me of my childhood when I would act like Calvin during certain times, like when he is daydreaming in class, or even with the whole idea of having a stuff buddy to talk to. When a child is reading these types of comics, it is possible that the comic is simply a form of entertainment, whereas when an adult reads these comics, there is a deeper connection because the reader understands more and can actually recall the experiences from childhood that resembles those that Calvin partakes in.


  4. Ryan says:

    I love Calvin and Hobbes for this exact reason. I enjoyed it for its cute simplicity as a child, but rereading the strips now, I see a lot of deeper meaning I missed growing up. The same thing is true in shows like Animaniacs- it was just such silly humour when I was a kid, but watching it with more of a mature mind lends itself to a deeper side of the jokes that kids often miss.

    – Ryan Logan

  5. AlexS says:

    I totally agree. I own every Calvin & Hobbes and I re-read them all the time, and if i’m in public reading, people always make some comment about my being too old for that sort of thing. It just makes me laugh, I agree with the comments about re-reading to get the adult jokes and re-watching Disney movies for the same reason. I love how many levels there can be for different age groups!

    Alex Spink

  6. AshShan says:

    Loved this post as it’s definitely something I can relate to! Growing up I always loved reading comic strips in newspapers and would often save the ones I liked a lot. I still have them somewhere. I also loved Calvin and Hobbes growing up and found it very endearing. I re-read them from time to time and they still make me laugh but now I find myself interpreting them in a new light.

    I find that with adult comics, often they are serialized and therefore are more connected to each other. It’s easy to pick up a random Calvin and Hobbes strip and not need any context to understand the material being told and have a good laugh at the joke presented. However, I agree that this does not necessarily make this comic simplistic and often when you re-read these comics as adults, a more complex understanding of the material is apparent. Here’s to hoping that more people take the time to read Calvin and Hobbes and other strips of its kind with a more intuitive mindset.

  7. jneary says:

    I’ll have to agree with Ali on the concept of only certain elements of comics catering to certain generational readers. There were many times I would pull out the comics and get my grandparents to explain the “joke” to me, probably because they were always curious if I “got it”, which made me doubt my initial reading. Granted, Dilbert flew over my head because the office environment was incomprehensible to me, but Calvin and Hobbes just had something for both adults and children that other Sunday strips didn’t.

    Point being, Hobbes was the imaginary friend/stuffed animal of Calvin. The Peanuts, for example, were a group of children bouncing ideas off each other, but Calvin just had Hobbes, and as an extension, only his own thoughts. Understanding as a kid on some level that your conversations with your plushies is different from the conversations with other kids or your parents, was something I contemplated each time I read this strip. The drawing style and underlaid scenario (such as the sled ride) drew me in, but it was the conversation that had me stay when I was young.

    I agree with the comments that compare reading as an adult to a child in this comic, but it’s a special thing to have grown up with these strips than just reading them for the first time as my grandparents had. As a kid reading those strips I felt like what I “got” from the comics was more realistic than what my grandparents took; the fact that it was drawn by an adult completely flew over my head. Even today, my first impressions hold stronger than my deeper understanding of the content.

    – J.Neary

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