I don't quite remember exactly when, but recently some friends and I unanimously agreed that Calvin and Hobbes is the best comic strip ever made. Sure, Far Side has its fair share of hilarity, but it doesn't have any of the manic charm and tenderness that Calvin often displayed. There also were never any plot arcs, every joke was contained in a single panel. It's easy to be funny in this setting, but quite hard to carry the emotional heft of the Calvin and Hobbes series of strips when he finds a baby raccoon or he loses Hobbes. For a hastily drawn cartoon about a delusional kid and his stuffed tiger to be able to resonate so strongly with so many different people is a testament to Bill Watterson's creative genius. Unlike other strips that have been running so long that they have nearly become a parody of themselves (Garfield) or are painfully unfunny and somehow cling to life (Family Circus), Watterson knew precisely when to pull the plug on Calvin and Hobbes and did so in a dignified and satisfying manner. The strongest measure of its lasting impact are the legions of fans who still pine for the strip 15 years after it was ended. The best remedy for this withdrawal is the beautiful, 28-pound Calvin and Hobbes Complete Box Collection.
I distinctly remember checking out the smaller Calvin and Hobbes collections when I was in grade school, and harassing my mom to let me buy the newest one when the book fair was in town. I would read them straight through over and over again, comprehending half the jokes, but still completely enthralled. Those paperback pieces were child's play compared to the Complete Collection behemoth. It bows the top of my bookshelf, and would certainly maim anything that had the misfortune to get in the way between it and the ground. The heft alone isn't what makes the best way to spend $94.50 I can think of, it's the incredible attention to detail within. The collection is divided into 3 volumes, and is preceded by a 14-page foreward by Bill Watterson. 3,160 strips are included altogether, on brilliant glossy paper and in chronological order, each ascribed with date of first publication. It's not a coffee-table book per se, (it's too pretty/heavy); it's more of a fantastic, lovingly assembled piece of art. You won't be disappointed.