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The Philodoxer
Thoughts on writing and publishing, and the various sources of entertainment...
A weekly column by Abel G. Peña, best known for his Star Wars work.

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THE PHILODOXER for 04/30/2006
Life Imitates Art: Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie

I know, I know, I couldn't believe it either. But when I heard a book had been published with the exact title of Calvin's (of Calvin and Hobbes) favorite bedtime story... well, I had to have it--I had to know!

Like many of you, I've been a Calvin and Hobbes fan since childhood. I used to love cutting out the Sunday funnies and collecting them like baseball cards in the similarly absurd hope that I could ever have them all. We've all been starved for new C&H material since that cold, cold, fateful 31st day of December in '95 when Bill Watterson's dynamic duo tobogganed off into the sunset. So starved, in fact, that I recently bought that honkin' three-volume Complete Calvin and Hobbes set, even though I already own every book (including the superfluous Lazy Sunday, Sunday Pages 1985-1995, and Tenth Anniversary). Hell, I even own the Calvin and Hobbes 1988-89 16-Month Calendar.

Hamster Huey abd Gooey Kablooie

But what's this? "Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie", the fictional children's book Calvin always begged his dad to read him before going to bed, an actual book? It's true, folks. Apparently, in 2004, "Hamster Huey Press," which seems to have zero connection to Watterson, published the eight-page children's book, Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie: The Renowned Hero's Most Famous Adventure!, written by Mabel Barr and illustrated by Nick Goettling. (C&H fans will recall that in the comics, the story's author is one "Mabel Syrup").

Copyright issues aside for the moment, the question of the moment is, is this story any good? Well, it doesn't suck. However, it is extremely childish. The story revolves around the fabulous inventor Hamster Huey and Sprucing Valley, where he lives. The town's citizens are constantly threatened by a group of overgrown, suspenders-sporting bullies known as the Drogs who like to destroy shit. The story teeters on the edge of dullness for most of its duration, though the cleverness of one of Huey's inventions, which saves the townsfolk from the Drogs, manages to amusingly live up to the book's title.

But as die-hard Calvin and Hobbes fans, this cleverness is not satisfying, by far. We find ourselves wondering, how could the flippant Calvin we know and love like this lame story so much?

It's true, Calvin has always been an enigma. I remember the first time I saw those Calvin-pissing-on-the-Ford-logo stickers, how wrong I thought they were. Not in spirit, because Calvin would certainly do something like that. But Watterson would never depict Calvin doing that. This is the sense in which Barr's Hamster Huey feels so wrong. (For the record, the closest Watterson ever comes to illustrating anything like the Calvin/Ford logos is on last page of The Revenge of the Baby-Sat, where we see Calvin's buttcrack and the mischievous look on his face as Hobbes helps him escape from his bath out the bathroom window. Significantly, the words "The End" appear beneath the scene).

It's true, despite Calvin's often-verbose vocabulary or poignant observations decades beyond his years, Watterson always reminds us that he's just a six-year-old. And for everyone who's forgotten, six-year-olds tend to love stories that seem inane to us as adults. Barney, anyone? Jar Jar Binks? The fact that Calvin can't get enough of "Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie" and that his dad can't stand to read it even one more time is the punchline of every C&H strip that features this ficionalized book. In that sense, the real-life book is pleasing. In every other sense, it makes you want to throw up.

So, let's say it. If you're a casual Calvin and Hobbes fan, chances are you're going to burn your copy of the real Hamster Huey before you're halfway through it. That the book even exists is sacrilege to me, but, frankly, I like sacrilege. The bottom line is, I'll tell you not to waste your seven bucks on this utterly underwhelming purchase, but if you're a Calvinite, I expect you not to listen to me. In which case, appreciate Hamster Huey for what it is: a decent children's book that quaintly betrays everything Calvin and Hobbes stands for.

Adios folks! See you in seven.

-- Abel

<< 04/23/2006 | 04/30/2006 | 05/07/2006 >>

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