Thursday, April 20, 2006

Suspicious Minds

Reading “Calvin and Hobbes” was the premier activity of my youth, and I was very upset the first I time I saw Calvin as a vulgar truck decal. In the most popular version, he stands looking over one shoulder with an arc of pee hitting a Ford or Chevy logo, depending on whether the truck was a Chevy or a Ford. The problem with these decals was how they changed the character. Calvin became sort of evil, and regular readers of the strip know that his rebellion was countered with sweetness. That’s why it works.

Creations take on new lives, though, even bootlegs. Several months ago, I saw a truck decal where Calvin humbly knelt before a tall cross. He was repenting for peeing on that Ford logo, I suppose. Yesterday, I saw Calvin as the logo for an electrical company. After finding Jesus, he went straight and got a job.

In “The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book,” creator Bill Waterson writes that the bootlegging began after he won a battle with his syndicate against licensing: “[W]hen I didn’t license, Calvin and Hobbes merchandise sprung up to feed the demand. Mall stores openly sold T-shirts with drawings illegally lifted from my books, and obscene or drug-related shirts were rife on college campuses. Only thieves and vandals have made money on Calvin and Hobbes merchandise.”

In “Dead Elvis,” Greil Marcus writes about the explosion of Elvis bootlegs and images and recreations that appeared after his death, when legalities become more lenient. At first it was Elvis products, followed by hundreds of tiny tributaries: Elvis/ Jesus hybrids and then Elvis/ Hitler hybrids, for instance.

Marcus writes about the “myth” of Elivs: country boy makes good, but loses himself in the process.

“Such mythologizing predated Elvis’s death, but it’s gathered irresistible force since. A dead person is vulnerable in ways a living person is not, and it’s not simply that you can’t libel the dead. When the subject of a book is living, he or she can always make that book into a lie by acting in a new way. A dead person can be summed up and dismissed.”

1 comment:

Jonathan Blundell said...

Love me some Calvin and Hobbes.
You'd probably enjoy this interview too... CLICK HERE