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'The Complete Calvin and Hobbes'

Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes was one of the most popular comic strips of modern times. It ran in more than 2,400 newspapers, and fans of the scrappy boy and his stuffed tiger companion have bought more than 30 million copies of the strip's collected works.

This month, all 3,160 published strips have been brought together, from beginning to end, in The Complete Calvin and Hobbes -- a massive, 28-pound, three-volume collection that should prove irresistible to fans.

"Re-reading the adventures of Calvin and Hobbes is like visiting a childhood friend who moved away and took the fun with him," says Day To Day animation critic Charles Solomon. "During the 10 years it ran -- from November 1985 to December 1995 -- Calvin and Hobbes was simply the best comic strip in the newspapers."

Watterson is credited with reviving the fine drawing, visual imagination and character-driven humor that made comics popular since they first began appearing in newspapers more than a century ago.

Berkley Breathed, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his own Bloom County strip, admired Watterson's work so much he once drew one of his characters wearing a shirt that read "Calvin & Hobbes rule."

"His readers spanned every age," Breathed says. "I would love to do a strip as innocent as Peanuts... or Calvin and Hobbes, and hope to find that breadth of readership."

Few fans or fellow comic strip artists have ever met the reclusive Watterson. Even when the strip was at the height of its popularity, Watterson generally declined to make public appearances, preferring to have his characters speak for themselves.

He gave a rather famous address at Ohio State University in which he explained his philosophy and some of his quirks. Editor and Publisher magazine ran a story on his rare public address, but hardly any other news group covered it -- because few people knew Watterson was willing to walk away from the fame, forever.

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Charles Solomon