First, some backstory. Famous literary characters come to life when a bookstore is built on top of an enchanted forest.
Matthew Labul weaves all of these characters (and guests) together with the sharp, satirical touch of a cartooning veteran.
However, I could imagine many cartoonists frozen with fear over this strip. How could they recreate such comic icons? What would people think or say?
Labul wasn’t shy. In fact, he kindly shared his thought process before creating this masterwork. He wrote:
“Calvin and Hobbes along with Bloom County were the two comics that made me aspire to be a cartoonist. With newspaper syndication only open to a few and a crowded online comics marketplace, cartoonists have to employ creative techniques to be heard over the cacophony.
Since Refugees of Make-Believe is about famous literary characters come to life when a bookstore, I thought having Calvin & Hobbes return would be fun and create some buzz. The fact that I could base their return on the decline of newspaper comics and the disappearance of some famous comic strip characters made it relevant to me. As you know, there are an endless number of webcomics. My need to create awareness for my strip trumped any hesitancy for creating the Calvin and Hobbes guest appearance.
Most people delight in fan art, but there’s always a handful of purists who don’t approve of taking comic characters out of their original context. Positive comments to negative comments so far are about 160 to 3. Some other strips like Huxley vs. Orwell or The 10 Highly Annoying Smartphone Habits of Famous Literary Characters have gotten praise, but who can compete with Calvin and Hobbes!?! LOL No negative feedback regarding Charlie Brown maybe because Snoopy’s face has been plastered on every product imaginable.
Watterson is a recluse who even declined to be interviewed for a book about his life. He’s enjoying a retirement filled with less commercial pursuits like painting. I can’t imagining him taking interest in anything this insignificant.”
Refugees of Make-Believe is a weekly “must read” for me — a smile coupled with a guaranteed gasp. In other words, “I can’t believe Matt Labul said it…but I’m glad he did.”
I think even Bill Watterson would have to appreciate the stylish, in-character tribute. Insignificant? Hardly! ROMB is one of the most courageously creative comics in years. Newspaper editors don’t know what they’re missing.