THE COMICS section is a wonderful part of the newspaper. If a great newspaper is like a great meal, the funnies are the table wine. You have to have a few sips before tackling the big stuff. Who can start the day without a Pearls Before Swine fix? Like a good wine, the daily comics make our nose tickle.
For many, the funnies are the first introduction to the magic of the printed word. How many Sundays did Dad go out to grab the paper and come inside, only to hand the full-colored comics section to the kids? After he had read it, of course.
Back in the day, one of our favorite panels was Calvin and Hobbes. Oh, the adventures that boy and his tiger would get into. And on Sundays, Calvin might even take on one of his alter-egos, like Spiff or Stupendous Man. That comic on Sundays, much like Bloom County of the same era, could sometimes be mistaken for modern art masterpieces. The details of which can only be matched these days by an editorial cartoonist named Michael Ramirez.
Bill Watterson retired in the mid-1990s, along with Calvin and Hobbes; it was a sad time for all who loved the comics. Sorta like when Gary Larson hung up the pen and coloring ink. How does a comic strip end? How does Gilda Radner or Graham Chapman end? How does Buck Henry end?
So imagine our surprise when a Calvin and Hobbes comic popped up on social media after this Iran kerfuffle. Thanks to this fake news environment and the power of Photoshop, some people got right suspicious if this comic was truly Mr. Watterson’s handiwork, or if someone had altered the text in order to make their message go viral.
Why not? It’s a common enough occurrence in the digital world.
In the first panel, our hero, Calvin, walks up to his father, who is reading a newspaper in a recliner. The young child asks, “Dad, how do soldiers killing each other solve the world’s problems?” Calvin might not have been good in school, but he would have shamed some graduate students in philosophy class.
In the second panel, the father looks directly at the reader with a blank stare, contemplating the question. In the third panel, dear old dad just stares into space. The final panel shows Calvin walking away, saying, “I think grownups just act like they know what they’re doing.”
Real or fake?
Well, Snopes looked into the strip’s origin. The facts are in, and it’s an authentic strip first published on Feb. 18, 1991, toward the end of the First Gulf War.
The more things change, the more . . . etc. etc. Calvin, the world is still a dangerous neighborhood, and America still debates whether it should be more involved, or pull back to our natural, but perhaps even more dangerous, isolationist impulses.
As much as we’d like to believe in a Fortress America, protected by water, we learned several times over the last hundred years that it isn’t always possible. But when to send our kids to stand on the wall? When to put them in harm’s way? When to ask them to shoot at other young people to solve the world’s problems?
As was said thousands of years ago, to everything there is a season. A time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, a time to reap, a time to kill, a time to heal, a time to weep, a time to laugh.
Which time is this?
Calvin, we are happy and gratified to be able to answer that question: We don’t know. (Twain, M.) But we do know this: You are 100 percent right. Sometimes grownups just act like we know what we’re doing.