I loved the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes. Growing up, it was always the one comic I looked forward to reading more than any other in the newspaper. My freshman geography teacher in high school read them to the class first thing every morning. He also – mind you, this is just speculation – added a bit of something extra to his coffee every morning. But it was his last year before retirement, so I think he was a little beyond caring at that point.
My own comics reflect more than a little influence from Bill Watterson’s masterpiece of sequential storytelling. I’m nowhere near his mastery of facial expression and body language, and I’ve struggled to achieve his seemingly off-hand skill at suggesting a very detailed background with a few simple strokes, but he gives me something to aim for.
Above all, though, I fell completely, head-over-heels in love with the Tracer Bullet character.
A lot of my approach to the tone and rhythm of dialogue and narration in the Hazzardous Pay books owes a pretty massive debt to Calvin’s imaginary private eye. When I imagine Hazzard’s world, there’s more than a healthy dose of Tracer Bullet in there.
Tracer Bullet may not have been the most frequently-recurring character in Calvin & Hobbes, but he was always one of my favorites. Tracer’s look, his implied heavy drinking and chain smoking (crazy to think this was a comic strip that ran in thousands of papers, was viewed by millions of people, and featured a kid imagining he was smoking and drinking), his over-dramatic narration…they’re all pieces of Hazzard now. Just as Watterson was doing an over-the-top homage to the film noir of the Golden Age of Hollywood, I like to think Hazzard is an homage to the beautiful absurdity of things like Calvin & Hobbes.
And they’re a damn-sight better than any of Frank Miller’s noir-influenced comics.