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Blog: The Mysteries

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Over the past few years I have been EXCITED and INTRIGUED by the news that Bill Watterson (i.e. him what made Calvin & Hobbes) was working on something NEW. Like most sensible people I flipping LOVE Calvin & Hobbes and, though I fully respected and saluted his reasons for packing it in (he thought he'd reached the end and didn't want to keep flogging it so that it became less good) I was saddened by the fact that he seemed to have basically RETIRED and wasn't bringing out anything else.

Thus I was EXCITED when news came that the project had an actual NAME - "The Mysteries" - and I was further THRILLED recently when I saw the below video, stating that it was coming out IMMINENTLY.

The video's all about how Bill Watterson and his co-creator John Kascht collaborated on the project, and I found it INTERESTING. The general thrust seemed to be that the pair of them had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA how to collaborate, or even what collaborating meant, and were utterly terrible at doing it, as both their styles and their working methods were completely at odds. This was presented as an Interesting Artistic Problem, although to be honest part of me thought "No, you are just really bad at collaborating with other people and maybe should not be doing it at all", but it seemed that at the end, after YEARS of not getting anywhere, something different had come out of it. Also, there wasn't really much clue what the thing they were creating actually WAS. Was it a book of photographs? An animation? Or what?

I was keen to find out so I went online to ORDER a copy and was surprised to find it was Reasonably Priced - maybe it's because I've been buying Academic Books lately, but I was expecting it to be an Art Object or something that cost 50 quid, rather than a normal price for a normal book. A few days later it arrived and it turned out to be Just A Book - and quite a cheaply produced one at that. The binding wasn't great, the sticker on the cover was skewiff, and it had a smell that was more Mass Production Factory A Long Way Away than the lovely Book Smell I was expecting.

I sat down to read it and within about five minutes I had finished reading it. It turns out that the book is a (VERY) short story about a fairytale land where the people basically kill off nature and then die, accompanied by some very nice images that, as far as I can tell, are photographs of models they produced during the lengthy collaboration period. It feels like a 1970s children's book, possibly issued as a cash-in adaptation for a TV show where there's a basic story on the left hand side of each double page and a single drawing on the right hand side. All it needs is for the pages to be thicker, like the thick cardboard pages you get in books for toddlers.

To say I was dissapointed would be... well, ACCURATE. It felt like an awfully long time to wait for something that you could have read at least twice in the time it takes to watch the video about how they made it. Even then it would have been OK if the story had some flipping DEPTH to it ("People are not necessarily inclined to pursue long-term interests" is basically the whole thing) or indeed some HUMOUR or INSIGHT or anything that was GRATE about Bill Watterson to start with. I'm all in favour of people trying something new, but when that something new is, to be honest, so flimsy and a bit dull, then maybe not so much.

I feel bad complaining about it, but maybe that's because I feel I OUGHT to like it because it's black and white and hardbacked and therefore ADULT. On the plus side it did lead me to finally dive into a new work in a new format by ANOTHER immense literary hero of the past century (i.e. ALAN MOORE) which I shall probably bang on about when I've got to the end, but I would have preferred it if THIS had been good too. It doesn't need to have been as (SPOILERS) really brillaint as "Illuminations" is, but it would have been nice if it had been a bit closer!

posted 25/10/2023 by MJ Hibbett

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