'Calvin & Muad'Dib' Replaces Tiger Whimsy with Sandworm Dread

What happens when you mix Bill Watterson's beloved comic strip with Frank Herbert's classic science fiction tale? Strangely, something that isn't as unsettling as you might expect.
Bill Watterson

Clearly, Bill Watterson's classic comic strip Calvin & Hobbes is having somewhat of a pop culture moment right now. Last month saw the strip -- and its creator -- undergo what was less a rehabilitation than a general remembering that, yeah, it really was great when Gavin Aung Than illustrated Watterson's words in a style not unlike the cartoonist's own, and now someone has mashed-up Watterson's strip with Dune. Why? Because it's awesome.

The recipe for Calvin & Muad'Dib is simple: Take the art from a Calvin & Hobbes strip, and then reletter it so that the characters are speaking lines from Frank Herbert's science fiction epic Dune. That's why Calvin's babysitter tells him, "When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles," before adding -- to Calvin's shock, it seems -- "when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles."

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What's particularly striking about the detourned strips isn't that Herbert's language feels particularly overblown and archaic when attached to such pleasant images, but that there's not as much cognitive dissonance as might be expected; given the original Calvin's way with hyperbole, seeing him happily announce "Caution is the path to mediocrity. Gliding, passionless mediocrity is all that most people think they can achieve" doesn't actually seem as unusual as it should; all that's missing is a more obvious punch line.

Nonetheless, we can only hope that this kind of mashup of science fiction literature and comic strip great continues with other source material. I can't be alone in hoping for 2001: A Marmaduke Odyssey, right …?

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