Calvin and Hobbes

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Calvin and Hobbes was a popular comic strip written by Bill Watterson. First syndicated in 1985, Calvin and Hobbes was carried by over 2,400 newspapers. Almost 23 million Calvin and Hobbes books have been printed. The last strip appeared on Sunday, December 31, 1995. In it Calvin and Hobbes are playing on a sled: "It's a magical world, Hobbes, ol' buddy...", Calvin says, "...Let's go exploring!".

The strip is based on Calvin, a 6 year old boy, and his tiger Hobbes. In the first strip Calvin meets Hobbes when he catches him with a rope noose baited with a tuna fish sandwich. Whenever someone else is present, Hobbes is a toy tiger, but when they are alone together, Hobbes is alive.

The reader is never quite sure whether Hobbes is just an imaginary friend, a figment of Calvin's mind -- or is actually real as hinted at by episodes which would seem to be beyond a child's imagination. Bill Watterson leaves this for the reader to decide.

Calvin and Hobbes strips are characterized by sparse but careful draftsmanship, intelligent humor, poignant observations, witty social and political commentary, and well-developed characters that are full of personality. The names are taken from two philosophers, Thomas Hobbes and John Calvin; more reading on their philosophies will give some insight as to why those names were chosen. Watterson himself stated that the source of the two names is intended as a joke for people studying political science, and that not many other people would get the joke.

Bill Watterson is notable for his insistence that cartoon strips should stand on their own as an art form, and he has resisted the use of 'Calvin and Hobbes' in merchandising of any sort. The occasional t-shirts with pictures of Calvin and (usually obnoxious) captions are unauthorized. The occasional stickers for automobile rear windows that depict Calvin urinating on a company's or sports team's name or logo are especially unauthorized; after threat of a lawsuit, the maker (Custom Vehicle Graphics) replaced Calvin with a different boy. On the other hand, the strips are expected to enter the public domain on January 1, 2149. (Watterson was born in 1958, the record human lifespan is around 120 years, and the duration of copyright in US and EU is life + 70 years + December 31.)


Calvin's Alter-Egos

Calvin's hyperactive imagination leads him to imagine himself as other characters with different powers and goals:

  • Stupendous Man -- super-hero
  • Tracer Bullet -- private eye
  • Spaceman Spiff -- space traveller, fights alien monsters on far-away planets
  • Captain Napalm -- preceded Stupendous Man, appears only in a few strips
  • Dinosaurs -- Calvin loves dinosaurs! This, of course, means that Calvin imagines himself as a dinosaur in many of the strips.
  • Bugs -- "help i'm a bug" he types on his Mom's letter to Grandma


G.R.O.S.S. stands for Get Rid Of Slimy girlS and is a club that Calvin started in order to get rid of girls. Usually the girl is Susie and she doesn't come out enough to be harrassed, so Calvin and Hobbes are left by themselves to make up the club's silly rules, rewrite its constitution and argue about who is the Supreme Dictator-For-Life.

The Transmogrifier

The Transmogrifier is a device designed by Calvin that can transmogrify any object into another object. Simply place the object in the box, turn the dial to the desired target object and voila! A transmogrifier can turn you into a frog, a tiger, or even a dinosaur... and all you need to make it is a cardboard box and a big black marker. Calvin made subsequent improvements upon the transmogrifier technology, turning the box into a duplicator and a time machine. He also produced an improved, portable transmogrifier, which was incorporated into his water pistol.

Calvin's Snowmen

Snowmen! When winter rolls around and the snow covers the ground, you are inevitably going to see a snowman on every front yard... except in Calvin's case they're not just normal snowmen! His snowmen are all deformed and twisted. Whether they are hacksawing another snowman in half or laying on the driveway dismembered, they surely carry the mark of a unique maker! Calvin considers his snowmen to be works of art.

Calvin's Wagon and Sled

Calvin and Hobbes take rides often in a wagon or a sled (depending on the season) and talk about philosophy or politics. The conversations usually run eerily parallel to the course they take on the vehicle, which almost always ends in a crash. Calvin's wagon has a lot of mileage on it, as it has made the trip to the planet Mars and back.


Calvin's favorite sport, which he loves to play with Hobbes. The only fixed rule is that you can't play it the same way twice.

The Books

Although Calvin and Hobbes is no longer delivered in newspapers daily, you can still read this classic comic strip, compiled in book form. Here is a list:

  • Calvin and Hobbes (1987) -- foreword by Garry Trudeau
  • Something Under the Bed is Drooling (1988) -- foreword by Pat Oliphant
  • The Essential Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes Treasury (1988) -- foreword by Charles Schulz
  • Yukon Ho! (1989) -- the Yukon Song included
  • The Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book: A Collection of Sunday Calvin and Hobbes Cartoons (1989) -- all in color, includes 10-page story "Spaceman Spiff: Interplanetary Explorer Extraordinaire!"
  • Weirdos From Another Planet! (1990)
  • The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes Treasury (1990) -- compiles Yukon Ho! and Weirdos From Another Planet!, includes a 7-page story in which Calvin becomes an elephant
  • The Revenge of the Baby-Sat (1991)
  • Scientific Progress Goes "Boink" (1991)
  • Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons (1992) -- not reprinted in color elsewhere
  • The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes (1992) -- compiles The Revenge of the Baby-Sat and Scientific Progress goes "Boink", includes several illustrated poems
  • The Days are Just Packed (1993) -- large format, color sundays
  • Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat (1994) -- large format, color sundays
  • The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book (1995) -- contains essays by Watterson and commentary on individual strips
  • There's Treasure Everywhere (1996) -- large format, color sundays
  • It's A Magical World (1996) -- large format, color sundays

See also: