Calvin and Hobbes
Calvin and Hobbes was a newspaper comic strip written by Bill Watterson, which ran for just over ten years, from November 18, 1985, through December 31, 1995. The comic, which benefited from a very literary author in Bill Watterson (b. 1958), drew on common themes of childhood and innocence, as well as more philosophical topics, ranging from the meaning of life to attempts to deal with the complexity of modern life. Newspapers continue to reprint the popular strips, but no new one has appeared since 1995. The name is derived from the philosophical figures: Thomas Hobbes and John Calvin.
Calvin, a six-year-old boy, was the star of the comic. Perpetually looking for and causing trouble, Calvin's destructive tendencies nonetheless stemmed less from a true "mean streak," and more from being too intelligent for his own age, as evinced by his large vocabulary in the comic. Calvin enjoyed an active imagination, setting a backdrop for the strip's frequently fanciful settings, in Calvin's own imagination.
Hobbes: Calvin's stuffed tiger and best friend. He was introduced in the first strip when Calvin caught him in a trap baited with a tuna sandwich. In the Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book, Watterson admitted he once thought it was important to explain how Calvin and Hobbes first met, but later regretted the decision. Later strips also contradict that origin story: in some instances, Hobbes recalls what Calvin was like as an infant, which is at odds with the story that Calvin caught him at age six.
To Calvin, Hobbes was a real, live tiger, domesticated and friendly, who was his lifelong companion and best (and possibly only) friend. When portrayed from an adult's perspective, Hobbes was always a stuffed animal; from Calvin's, a real tiger. However, the strip is deliberately ambiguous about Hobbes's true nature - readers have debated over whether Hobbes is only "real" in Calvin's imagination, or if he is a changes from a real tiger to a stuffed one whenever anyone else is present. Further complicating the issue is that Hobbes's movements have a tangible physical impact; every day, Hobbes lies in wait for Calvin and pounces on him when he returns from school, and Calvin receives cuts and bruises from these attacks. The two also have snowball fights and play sports together (resulting in further injuries to Calvin), which raises further question over whether Hobbes is real.
Calvin's parents: never named, Calvin's parents frequently serve as Calvin's disciplinarians, although their roles expanded as the strip went on.
Susie Derkins: Calvin's neighbor, principal enemy and possible love interest. Calvin teases and torments Susie. Calvin's club GROSS (Get Rid Of Slimy girlS) creates elaborate plots whose sole purpose is "to bug " Susie. Calvin and Hobbes, the club's sole two members, frequently hatch plans to soak her with water balloons and attack her with snowballs, among other plots. Susie often outsmarts Calvin and turns his plans against him. Hobbes frequently accuses Calvin of being in love with Susie, an accusation that Calvin vehemently denies.
Miss Wormwood: Calvin's schoolteacher. Calvin is a very poor student, typically failing tests and creating mischief. Miss Wormwood is forced to punish Calvin frequently.
Moe: a bully at Calvin's school, who frequently beats Calvin up, extorts his money and steals his toys.
Scenes from Calvin and Hobbes only took place in the "real world" about half of the time. The other half of the strips took place in Calvin's imagination, where he would become, in his mind, one of many characters. Frequent return character-personae were:
- A dinosaur (any breed) terrorizing a city or his schoolyard.
- Spaceman Spiff, a science-fiction hero in the Flash Gordon sense of the word.
- Stupendous Man, a superhero who wears his underwear over his pants.
- Tracer Bullet, a film noir detective hero in the tradition of The Maltese Falcon and Humphrey Bogart.
Aside from standard childhood reminiscing that defined Bill Watterson's style, Calvin's perspective compassed more serious topics, such as the nature of good and evil, environmentalism (often explored from Hobbes' perspective, as a wild animal, missing the forest), coping with increasing complexity and technology, philosophy, the importance of creativity and the stifling effects of popular culture and television, and the necessity for a rugged individualism.
- A site listing the full text of every Calvin and Hobbes comic, ever.
- A daily Calvin and Hobbes strip, provided by GoComics, here.