Calvin and Hobbes

A conversation with my pal Jerko yesterday prompted me to make this post about my favorite comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. I came across the strip quite by accident in grade 8 when I ordered “Yukon Ho!” from Scholastic because I thought the cover looked funny. I was always looking for new things to draw, this kid and his tiger might be fun, right?

Little did I know at the time how much of an impact Calvin and Hobbes would have on me, and that I would still be reading and appreciating it almost 20 years later. I identified a lot with Calvin and his hair-brained schemes that never worked or got finished. I was a lot like him at 6 years old, without the destructive behavior. The strip presented a really rational view of the world, especially how Calvin viewed what was going on around him and why he thought it was all rather silly or confusing.

When I was younger, I loved the wacky characters and the gross situations Calvin initiated. But now I can appreciate more the dialogue, in particular the strips where Calvin and Hobbes are in the wagon and Calvin presents a florid depiction of life and experiences … before the wagon crashes and Hobbes cracks a joke. I could get into more of the mechanics of the strip and the brilliance of the art itself, but I’d be writing all day.

Outside of all the gross, awesome and hilarious bits the strip touched on (like a beautifully rendered painting of a T-Rex flying a fighter jet), Calvin and Hobbes brings with it a heavy sense of nostalgia. I can’t remember what strip it was, but Calvin made reference to his one summertime responsibility was how much fun he needed to cram into every day before his mother called him in for the night. I remember those days. That’s why I chose the images above, they are nice calm scenes with Calvin and Hobbes doing what they loved … goofing off and creating adventures in their own little world.

In it’s medium, I put Calvin and Hobbes up there with Nirvana and Seinfeld. Bill Watterson did it the best, with honesty, and he cared more about the characters and their world than he did about fame and fortune.

17 Comments

  1. Gavin Steele

    Its funny how many artists and designers love C&H! My brother is an inker and he started with these as a kid.

    The stories, it has to be said are as good as the art!

  2. I am also a huge fan (last name excluded for the reason). I have read Calvin & Hobbes as a child but learned something even more interesting when in an Ethics class at college. Did you ever notice that the problems they discuss in life can be perceived rather deeply? They are actually based on the ethical theories of John Calvin & Thomas Hobbes. The differences between them and how each handles life’s problems. Wonderful how something as simple as a comic strip can have profound effects on our lives.

  3. Wow, what an awesome description of C&H. I absolutely loved the strip growing up, even cut them out and pasted them on my door. Of course, I still have a few book collections as well.

    I always related more with the dialogue, being somewhat sarcastic, but I’ll never forget the snowman strips and the amount of detail in every Sunday strip.

  4. Brilliant. I had most of the treasuries when I was a kid and have managed to hold onto a few. One of my favourite scenes, visually, was when Calvin was messing with his dad while getting his photo taken, including sneezing at just the right time. That stuff had me rolling on the floor as a kid.

  5. Absolutely the best comic strip ever. Funny, touching, beautifully rendered and set the highest standard. After Calving & Hobbs ended, I stop reading comic strips.

    Miss it terribly.

    Thank you Bill Watterson.

  6. I looooove Calvin and Hobbes.. one of the things I most appreciated with Bill Watterson, was how he never ‘folded in’ over the commercial aspect of punting these two beyond the strip. Money was never an issue for him. The love of art and the lives of these two were! Comon’

  7. Delightful. Sometimes I’ll pull out all of Watterson’s books and do a Calvin and Hobbs marathon. “Joy” best describes the resulting after-affects. Interesting… reminiscing about those sessions is giving me a subtle high. Thanks for the flash-back.

  8. james (Author)

    This is great seeing so many great comments about Calvin and Hobbes, everyone. For being such a simplistic strip at face value, the quality and ideas presented obviously reach far beyond.

    Martin, you’re right about the merchandising side of things. Watterson wanted to protect the integrity of the characters and their world, so we will never see them on mugs or calendars. He fought and fought with the syndicate to maintain the rights, and he won. Very inspiring story.

  9. The wagon scenes were always my favorite (so much that I have a tattoo on my right arm).

    Like others, I greatly admire Bill Watterson’s ability for not only tell a story but having the guts to walk away at the peak of the strip and not selling out. He is, on so many levels, my hero.

    Thanks for writing a great article on Calvin & Hobbes!

  10. Yes! Oh, Calvin & Hobbes, how I miss thee. This was my favorite strip growing up as well, and still today I love picking up one of the collections and cracking it open to a random page. As I have grown up, I appreciate the writing and artistry more than when I was a kid. When I was younger, I identified with Calvin’s ability to live in his own little world, making snide commentary on everyone else.

    Wow. Great memories. Thanks, James!

  11. for me Calvin and Hobbes is as big as Schulz´ Peanuts. The Strip is one of the greatest in its genre and it influencend me a lot on how i see things and think about things.
    i´m very happy to own the complete edition :D

  12. I KNEW IT! I KNEW that was a Calvin & Hobbes reference when you described your fear of starting a freelance business as sitting behind your desk with your hands folded and a smile on your face.

  13. james (Author)

    Alex, you are sharp as a tack. That was totally an impression of Calvin sitting at his “Good Advice $1″ stand in his front yard. You just blew my mind.

  14. I can’t remember how or when I get to first read a Calvin and Hobbes book…..I love everything about it, and it’s through this book that I learned the word IMBECILE…….

  15. I agree with all the above! For my 10th birthday, a friend of mine got me one of the Calvin and Hobbes books for my birthday. She seemed ashamed, but I also suspect she (or her parents) picked up something, not knowing what it was. Little did I realize that that book, Yukon Ho! would inspire me so greatly over the years and as a fan, I’m grateful for the work that Watterson left behind.

  16. Gary Goldfinch

    Did you see that picture someone did, “The Future”?

    (by the power of google: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_lYdTf53O7WI/Sy0qeEwzg-I/AAAAAAAAAJU/vAMNg_Iiuwk/s1600-h/thefuturecalvinandhobbes.jpg)

    I was really moved by it, I think it’s Hobbes uncertain, backwards glance that does it for me. I doubt BW would approve though.

  17. Best. Comic. Ever.

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