Bill Watterson tapped into the joy, as well as the trials and tribulations of a precocious, mischievous and adventurous 6-year-old boy and his real-only-to-him tiger in the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. Over 2,400 newspapers around the world carried it, making it one of the most popular comic strips of all time. Which may be why you know it so well.
Calvin's excessively vivid imagination kicks into high gear when he finds himself in unpleasant situations, like being in school, or having to eat vegetables. That's when he uses the Transmogrifier to change himself and Hobbes into different animals. Or they jump into the Flying Time Machine and go back to prehistoric times. Or even better, Calvin will use the Duplicator to let him go about having fun while the duplicate Calvins complete the unpleasant tasks. Why the need to escape daily responsibilities? Calvin (actually Bill Watterson) said it best, "There is not enough time to do all the nothing we want to do."
Watterson not only created engaging characters with Calvin and Hobbes, the minor characters from Moe, to Susie to Mom and Dad, are strong, humorous and recognizable personalities in the life of a 6-year-old boy. Walk down memory strip with this all-time classic, that comments on the bigger issues in life with wonderful child-like enthusiasm.
Bill Watterson wrote the strip every day for 10 years! Calvin and Hobbes was syndicated from November 18, 1985 to December 31, 1995.
Most people assume that the comic strip is based on Watterson's son or his own youth, but it isn't true. It's just his imagination. Watterson said he named Calvin after a sixteenth-century theologian who believed in predestination.
Hobbes is named after a seventeenth-century philosopher with a dim view of human nature. Bill Watterson said that many of Calvin’s struggles are metaphors for his own struggles. Now it makes sense why Calvin and Hobbes were named after theologians and philosophers.
Calvin was constantly consulting poll results on his father's popularity. Many strips had Calvin asking his father when the next election for the role of "Dad" would be.
In many of the comic strips that were about Calvinball, it showed Calvin and Hobbes wearing black eye masks hitting a croquet ball while singing and dancing.
G.R.O.S.S. is an acronym that makes you laugh as well as keeping girls (like Susie) out of Calvin's and Hobbes' secret club.
Calvin would dress up as Stupendous Man and read his favorite comic strip, Spaceman Spiff. But we all knew Calvin was stupendous, didn't we?
The big cardboard box was amazing. It could do so many things by simply entering it and exiting it. The adventures ranged from time travel to changing shape.
The Transmongrifier changes Calvin and Hobbes into different animals with a slew of new adventures including hunting prey and being prey.
Calvin duplicates himself so one of his duplicates can do his homework, do his chores and other things while the real Calvin plays.
Like many kids, Calvin was fascinated with large, scary dinosaurs and would travel to prehistoric times to interact with Tyrannosaurus Rex and others.
Besides a desk to sell things, the box is used as the "box of secrecy" to hold his secret club meetings (when it's not in the tree house) as well as a "Cerebral Enhance-o-tron"with the help of a few wires and a colander.
Although all of them, except for the puppies, sound like Calvin, the only one of these that appeared in the comic strip was a swift kick in the butt for one dollar. Calvin usually sells something that no one wants.
Whether it's a fight or taking Calvin's lunch money or a toy truck, Moe is Enemy #1. However, Calvin is smarter than Moe and often leaves the conversation with Moe silent and looking totally confused.
The visual clue was the goggles, and the box in flight, to know that Calvin and Hobbes were using the Flying Time Machine.
Watterson used all these descriptions to paint a picture of Calvin's personality. Physically, he had blond, spiky hair and a distinctive red-and-black striped shirt, black pants, and sneakers. But mentally, he was much older than his years.
Word gets around when there is a kid like Calvin in the neighborhood. Hence Rosalyn raised her babysitting prices accordingly and also, she was the only babysitter who would take the job.
Susie Derkins is sweet, polite, well, everything Calvin isn't, which is why Susie is Calvin's enemy. But also they have a secret crush on each other. Love is complicated.
Susie liked to play pretend with Calvin, but Calvin had to be the house-husband while she was a high-powered lawyer or politician.
A gray tabby cat named Sprite, owned by Bill Watterson, was the inspiration for the looks and personality of Hobbes, but not the name.
All that mattered to Calvin was that their names were mom and dad, so it never came up in the comic strips what their actual names were.
Although there was plenty of time to daydream in left field, there was hardly any action. So Calvin played one game and quit.
The fearless Spaceman Spiff, interplanetary explorer, gave Calvin plenty of adventures. This alter-ego of Calvin's was created by Watterson in high school and then reworked in college to become Spaceman Moe. Then he was introduced in the comic strip as Spaceman Spiff.
Bill Watterson not only wrote the strip, but he was involved in all aspects of the technical production from the script writing to the drawings to the coloring. He used a red, sable brush and Indian ink on a Strathmore Bristol Board for drawing.
Snowmen were a running gag in the comic strip. It was used for social commentary, revenge or pure enjoyment. Here's another example: one snowman eating snow cones scooped out of a second snowman, who is lying on the ground with an ice-cream scoop in his back.
Inventive and hilarious, when Calvin Transmongrified he always looked the part, whether he was a large lizard or tiger. Watterson's cartoon strips could be a work of art.
Bill Watterson admitted that he uses Calvin "as an outlet for my immaturity, as a way to keep myself curious about the natural world, as a way to ridicule my own obsessions, and as a way to comment on human nature. " Which he does in all these quotes.
According to Bill Watterson, "Any strip about how suffering 'builds character' is usually a verbatim transcript of my dad’s explanations for why we were all freezing, exhausted, hungry and lost on camping trips."
Calvin’s mom loves Calvin, but his exploits tax her sanity. According to Watterson, "I’ve tried to keep Calvin’s parents realistic, with a reasonable sense of humor about having a kid like Calvin."
Watterson made Mrs. Wormwood real with hints that she’s waiting to retire, that she smokes too much and that she takes a lot of medication.
The friendship between the Calvin and Hobbes is the core dynamic of the strip. All of these comments have been used to describe Hobbes.
Watterson coined the term "Horrendous Space Kablooie" which caught on informally among scientists and was often shortened to "the HSK." The term has also been referred to in newspapers, books and university courses
Calvin and Hobbes frequently ride downhill in a wagon, sled or toboggan. In most cases the comic strip ends in a spectacular crash. Sometimes Hobbes hops off before the ride even begins.
Calvin has awarded himself the position of "Dictator-for-Life" and has given Hobbes the title of being "President-and-First-Tiger".
Tracer Bullet is Calvin's alter-ego when he wants to be a hard-boiled private eye. Calvin describes himself as having eight slugs in him ("One's lead, and the rest are bourbon.").