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Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes

Overview
Calvin and Hobbes is a syndicated
Print syndication
Print syndication distributes news articles, columns, comic strips and other features to newspapers, magazines and websites. They offer reprint rights and grant permissions to other parties for republishing content of which they own/represent copyrights....

 daily comic strip
Daily strip
A daily strip is a newspaper comic strip format, appearing on weekdays, Monday through Saturday, as contrasted with a Sunday strip, which typically only appears on Sundays....

 that was written and illustrated by American cartoonist
Cartoonist
A cartoonist is a person who specializes in drawing cartoons. This work is usually humorous, mainly created for entertainment, political commentary or advertising...

 Bill Watterson
Bill Watterson
William Boyd Watterson II , known as Bill Watterson, is an American cartoonist and the author of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes...

, and syndicated
Print syndication
Print syndication distributes news articles, columns, comic strips and other features to newspapers, magazines and websites. They offer reprint rights and grant permissions to other parties for republishing content of which they own/represent copyrights....

 from November 18, 1985, to December 31, 1995. It follows the humorous antics of Calvin
Calvin (Calvin and Hobbes)
Calvin ' is a fictional character, and one of the two principal characters in the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. Calvin demonstrates a level of wisdom, vocabulary and humor unusual for a six year-old boy...

, a precocious and adventurous six-year-old boy, and Hobbes
Hobbes (Calvin and Hobbes)
Hobbes is a character in the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. He is Calvin's stuffed tiger, and is depicted with two distinct identities.-Hobbes Personality:...

, his sardonic stuffed tiger
Tiger
The tiger is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to and weighing up to . Their most recognizable feature is a pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with lighter underparts...

. The pair are named after John Calvin
John Calvin
John Calvin was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church around 1530...

, a 16th-century French Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 theologian
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

, and Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury , in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy...

, a 17th-century English political philosopher
Political philosophy
Political philosophy is the study of such topics as liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of a legal code by authority: what they are, why they are needed, what, if anything, makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect and why, what form it...

. At the height of its popularity, Calvin and Hobbes was featured in over 2,400 newspapers worldwide; as of January 2010, reruns of the strip still appear in more than 50 countries.
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Encyclopedia
Calvin and Hobbes is a syndicated
Print syndication
Print syndication distributes news articles, columns, comic strips and other features to newspapers, magazines and websites. They offer reprint rights and grant permissions to other parties for republishing content of which they own/represent copyrights....

 daily comic strip
Daily strip
A daily strip is a newspaper comic strip format, appearing on weekdays, Monday through Saturday, as contrasted with a Sunday strip, which typically only appears on Sundays....

 that was written and illustrated by American cartoonist
Cartoonist
A cartoonist is a person who specializes in drawing cartoons. This work is usually humorous, mainly created for entertainment, political commentary or advertising...

 Bill Watterson
Bill Watterson
William Boyd Watterson II , known as Bill Watterson, is an American cartoonist and the author of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes...

, and syndicated
Print syndication
Print syndication distributes news articles, columns, comic strips and other features to newspapers, magazines and websites. They offer reprint rights and grant permissions to other parties for republishing content of which they own/represent copyrights....

 from November 18, 1985, to December 31, 1995. It follows the humorous antics of Calvin
Calvin (Calvin and Hobbes)
Calvin ' is a fictional character, and one of the two principal characters in the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. Calvin demonstrates a level of wisdom, vocabulary and humor unusual for a six year-old boy...

, a precocious and adventurous six-year-old boy, and Hobbes
Hobbes (Calvin and Hobbes)
Hobbes is a character in the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. He is Calvin's stuffed tiger, and is depicted with two distinct identities.-Hobbes Personality:...

, his sardonic stuffed tiger
Tiger
The tiger is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to and weighing up to . Their most recognizable feature is a pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with lighter underparts...

. The pair are named after John Calvin
John Calvin
John Calvin was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church around 1530...

, a 16th-century French Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 theologian
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

, and Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury , in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy...

, a 17th-century English political philosopher
Political philosophy
Political philosophy is the study of such topics as liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of a legal code by authority: what they are, why they are needed, what, if anything, makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect and why, what form it...

. At the height of its popularity, Calvin and Hobbes was featured in over 2,400 newspapers worldwide; as of January 2010, reruns of the strip still appear in more than 50 countries. Nearly 45 million copies of the 18 Calvin and Hobbes books have been sold.

Calvin and Hobbes is set in the contemporary United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in an unspecified suburb
Suburb
The word suburb mostly refers to a residential area, either existing as part of a city or as a separate residential community within commuting distance of a city . Some suburbs have a degree of administrative autonomy, and most have lower population density than inner city neighborhoods...

an area. The strip depicts Calvin's flights of fantasy and his friendship with Hobbes, and also examines Calvin's relationships with family and classmates. Hobbes' dual nature is a defining motif
Motif (narrative)
In narrative, a motif is any recurring element that has symbolic significance in a story. Through its repetition, a motif can help produce other narrative aspects such as theme or mood....

 for the strip: to Calvin, Hobbes is a live anthropomorphic tiger; all the other characters see him as an inanimate stuffed toy. Though the series does not mention specific political figures or current events, it does explore broad issues like environmentalism
Environmentalism
Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements...

, public education
Public education
State schools, also known in the United States and Canada as public schools,In much of the Commonwealth, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, the terms 'public education', 'public school' and 'independent school' are used for private schools, that is, schools...

, and the flaws of opinion polls.

History



Calvin and Hobbes was conceived when Bill Watterson, working in an advertising job he detested, began devoting his spare time to cartooning
Cartoonist
A cartoonist is a person who specializes in drawing cartoons. This work is usually humorous, mainly created for entertainment, political commentary or advertising...

, his true love. He explored various strip ideas but all were rejected by the syndicates. United Feature Syndicate
United Media
United Media is a large editorial column and comic strip newspaper syndication service based in the United States, owned by The E.W. Scripps Company. It syndicates 150 comics and editorial columns worldwide. Its core business is the United Feature Syndicate and the Newspaper Enterprise Association...

 finally responded positively to one strip, which featured a side character (the main character's little brother) who had a stuffed tiger. Told that these characters were the strongest, Watterson began a new strip centered on them. Though United Feature rejected the new strip, eventually Universal Press Syndicate
Universal Press Syndicate
Universal Press Syndicate, a subsidiary of Andrews McMeel Universal, is the world's largest independent press syndicate. It distributes lifestyle and opinion columns, comic strips and other content. Popular columns include Dear Abby, Ann Coulter, Roger Ebert and News of the Weird...

 decided to take it.

The first strip was published on November 18, 1985, and the series quickly became a hit. Within a year of syndication
Print syndication
Print syndication distributes news articles, columns, comic strips and other features to newspapers, magazines and websites. They offer reprint rights and grant permissions to other parties for republishing content of which they own/represent copyrights....

, the strip was published in roughly 250 newspapers. Before long the strip was in wide circulation
Calvin and Hobbes in translation
Bill Watterson's comic strip Calvin and Hobbes was translated into many different languages, and a substantial portion of the newspapers that carried it ran outside of the United States, where the strip was set. Calvin and Hobbes strips are distributed in different formats in different countries...

 outside the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. By April 1, 1987, Watterson and his work were featured in an article in The Los Angeles Times. Calvin and Hobbes twice earned Watterson the Reuben Award from the National Cartoonists Society
National Cartoonists Society
The National Cartoonists Society is an organization of professional cartoonists in the United States. It presents the National Cartoonists Society Awards. The Society was born in 1946 when groups of cartoonists got together to entertain the troops...

 in the Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year category, first in 1986 and again in 1988. He was nominated again in 1992. The Society awarded him the Humor Comic Strip Award for 1988.

Watterson took two extended breaks from writing new strips, from May 6, 1991, to February 1, 1992, and from April 4 through December 31, 1994.
In 1995, Watterson sent a letter via his syndicate to all editors whose newspapers carried his strip:
The 3,160th and final strip ran on Sunday, December 31, 1995. It depicted Calvin and Hobbes outside in freshly fallen snow, reveling in the wonder and excitement of the winter scene. "It's a magical world, Hobbes, ol' buddy... Let's go exploring!" Calvin exclaims as they zoom off over the snowy hills on their sled, leaving, according to one critic ten years later, "a hole in the comics page that no strip has been able to fill."

Syndication and formatting


From the outset, Watterson found himself at odds with the syndicate, which urged him to begin merchandising the characters and touring the country to promote the first collections of comic strips. Watterson refused. To him, the integrity of the strip and its artist would be undermined by commercialization
Commercialization
Commercialization is the process or cycle of introducing a new product or production method into the market. The actual launch of a new product is the final stage of new product development, and the one where the most money will have to be spent for advertising, sales promotion, and other marketing...

, which he saw as a major negative influence in the world of cartoon art.

Watterson also grew increasingly frustrated by the gradual shrinking of available space for comics in the newspapers. He lamented that without space for anything more than simple dialogue or sparse artwork, comics as an art form were becoming dilute, bland, and unoriginal. Watterson strove for a full-page version of his strip, in contrast to the few cells allocated for most strips. He longed for the artistic freedom allotted to classic strips such as Little Nemo
Little Nemo
Little Nemo is the main fictional character in a series of weekly comic strips by Winsor McCay that appeared in the New York Herald and William Randolph Hearst's New York American newspapers from October 15, 1905 – April 23, 1911 and April 30, 1911 – July 26, 1914; respectively.The...

and Krazy Kat
Krazy Kat
Krazy Kat is an American comic strip created by cartoonist George Herriman, published daily in newspapers between 1913 and 1944. It first appeared in the New York Evening Journal, whose owner, William Randolph Hearst, was a major booster for the strip throughout its run...

, and he gave a sample of what could be accomplished with such liberty in the opening pages of the Sunday strip compilation, The Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book.

During Watterson's first sabbatical from the strip, Universal Press Syndicate continued to charge newspapers full price to re-run old Calvin and Hobbes strips. Few editors approved of the move, but the strip was so popular that they had little choice but to continue to run it for fear that competing newspapers might pick it up and draw its fans away.


Upon Watterson's return, Universal Press announced that Watterson had decided to sell his Sunday strip as an unbreakable half of a newspaper or tabloid page. Many editors and even a few cartoonists criticized him for what they perceived as arrogance and an unwillingness to abide by the normal practices of the cartoon business. Watterson had negotiated the deal to allow himself more creative freedom in the Sunday comics:

I took a sabbatical after resolving a long and emotionally draining fight to prevent Calvin and Hobbes from being merchandised. Looking for a way to rekindle my enthusiasm for the duration of a new contract term, I proposed a redesigned Sunday format that would permit more panel flexibility. To my surprise and delight, Universal responded with an offer to market the strip as an unbreakable half page (more space than I'd dared to ask for), despite the expected resistance of editors.

To this day, my syndicate assures me that some editors liked the new format, appreciated the difference, and were happy to run the larger strip, but I think it's fair to say that this was not the most common reaction. The syndicate had warned me to prepare for numerous cancellations of the Sunday feature, but after a few weeks of dealing with howling, purple-faced editors, the syndicate suggested that papers could reduce the strip to the size tabloid newspapers used for their smaller sheets of paper. ... I focused on the bright side: I had complete freedom of design and there were virtually no cancellations.

For all the yelling and screaming by outraged editors, I remain convinced that the larger Sunday strip gave newspapers a better product and made the comics section more fun for readers. Comics are a visual medium. A strip with a lot of drawing can be exciting and add some variety. Proud as I am that I was able to draw a larger strip, I don't expect to see it happen again any time soon. In the newspaper business, space is money, and I suspect most editors would still say that the difference is not worth the cost. Sadly, the situation is a vicious circle: because there's no room for better artwork, the comics are simply drawn; because they're simply drawn, why should they have more room?

Animation


Watterson did consider allowing Calvin and Hobbes to be animated
Animation
Animation is the rapid display of a sequence of images of 2-D or 3-D artwork or model positions in order to create an illusion of movement. The effect is an optical illusion of motion due to the phenomenon of persistence of vision, and can be created and demonstrated in several ways...

, and has expressed admiration for the art form of animation. In a 1989 interview in The Comics Journal
The Comics Journal
The Comics Journal, often abbreviated TCJ, is an American magazine of news and criticism pertaining to comic books, comic strips and graphic novels...

he said:
After this he was asked if it was "a bit scary to think of hearing Calvin's voice." He responded that it was "very scary," and that although he loved the visual possibilities of animation, the thought of casting voice actors to play his characters was uncomfortable. He was also unsure whether he wanted to work with an animation team, as he had done all previous work by himself. Ultimately, Calvin and Hobbes was never made into an animated series
Animated cartoon
An animated cartoon is a short, hand-drawn film for the cinema, television or computer screen, featuring some kind of story or plot...

. Watterson later stated in the Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book that he liked the fact that his strip was a "low-tech, one-man operation," and took great pride in the fact that he drew every line and wrote every word on his own.

Merchandising


Bill Watterson insists that cartoon strips should stand on their own as an art form, and has resisted the use of Calvin and Hobbes in merchandising of any sort. Watterson explained in a 2005 press release:
Almost no legitimate Calvin and Hobbes merchandise exists outside of the book collections. Exceptions produced during the strip's original run include two 16-month calendars (1988–1989 and 1989–1990), and the textbook Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes, which has been described as "perhaps the most difficult piece of official Calvin and Hobbes memorabilia to find."

On July 16, 2010 the United States Postal Service
United States Postal Service
The United States Postal Service is an independent agency of the United States government responsible for providing postal service in the United States...

 released a set of postage stamps honoring five comic strips, one of them Calvin and Hobbes.

Uclick
Uclick
Uclick LLC was an American corporation selling "digital entertainment content" for the desktop, the web and mobile phones...

, the digital division of Andrews McMeel Universal
Andrews McMeel Universal
Andrews McMeel Universal is an American corporation based in Kansas City, Missouri. It was founded in 1970 by Notre Dame alumni Jim Andrews and John McMeel as Universal Press Syndicate and was renamed in 1997 to AMU to reflect the diversification that had taken place since its founding...

, offers licensed prints of Calvin and Hobbes strips through their website GoComics.com. The site, which offers framed prints of dozens of popular comic strips—including FoxTrot, Garfield
Garfield
Garfield is a comic strip created by Jim Davis. Published since June 19, 1978, it chronicles the life of the title character, the cat Garfield ; his owner, Jon Arbuckle; and Arbuckle's dog, Odie...

, and Doonesbury
Doonesbury
Doonesbury is a comic strip by American cartoonist Garry Trudeau, that chronicles the adventures and lives of an array of characters of various ages, professions, and backgrounds, from the President of the United States to the title character, Michael Doonesbury, who has progressed from a college...

—advertises the combined print of the first and last Calvin and Hobbes strips as their "most popular Framed Collectible Print."

The strip's immense popularity has led to the appearance of various counterfeit
Counterfeit
To counterfeit means to illegally imitate something. Counterfeit products are often produced with the intent to take advantage of the superior value of the imitated product...

 items such as window decals and T-shirts that often feature crude humor
Off-color humor
The term off-color humor is an Americanism used to describe jokes, prose, poems, black comedy, blue comedy, insult comedy, cringe comedy and skits that deal with topics that are considered to be in poor taste or overly vulgar by the prevailing morality of a culture...

, binge drinking
Binge drinking
Binge drinking or heavy episodic drinking is the modern epithet for drinking alcoholic beverages with the primary intention of becoming intoxicated by heavy consumption of alcohol over a short period of time. It is a kind of purposeful drinking style that is popular in several countries worldwide,...

 and other themes that are not found in Watterson's work. Images from one strip in which Calvin and Hobbes dance to classical music at night were commonly used for copyright violations. After threat of a lawsuit alleging infringement of copyright and trademark, some sticker makers replaced Calvin with a different boy, while other makers made no changes. Watterson wryly commented, "I clearly miscalculated how popular it would be to show Calvin urinating on a Ford
Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company is an American multinational automaker based in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. The automaker was founded by Henry Ford and incorporated on June 16, 1903. In addition to the Ford and Lincoln brands, Ford also owns a small stake in Mazda in Japan and Aston Martin in the UK...

 logo."

Style and influences


Precedents to Calvin's fantasy world can be found in Crockett Johnson
Crockett Johnson
Crockett Johnson was the pen name of cartoonist and children's book illustrator David Johnson Leisk...

's Barnaby, Charles M. Schulz
Charles M. Schulz
Charles Monroe "Sparky" Schulz was an American cartoonist, whose comic strip Peanuts proved one of the most popular and influential in the history of the medium, and is still widely reprinted on a daily basis.-Early life and education:Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Schulz grew up in Saint Paul...

's Peanuts
Peanuts
Peanuts is a syndicated daily and Sunday American comic strip written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz, which ran from October 2, 1950, to February 13, 2000, continuing in reruns afterward...

, Percy Crosby
Percy Crosby
Percy Leo Crosby was an American author, illustrator and cartoonist best known for his popular comic strip Skippy. Adapted into movies, a novel and a radio show, Crosby's creation was commemorated on a 1997 U.S. Postal Service stamp...

's Skippy
Skippy (comic strip)
Skippy was an American comic strip written and drawn by Percy Crosby that was published from 1923 to 1945. A highly popular, acclaimed and influential feature about rambunctious fifth-grader Skippy Skinner, his friends and his enemies, it was adapted into movies, a novel and a radio show. It was...

, Berkeley Breathed
Berkeley Breathed
Guy Berkeley "Berke" Breathed is an American cartoonist, children's book author/illustrator, director and screenwriter, best known for Bloom County, a 1980s cartoon-comic strip that dealt with sociopolitical issues as understood by fanciful characters and through humorous analogies...

's Bloom County
Bloom County
Bloom County is an American comic strip by Berkeley Breathed which ran from December 8, 1980, until August 6, 1989. It examined events in politics and culture through the viewpoint of a fanciful small town in Middle America, where children often have adult personalities and vocabularies and where...

, and George Herriman
George Herriman
George Joseph Herriman was an American cartoonist, best known for his classic comic strip Krazy Kat.-Early life:...

's Krazy Kat
Krazy Kat
Krazy Kat is an American comic strip created by cartoonist George Herriman, published daily in newspapers between 1913 and 1944. It first appeared in the New York Evening Journal, whose owner, William Randolph Hearst, was a major booster for the strip throughout its run...

, while Watterson's use of comics as sociopolitical commentary reaches back to Walt Kelly
Walt Kelly
Walter Crawford Kelly, Jr. , or Walt Kelly, was an American animator and cartoonist, best known for the comic strip, Pogo. He began his animation career in 1936 at Walt Disney Studios, contributing to Pinocchio and Fantasia. Kelly resigned in 1941 at the age of 28 to work at Post-Hall Syndicate,...

's Pogo and Quino
Quino
Joaquín Salvador Lavado, better known by his pen name Quino is an Argentine cartoonist. His comic strip Mafalda is very popular in Latin America and many parts of Europe.-Early life and work:...

's Mafalda
Mafalda
Mafalda is a comic strip written and drawn by Argentine cartoonist Joaquín Salvador Lavado, better known by his pen name Quino. The strip features a 6-year-old girl named Mafalda, who is deeply concerned about humanity and world peace and rebels against the current state of the world...

. Schulz and Kelly particularly influenced Watterson's outlook on comics during his formative years.

In addition to philosophical antecedents to Watterson’s work, he references preexisting, archetypical cartoon characters as a tool to create empathetic responses in the reader. Echoes of not only Charlie Brown, but also of Dennis the Menace
Dennis the Menace (U.S.)
Dennis the Menace is a daily syndicated newspaper comic strip originally created, written and illustrated by Hank Ketcham. It debuted on March 12, 1951 in 16 newspapers and was originally distributed by Post-Hall Syndicate...

, induce a nostalgic and warmhearted response in the new reader of any Calvin and Hobbes strip, even as the subject matter challenges that viewer to consider its extra-comical implications.

In early strips, the drawings have a flatter, Peanuts
Peanuts
Peanuts is a syndicated daily and Sunday American comic strip written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz, which ran from October 2, 1950, to February 13, 2000, continuing in reruns afterward...

-like look but show more depth in later strips. Notable elements of Watterson's artistic style are his characters' diverse and often exaggerated expressions (particularly those of Calvin), elaborate and bizarre backgrounds for Calvin's flights of imagination, expressions of motion, and frequent visual jokes and metaphors. In the later years of the strip, with more panel space available for his use, Watterson experimented more freely with different panel layouts, art styles, stories without dialogue, and greater use of whitespace
White space (visual arts)
In page layout, illustration and sculpture, white space is often referred to as negative space. It is that portion of a page left unmarked: the space between graphics, margins, gutters, space between columns, space between lines of type or figures and objects drawn or depicted...

. He also makes a point of not showing certain things explicitly: the "Noodle Incident" and the children's book
Children's literature
Children's literature is for readers and listeners up to about age twelve; it is often defined in four different ways: books written by children, books written for children, books chosen by children, or books chosen for children. It is often illustrated. The term is used in senses which sometimes...

 Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie are left to the reader's imagination, where Watterson was sure they would be "more outrageous" than he could portray.

Watterson's technique started with minimalist pencil sketches
Sketch (drawing)
A sketch is a rapidly executed freehand drawing that is not usually intended as a finished work...

 drawn with a light pencil (though the larger Sunday strips often required more elaborate work); he then would use a small sable brush and India ink
India ink
India ink is a simple black ink once widely used for writing and printing and now more commonly used for drawing, especially when inking comic books and comic strips.-Composition:...

 on Strathmore bristol board
Bristol board
Bristol board is an uncoated, machine-finished paperboard. It is named after the city of Bristol in the southwest of England...

 to complete most of the remaining drawing. He lettered dialogue with a Rapidograph
Rotring
Rotring is a German technical writing and drawing instruments company based in Hamburg.-History:The company was established in 1928 as Tintenkuli Handels GmbH. The company's first product was the Tintenkuli, a stylographic pen—a fountain pen with a narrow steel tube instead of a conventional nib...

 fountain pen
Fountain pen
A fountain pen is a nib pen that, unlike its predecessor the dip pen, contains an internal reservoir of water-based liquid ink. The pen draws ink from the reservoir through a feed to the nib and deposits it on paper via a combination of gravity and capillary action...

, and he used a crowquill
Quill
A quill pen is a writing implement made from a flight feather of a large bird. Quills were used for writing with ink before the invention of the dip pen, metal-nibbed pens, the fountain pen, and, eventually, the ballpoint pen...

 pen for odds and ends. He used Liquid Paper
Liquid Paper
Liquid Paper is a brand of the Newell Rubbermaid company that sells correction fluid, correction pen and correction tape. Mainly used to correct typewriting in the past, correction products now mostly cover handwriting mistakes.- Brand history :...

 to correct mistakes. He was careful in his use of color, often spending a great deal of time in choosing the right colors to employ for the weekly Sunday strip. When Calvin and Hobbes began there were 64 colors available for the Sunday strips. For the later Sunday strips Watterson had 125 colors as well as the ability to fade the colors into each other.

Art and academia


Watterson used the strip to poke fun at the art world, principally through Calvin's unconventional creations of snowmen
Snowman
A snowman is an anthropomorphic snow sculpture. They are customarily built by children as part of a family project in celebration of winter. In some cases, participants in winter festivals will build large numbers of snowmen...

 but also through other expressions of childhood art. When Miss Wormwood complains that he is wasting class time drawing impossible things (a Stegosaurus
Stegosaurus
Stegosaurus is a genus of armored stegosaurid dinosaur. They lived during the Late Jurassic period , some 155 to 150 million years ago in what is now western North America. In 2006, a specimen of Stegosaurus was announced from Portugal, showing that they were present in Europe as well...

in a rocket ship, for example), Calvin proclaims himself "on the cutting edge of the avant-garde
Avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

." He begins exploring the medium of snow when a warm day melts his snowman. His next sculpture "speaks to the horror of our own mortality, inviting the viewer to contemplate the evanescence of life." In further strips, Calvin's creative instincts diversify to include sidewalk drawings (or, as he terms them, examples of "suburban postmodernism
Postmodernism
Postmodernism is a philosophical movement evolved in reaction to modernism, the tendency in contemporary culture to accept only objective truth and to be inherently suspicious towards a global cultural narrative or meta-narrative. Postmodernist thought is an intentional departure from the...

").

Watterson also lampooned the academic world
Academia
Academia is the community of students and scholars engaged in higher education and research.-Etymology:The word comes from the akademeia in ancient Greece. Outside the city walls of Athens, the gymnasium was made famous by Plato as a center of learning...

. In one example, Calvin writes a "revisionist
Historical revisionism (negationism)
Historical revisionism is either the legitimate scholastic re-examination of existing knowledge about a historical event, or the illegitimate distortion of the historical record such that certain events appear in a more or less favourable light. For the former, i.e. the academic pursuit, see...

 autobiography
Autobiography
An autobiography is a book about the life of a person, written by that person.-Origin of the term:...

," recruiting Hobbes to take pictures of him doing stereotypical kid activities like playing sports in order to make him seem more well-adjusted. In another strip, he carefully crafts an "artist's statement
Artist's Statement
An artist's statement is a brief verbal representation created by the artist about his or her own work.-Content:...

," claiming that such essays convey more messages than artworks themselves ever do (Hobbes blandly notes, "You misspelled Weltanschauung
World view
A comprehensive world view is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society's knowledge and point-of-view, including natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and...

"). He indulges in what Watterson calls "pop psychobabble
Psychobabble
Psychobabble is a form of prose using jargon, buzzwords and highly esoteric language to give an impression of plausibility through mystification, misdirection, and obfuscation. The term implies that the speaker of psychobabble lacks the experience and understanding necessary for proper use of a...

" to justify his destructive rampages and shift blame to his parents, citing "toxic codependency
Codependence
Codependency is unhealthy love and a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways that negatively impact one's relationships and quality of life. It also often involves placing a lower priority on one's own needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others...

." In one instance, he pens a book report based on the theory that the purpose of academic writing is to "inflate weak ideas, obscure poor reasoning, and inhibit clarity," titled The Dynamics of Interbeing and Monological Imperatives in Dick and Jane
Dick and Jane
Dick and Jane were the main characters in popular basal readers written by William S. Gray and Zerna Sharp and published by Scott Foresman, that were used to teach children to read from the 1930s through to the 1970s in the United States...

: A Study in Psychic Transrelational Gender Modes. Displaying his creation to Hobbes, he remarks, "Academia, here I come!" Watterson explains that he adapted this jargon (and similar examples from several other strips) from an actual book of art criticism.

Overall, Watterson's satirical essays serve to attack both sides, criticizing both the commercial mainstream and the artists who are supposed to be "outside" it. Not long after he began drawing his "Dinosaurs in Rocket Ships" series, Calvin tells Hobbes:
The strip for Sunday, May 5, 1991 criticized the naming of The Big Bang
Big Bang
The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model that explains the early development of the Universe. According to the Big Bang theory, the Universe was once in an extremely hot and dense state which expanded rapidly. This rapid expansion caused the young Universe to cool and resulted in...

 as unevocative of the wonders behind it. The strip coined "Horrendous Space Kablooie," an alternative which has achieved some popularity amongst scientists, particularly in informal discussion and often shortened to "the HSK." The term has also been referenced in newspapers, books, and university courses.

Social criticisms


With rare exceptions, such as Calvin once stating his desire to grow a beard like the members of ZZ Top
ZZ Top
ZZ Top is an American rock band, sometimes referred to as "That Little Ol' Band from Texas". Their style, which is rooted in blues-based boogie rock, has come to incorporate elements of arena, southern, and boogie rock. The band, from Houston Texas, formed in 1969...

, the strip avoids reference to actual people or events. Watterson lampoons public decadence and apathy, commercialism, and the pandering nature of the mass media.

In one instance, Calvin tells Hobbes about a science-fiction story he has read in which machines turn humans into zombie slaves. Hobbes comments about the irony of machines controlling people instead of the other way around; Calvin then exclaims, "I'll say. Hey! What time is it?? My TV show is on!" and sprints back inside to watch it. Another strip depicts Calvin's science-fiction story about an extraterrestrial spaceship sucking up Earth's oceans and air. To the cries of the suffocating victims, the aliens reply that this is preferable to the loss of their jobs. Calvin is concerned that his story is too far-fetched, to which Hobbes responds, "Not enough, really."

Calvin



Calvin, named after the 16th-century theologian John Calvin
John Calvin
John Calvin was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church around 1530...

, is an impulsive, creative, imaginative, energetic, curious, intelligent, hypocritical, selfish, rude, and ill-tempered six-year-old, whose last name is never mentioned in the strip. Despite his poor grades in school, Calvin demonstrates his intelligence through his sophisticated vocabulary and a philosophical mind:
He commonly wears his distinctive red-and-black striped shirt, black pants, and white-and-magenta sneakers. He also wears a jacket when going to school or when playing in the snow. He is an enthusiastic reader of comic books and has a tendency to order items marketed in comic books or on boxes of his favorite cereal, Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs. Watterson described Calvin:
Calvin also has a sensitive side as well. This is displayed, for example, when he finds a dying raccoon and tries to save it but fails. He is then shown crying. The scene is made even more poignant by Calvin asking Hobbes not to "go anywhere", and Hobbes solemnly promising he wouldn't.

Hobbes



From the other characters' perspectives, Hobbes is Calvin's stuffed tiger. From Calvin's point of view, Hobbes is an anthropomorphic
Anthropomorphism
Anthropomorphism is any attribution of human characteristics to animals, non-living things, phenomena, material states, objects or abstract concepts, such as organizations, governments, spirits or deities. The term was coined in the mid 1700s...

 tiger, much larger than Calvin and full of independent attitudes and ideas. When the perspective shifts to any other character, readers again see merely a stuffed animal, usually seated at an off-kilter angle and blankly staring into space. Watterson explains:
Hobbes' true nature is made more ambiguous by episodes that seem to attribute real-life consequences to Hobbes' actions. For example, Hobbes plays a game of pouncing on Calvin the moment he arrives home from school, an act which always leaves Calvin with bruises and scrapes that are evident to other characters. Hobbes also manages to tie Calvin to a chair in such a way that Calvin's father is unable to understand how he could have done it himself.

Hobbes is named after the 17th-century philosopher
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury , in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy...

, who held what Watterson describes as "a dim view of human nature." Hobbes (the tiger) is much more rational and aware of consequences than Calvin, but seldom interferes with Calvin's troublemaking beyond a few oblique warnings. Hobbes is sarcastic when Calvin is being hypocritical about things he dislikes.

Although the debut strip clearly shows Calvin capturing Hobbes by means of a snare (with a tuna sandwich as the bait), a later comic (August 1, 1989) indicates that Hobbes has been with Calvin since Calvin was a baby:
Watterson eventually decided that it was not important to establish how Calvin and Hobbes met.

Calvin's parents


Calvin's mother and father are American middle-class
Middle class
The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class....

 parents. Like many other characters in the strip, their relatively down-to-earth and sensible attitudes serve as a foil for Calvin's outlandish behavior.

Watterson says some fans were angered by the way Calvin's parents thought of Calvin. This is shown by the fact that Calvin's father claimed that he wanted a dachshund instead of Calvin, and often tries to "deny" that Calvin is his biological son:
Calvin's parents are not above some outrageous behavior of their own. For example, Calvin asks for a cigarette and his mother gives him one to teach him a lesson. Calvin's father tells Calvin sarcastic lies when asked a straight question, and Calvin often believes them:
Watterson defends what Calvin's parents do, remarking that in the case of parenting a kid like Calvin, "I think they do a better job than I would." Calvin's father is overly concerned with "character building" activities in a number of strips, either in the things he makes Calvin do or in the masochistic eccentricities of his own lifestyle. For example, Calvin's father is shown coming home from an early morning run in the snow, which he follows with a bowl of plain oatmeal
Oatmeal
Oatmeal is ground oat groats , or a porridge made from oats . Oatmeal can also be ground oat, steel-cut oats, crushed oats, or rolled oats....

.

Calvin's father is a patent attorney
Patent attorney
A patent attorney is an attorney who has the specialized qualifications necessary for representing clients in obtaining patents and acting in all matters and procedures relating to patent law and practice, such as filing an opposition...

 and his mother is a stay-at-home mom
Homemaker
Homemaking is a mainly American term for the management of a home, otherwise known as housework, housekeeping or household management...

. Both remain unnamed except as "Mom" and "Dad," or pet names such as "honey" and "dear" between themselves. Watterson says, "As far as the strip is concerned, they are important only as Calvin's mom and dad." Calvin's Uncle Max was in the strip for a week but could not refer to the parents by name, which was one of the main reasons Max never reappeared.

Susie Derkins


Susie Derkins, the only important character with both a first and last name, is a classmate of Calvin's who lives on his street. Named for the pet beagle
Beagle
The Beagle is a breed of small to medium-sized dog. A member of the Hound Group, it is similar in appearance to the Foxhound, but smaller, with shorter legs and longer, softer ears. Beagles are scent hounds, developed primarily for tracking hare, rabbit, and other game...

 of Watterson's wife's family, she appeared early in the strip as a new student in Calvin's class. She is polite and studious, with a mild imagination consisting of stereotypical
Stereotype
A stereotype is a popular belief about specific social groups or types of individuals. The concepts of "stereotype" and "prejudice" are often confused with many other different meanings...

 young-girl games such as playing house or hosting tea parties with her stuffed animals. However, she is also depicted playing imaginary games with Calvin in which she is a high-powered lawyer or politician and he is her househusband. Though both of them hate to admit it, Calvin and Susie have quite a bit in common. For example, Susie is shown on occasion with a stuffed bunny rabbit named "Mr. Bun," and Calvin, of course, has Hobbes. Susie also has a mischievous (and sometimes aggressive) streak, which can be seen when she subverts Calvin's attempts to cheat on school tests by feeding him incorrect answers, or clobbers Calvin when he attacks her with snowballs. Susie also regularly beats Calvin in confrontations such as their water-balloon and snowball fights, employing guile or force. Hobbes often openly expresses romantic feelings for Susie, much to Calvin's disgust. Calvin starts a "club" (of which he and Hobbes are the only members) that he calls G.R.O.S.S. (Get Rid Of Slimy girlS) club, and while holding "meetings" in Calvin's treehouse or in the "box of secrecy" in Calvin's room, they usually come up with some way to annoy or socially maim Susie, most of which backfire on them completely. Watterson admits that Calvin and Susie have a nascent crush on each other, and that Susie is inspired by the type of woman whom Watterson himself found attractive and eventually married.

Secondary characters


Calvin also interacts with a handful of secondary characters. These include his babysitter, the school bully, his school teacher and the school principal.

Rosalyn


Rosalyn is Calvin's babysitter. She takes advantage of his parents' desperation to leave the house and the fact that no one else will babysit for Calvin by demanding advances and raises. In her final appearance in the strip, she at last forces Calvin to behave by using his own haphazard rules against him during a game of Calvinball. She is also probably the only character in the strip whom Calvin really fears, as she does not mince words or actions to get Calvin to behave or go to bed on time. Watterson put her in a Sunday strip early on, never thinking of her as a regular character. But Rosalyn's intimidation of Calvin surprised Watterson, so she came back several times. At one point she was Calvin's swimming instructor, though he was only shown to attend one lesson.

Moe


Moe is the stereotypical bully character, a large, cruel, dimwitted "six-year-old who shaves" who shoves Calvin against walls or onto the ground while demanding his lunch money and calling him "Twinky," "Shrimp," "Twerp," or "Squirt." Moe is the only regular character whose speech is shown in an unusual font: his frequently monosyllabic dialogue is shown in crude, lower-case letters. Watterson describes Moe as "every jerk I've ever known."

Miss Wormwood


Miss Wormwood is Calvin's world-weary teacher, named after the junior devil in C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
Clive Staples Lewis , commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as "Jack", was a novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist from Belfast, Ireland...

' The Screwtape Letters
The Screwtape Letters
The Screwtape Letters is a satirical Christian apologetics novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942...

. She usually either wears a polka-dotted dress or a brown dress, and is another character who serves as a foil to Calvin's mischief. Calvin, when in his Spaceman Spiff persona, sees Miss Wormwood as a slimy, often dictatorial alien. Calvin refers to Miss Wormwood's indigestion ("It's really gross how she drinks Maalox
Maalox
Maalox is a brand name antacid containing aluminium hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide to neutralize or reduce stomach acid.Maalox helps relieve symptoms of excessive stomach acidity in patients with indigestion, heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or stomach or duodenal ulcers. In large...

 straight from the bottle"), her medication ("I wonder if her doctor knows she mixes all those prescriptions") and her smoking habit ("Rumor has it she's up to two packs a day, unfiltered"). Miss Wormwood reacts to Calvin's behavior by tightly shutting her eyes and thinking "Five years until retirement" repeatedly. Watterson describes her as "an unhappy person" due to her belief in the value of education.

Mr. Spittle


Mr. Spittle is the school principal to whose office Miss Wormwood threatens to send Calvin for his pranks for spanking. Infrequently, Susie also accompanies Calvin to the principal's office. Though his name has only been shown in one story, he has appeared many times including the first story about Calvin's duplicator.

Uncle Max


Uncle Max is Calvin's paternal uncle. Uncle Max was originally meant as a character who could increase the possibilities of the strip: as Watterson noted, "Calvin could go visit Uncle Max...". However, Watterson dropped the character after realizing that Max was not a promising character, and after finding it was awkward that Max could not address Calvin's parents by name.

Recurring elements


There are many recurring gags in the strip, some in "reality" and others in Calvin's imagination. These are as follows:

Calvin's roles


Calvin imagines himself as a great many things, including dinosaur
Dinosaur
Dinosaurs are a diverse group of animals of the clade and superorder Dinosauria. They were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for over 160 million years, from the late Triassic period until the end of the Cretaceous , when the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of...

s, elephant
Elephant
Elephants are large land mammals in two extant genera of the family Elephantidae: Elephas and Loxodonta, with the third genus Mammuthus extinct...

s, jungle-farers and superheroes. Three of his alter ego
Alter ego
An alter ego is a second self, which is believe to be distinct from a person's normal or original personality. The term was coined in the early nineteenth century when dissociative identity disorder was first described by psychologists...

s are well-defined and recurrent:
  • "Spaceman Spiff" is a heroic spacefarer who narrates his experiences in the third person. As Spiff, Calvin battles aliens (typically his parents or teacher) with a ray gun known as a "zorcher" (later "death ray blaster" or "atomic napalm neutralizer", a water gun or rubber band) and travels to distant planets (his house, school, or neighborhood). Calvin's self-narration as Spaceman Spiff is frequently riddled with alliteration: "Zounds! Zorched by Zarches, Spaceman Spiff's crippled craft crashes on planet Plootarg!"

  • "Tracer Bullet," a hardboiled
    Hardboiled
    Hardboiled crime fiction is a literary style, most commonly associated with detective stories, distinguished by the unsentimental portrayal of violence and sex. The style was pioneered by Carroll John Daly in the mid-1920s, popularized by Dashiell Hammett over the course of the decade, and refined...

     private eye, says he has eight slugs in him ("One's lead, and the rest are bourbon."). In one story, Bullet is called to a case in which a "pushy dame" (Calvin's mother) accuses him of destroying an expensive lamp (broken during an indoor football game between Calvin and Hobbes). Later, he is snatched by the pushy dame's "hired goon" (Calvin's father having a talk with him). He made his debut when Calvin donned a fedora to hide a haircut Hobbes had given him.

  • As "Stupendous Man" he pictures himself as a superhero in disguise, wearing a mask and a cape made by his mother, and narrating his own adventures. While in character as Stupendous Man, he refers to his alter ego as a mild mannered millionaire playboy. Stupendous Man almost always "suffers defeat" at the hands of his opponent. When Hobbes asks if Stupendous Man has ever won any battles, Calvin says all his battles are "moral victories." Stupendous Man's nemeses include "Mom-Lady" (Calvin's mom), "Annoying Girl" (Susie Derkins), "Crab Teacher" (Miss Wormwood), and "Baby-Sitter Girl" (Rosalyn). Some of the "super powers" of the villains have been revealed: Mom-Lady has a "mind scrambling eyeball ray" that wills the victim to "do her nefarious bidding," and Baby Sitter Girl has a similar power of using a "psycho beam" which weakens "Stupendous Man's stupendous will". The "powers" of Annoying Girl and Crab Teacher are unknown. Calvin often tries to pretend he and "Stupendous Man" are two different people, but it never seems to work. Calvin explains to Hobbes that after hearing about him using it to avoid taking a test, Calvin's mother finally takes the costume away from him for good.

Cardboard boxes



Over the years Calvin has had several adventures involving corrugated cardboard box
Cardboard box
Cardboard boxes are industrially prefabricated boxes, primarily used for packaging goods and materials. Specialists in industry seldom use the term cardboard because it does not denote a specific material....

es, which he adapts for many different uses. In one strip, during which Calvin shows off his Transmogrifier, a device that transforms its user into any desired shape, Hobbes remarks, "It's amazing what they do with corrugated cardboard these days." Calvin is able to change the function of the boxes by rewriting the label and flipping the box onto another side. In this way, a cardboard box can be used not only for its conventional purposes (a storage container for water balloons, for example), but also as a flying time machine
Time travel
Time travel is the concept of moving between different points in time in a manner analogous to moving between different points in space. Time travel could hypothetically involve moving backward in time to a moment earlier than the starting point, or forward to the future of that point without the...

 and a duplicator. In addition, Calvin uses a cardboard box as a desk when he is attempting to sell things. Often, Calvin's merchandise is something that no one would want, such as "suicide drink," "a swift kick in the butt" for one dollar, insurance, or "frank appraisal of your looks" for fifty cents. In one strip, he sells "happiness" for ten cents, which was a water balloon in the face, revealing that Calvin meant his own happiness. In another strip, he sold "insurance," firing a slingshot at those who refused. The box has also functioned as a secret meeting place for G.R.O.S.S., as the "Box of Secrecy".

Calvinball



Calvinball is a game played by Calvin and Hobbes as a rebellion against organized team sports; according to Hobbes, "No sport is less organized than Calvinball!" Calvinball was first introduced to the readers at the end of a 1990 storyline involving Calvin reluctantly joining recess baseball. It quickly became a staple of the comic afterwards.

The only hint at the true creation of the game ironically comes from the last Calvinball strip, in which a game of football quickly devolves into a game of Calvinball. Calvin remarks that "sooner or later, all our games turn into Calvinball," suggesting a similar scenario that directly led to the creation of the sport. Calvin and Hobbes usually play by themselves, although in one storyline Rosalyn (Calvin's baby-sitter) plays in return for Calvin doing his homework, and plays very well once she realizes that the rules are made up on the spot.

The only consistent rule states that Calvinball may never be played with the same rules twice. Scoring is also arbitrary, with Hobbes at times reporting scores of "Q to 12" and "oogy to boogy." The only recognizable sports Calvinball resembles are the ones it emulates (i.e., a cross between croquet, polo, badminton, capture the flag, and volleyball.) Equipment includes a volleyball
Volleyball (ball)
A volleyball is a ball used to play indoor volleyball, beach volleyball, or other less common variations of the sport. Volleyballs are round and traditionally consist of eighteen nearly rectangular panels of synthetic or genuine leather, arranged in six identical sections of three panels each,...

 (the eponymous "Calvinball"), a croquet
Croquet
Croquet is a lawn game, played both as a recreational pastime and as a competitive sport. It involves hitting plastic or wooden balls with a mallet through hoops embedded into the grass playing court.-History:...

 set, a badminton
Badminton
Badminton is a racquet sport played by either two opposing players or two opposing pairs , who take positions on opposite halves of a rectangular court that is divided by a net. Players score points by striking a shuttlecock with their racquet so that it passes over the net and lands in their...

 set, assorted flags, bags, signs, a hobby horse
Hobby horse (toy)
A hobby horse is a child's toy horse, particularly popular during the days before cars. Children played at riding a wooden hobby horse made of a straight stick with a small horse's head , and perhaps reins, attached to one end. The bottom end of the stick sometimes had a small wheel or wheels...

, and enigmatic and never-pictured "time-fracture wickets." Other things appear as needed, such as a bucket of ice-cold water, a water balloon, and various songs and poetry. Players also wear masks resembling blindfold
Blindfold
A blindfold is a garment, usually of cloth, tied to one's head to cover the eyes to disable the wearer's sight. It can be worn when the eyes are in a closed state and thus prevents the wearer from opening them...

s with holes for the eyes. When Rosalyn asks Calvin the reason for the requirement, Calvin responds, "Sorry, no one's allowed to question the masks." When asked how to play, Watterson states, "It's pretty simple: you make up the rules as you go." Calvinball is a nomic
Nomic
Nomic is a game created in 1982 by philosopher Peter Suber in which the rules of the game include mechanisms for the players to change those rules, usually beginning through a system of democratic voting...

 or self-modifying game, a contest of wits and creativity rather than stamina or athletic skill, in which Hobbes (and on one occasion, Rosalyn) usually outwits Calvin, who takes it in stride, in contrast to his otherwise poor sportsmanship.

Snow sculptures


Calvin often creates horrendous/dark humor scenes with his snowmen. He uses the snowman for social commentary, revenge, or pure enjoyment. Examples are Snowman Calvin being yelled at by Snowman Dad to shovel the snow; Snowman A eating snowcones taken from Snowman B, who is lying on the ground with an ice-cream scoop in his back, a group of snowmen surrounding another snowman with his head on the ground, and snowmen representing the people he hates. "The ones I really hate are small, so they'll go faster." he says.

Calvin's snow art is often used as a commentary on art in general. For example, Calvin has complained more than once about the lack of originality in other people's snow art and compared it with his own grotesque snow sculptures. In one of these instances, Calvin and Hobbes claim to be the sole guardians of high culture; in another, Hobbes admires Calvin's willingness to put artistic integrity above marketability, causing Calvin to reconsider and make an ordinary snowman.

Wagon and sled


Calvin and Hobbes frequently ride downhill in a wagon
Wagon
A wagon is a heavy four-wheeled vehicle pulled by draught animals; it was formerly often called a wain, and if low and sideless may be called a dray, trolley or float....

, sled
Sled
A sled, sledge, or sleigh is a land vehicle with a smooth underside or possessing a separate body supported by two or more smooth, relatively narrow, longitudinal runners that travels by sliding across a surface. Most sleds are used on surfaces with low friction, such as snow or ice. In some cases,...

, or toboggan
Toboggan
A toboggan is a simple sled which is a traditional form of transport used by the Innu and Cree of northern Canada. In modern times, it is used on snow to carry one or more people down a hill or other slope for recreation. Designs vary from simple, traditional models to modern engineered composites...

, depending on the season, as a device to add some physical comedy to the strip and because, according to Watterson, "it's a lot more interesting ... than talking heads." While the ride is sometimes the focus of the strip, it also frequently serves as a counterpoint or visual metaphor while Calvin ponders the meaning of life, death, God, or a variety of other weighty subjects. Many of their rides end in spectacular crashes which leave them battered and broken, a fact which convinces Hobbes to sometimes hop off before a ride even begins. In the final strip, Calvin and Hobbes depart on their toboggan to go exploring. This theme is similar (perhaps even homage to) scenarios in Walt Kelley's Pogo.

G.R.O.S.S.


G.R.O.S.S., which stands for Get Rid Of Slimy girlS, is a club which consists only of two members: Calvin and Hobbes. The club was created in the garage of their house, which led to the pushing and crashing of Calvin's parents' car, thus changing the club's location to Calvin's treehouse. They hold meetings to attempt to annoy Susie Derkins. Notable actions include planting a fake secret tape near her in attempt to draw her in to a trap, trapping her in a closet at their house, and creating elaborate water balloon traps. Calvin gave himself and Hobbes important positions in the club, Calvin being "Dictator-for-Life" and Hobbes being "President-and-First-Tiger". They go into Calvin's treehouse for their club meetings and often get into fights during them. The password to get into the treehouse is intentionally long and difficult, which has on at least one occasion ruined Calvin's plans. An example of this can be seen in the comic strip where Calvin, rushing to get into the treehouse to throw things at a passing Susie Derkins, insults Hobbes, who is in the treehouse and thus has to let down the rope. Hobbes forces Calvin to say the password for insulting him. By the time Susie arrives, in time to hear Calvin saying some of the password, causing him to stumble, Calvin is on "Verse Seven: Tigers are perfect/the E-pit-o-me/of good looks and grace/and quiet..uh..um..dignity". The opportunity having passed to pelt Susie with something, Calvin threatens to turn Hobbes into a rug.

Books




There are 18 Calvin and Hobbes books, published from 1987 to 2005. These include 11 collections, which form a complete archive of the newspaper strips, except for a single daily strip from November 28, 1985. (The collections do contain a strip for this date, but it is not the same strip that appeared in some newspapers. The alternate strip, a joke about Hobbes taking a bath in the washing machine
Washing machine
A washing machine is a machine designed to wash laundry, such as clothing, towels and sheets...

, has circulated around the Internet.) Treasuries usually combine the two preceding collections with bonus material and include color reprints of Sunday comics.

Watterson included some new material in the treasuries. In The Essential Calvin and Hobbes, which includes cartoons from the collections Calvin and Hobbes and Something Under the Bed Is Drooling, the back cover features a scene of a giant Calvin rampaging through a town. The scene is based on Watterson's home town of Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Chagrin Falls is a village in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, United States. It is a suburb of Cleveland in the Northeast Ohio region, the 14th largest Combined Statistical Area nationwide. The village was established and has grown around a natural waterfall on the Chagrin River. As of the 2010 census,...

, and Calvin is holding the Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop
Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop
The Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop, established in 1875, is a popcorn and candy shop located in the village of Chagrin Falls, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. It was originally established as a retail showcase for The Pride of the Falls flour mill, which was powered by the Chagrin River...

, an iconic candy and ice cream shop overlooking the town's namesake falls. Several of the treasuries incorporate additional poetry; The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes book features a set of poems, ranging from just a few lines to an entire page, that cover topics such as Calvin's mother's "hindsight" and exploring the woods. In The Essential Calvin and Hobbes, Watterson presents a long poem explaining a night's battle against a monster from Calvin's perspective.

A complete collection of Calvin and Hobbes strips, in three hardcover volumes totaling 1440 pages, was released on October 4, 2005, by Andrews McMeel Publishing. It includes color prints of the art used on paperback covers, the treasuries' extra illustrated stories and poems, and a new introduction by Bill Watterson in which he talks about his inspirations and his story leading up to the publication of the strip. The alternate 1985 strip is still omitted, and two other strips (January 7, 1987, and November 25, 1988) have altered dialogue.

To celebrate the release (which coincided with the strip's 20th anniversary and the tenth anniversary of its absence from newspapers), Calvin and Hobbes reruns were made available to newspapers from Sunday, September 4, 2005, through Saturday, December 31, 2005, and Bill Watterson answered 15 questions submitted by readers.

Early books were printed in smaller format in black and white. These were later reproduced in twos in color in the "Treasuries" (Essential, Authoritative, and Indispensable), except for the contents of Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons. Those Sunday strips were not reprinted in color until the Complete collection was finally published in 2005. Every book since Snow Goons has been printed in a larger format with Sundays in color and weekday and Saturday strips larger than they appeared in most newspapers.

Watterson claims he named the books the "Essential, Authoritative, and Indispensable" because, as he says in The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book, the books are "obviously none of these things".

An officially licensed children's textbook entitled Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes was published in a single print-run in 1993. The book, which has been "highly recommend[ed]" as a teaching resource, includes five complete Calvin and Hobbes multi-strip story arcs together with lessons and questions to follow, such as, "What do you think the principal meant when he said they had quite a file on Calvin?" The book is very rare and increasingly sought by collectors.

Academic response


In her book When Toys Come Alive, Lois Rostow Kuznets
Lois Rostow Kuznets
Lois Rostow Kuznets is a professor emeritus of English at San Diego State University, specializing in children's literature. Her best-known book, When Toys Come Alive, studies narratives featuring living toys such as Calvin and Hobbes and Winnie the Pooh, arguing that the toys function as...

 says that Hobbes serves both as a figure of Calvin's childish fantasy life and as an outlet for the expression of libidinous
Libido
Libido refers to a person's sex drive or desire for sexual activity. The desire for sex is an aspect of a person's sexuality, but varies enormously from one person to another, and it also varies depending on circumstances at a particular time. A person who has extremely frequent or a suddenly...

 desires more associated with adults. Kuznets also looks at Calvin's other fantasies, suggesting that they are a second tier of fantasies utilized in places like school where transitional objects such as Hobbes would not be socially acceptable. Another academic critic, Philip Sandifer, using the psychoanalytic
Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

 theories of Jacques Lacan
Jacques Lacan
Jacques Marie Émile Lacan was a French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who made prominent contributions to psychoanalysis and philosophy, and has been called "the most controversial psycho-analyst since Freud". Giving yearly seminars in Paris from 1953 to 1981, Lacan influenced France's...

, identifies the strip's depiction of time within Calvin's real and imaginary worlds as a manifestation of the Lacanian concepts of the Imaginary, the Real, and the Symbolic.

A collection of original Sunday strips was exhibited at Ohio State University
Ohio State University
The Ohio State University, commonly referred to as Ohio State, is a public research university located in Columbus, Ohio. It was originally founded in 1870 as a land-grant university and is currently the third largest university campus in the United States...

's Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, a research library of American comic art, is affiliated with the Ohio State University library system in Columbus, Ohio...

 in 2001. Watterson himself selected the strips and provided his own commentary for the exhibition catalog, which was later published by AndrewsMcMeel as Calvin and Hobbes Sunday Pages 1985-1995.

Since the discontinuation of Calvin and Hobbes, individual strips have been licensed for reprint in schoolbooks, including the Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 homeschooling
Homeschooling
Homeschooling or homeschool is the education of children at home, typically by parents but sometimes by tutors, rather than in other formal settings of public or private school...

 book The Fallacy Detective in 2002, and the university-level philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 reader Open Questions: Readings for Critical Thinking and Writing in 2005; in the latter, the ethical views of Watterson and his characters Calvin and Hobbes are discussed in relation to the views of professional philosophers.

Academics and other intellectuals were interviewed for a September 9, 2009 BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

 half-hour documentary about the comic strip, narrated by Phill Jupitus
Phill Jupitus
Phillip Christopher Jupitus is an English stand-up and improvised comedian, actor, performance poet, musician and podcaster....

.

Paleontologist and paleoartist Gregory S. Paul
Gregory S. Paul
Gregory Scott Paul is a freelance researcher, author and illustrator who works in paleontology, and more recently has examined sociology and theology. He is best known for his work and research on theropod dinosaurs and his detailed illustrations, both live and skeletal...

 praised Bill Watterson for the scientific accuracy of the dinosaurs appearing in Calvin & Hobbes.

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