Calvin and Hobbes


Watterson’s ideas on education take the stage.

Calvin and Hobbes was a newspaper comic written and illustrated by American cartoonist Bill Watterson between 1985 and 1995.

Within a year of its first publication, Calvin and Hobbes was featured in approximately 250 newspapers all over the world. The 3,160th and final comic was published on December 31, 1995. Watterson is said to have quit the comic shortly after animators showed great interest in it. Although Watterson considered the idea, he later came around saying he liked the fact that his work 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.

The comic revolves around the life of six-year-old Calvin and his tiger friend, Hobbes, who is a regular stuffed animal to everyone but Calvin. Calvin and Hobbes are named after John Calvin, 16th century Reformationist, and Thomas Hobbes, 17th century philosopher, respectively.

Calvin feels the world revolves around him. Although being quite bright, demonstrating a level of vocabulary and humour unusual for a six-year-old, he regularly shows lapses of common sense and consequently gets into trouble because of this. Calvin is also creative and imaginative – this is shown for instance through his gruesome snow sculptures depicting snowmen with several heads (or none at all) pierced with branches or being brutally murdered by other snowmen, and through his colourful set of alter egos (Stupendous Man, Spaceman Spiff and Tracer Bullet) and inventions (the Transmogrifier, the Duplicator and the Time Machine).

In many ways Calvin is as childlike as any other six-year-old boy; he is afraid of his babysitter, disobeys his parents and detests school. But with his stuffed tiger friend, Calvin often discusses philosophical issues. Together they embark on imaginary adventures, plot practical jokes (mainly against girls), and try to solve the various problems they (truthfully, Calvin) encounter.

Hobbes, visible as a full-sized talking (albeit cartoonish) tiger only to Calvin, operates as a counterpart to Calvin’s impulsive, rude and childish behaviour. He is the sardonic voice of reason in Calvin’s life, pointing out his hypocrisies and stupidities, but despite his rationality often refrains from interfering in any of Calvin’s dangerous ventures. Although Hobbes isn’t real, the consequences of his interactions with Calvin are sometimes visible by the secondary characters in the comic, for instance when he helps Calvin escape a Houdini-like tie-up, causing bewilderment on his father’s part.

Calvin and Hobbes is unique is many ways, from addressing social issues to the occasional tribute to Lichtenstein-like artwork or Biblical tales of creation and from themes of love, friendship, parenting and innocence to bringing a whole lot of thirty-something men (and hopefully women alike) back to a time when yelling KAZAM to your parents, arms outstretched, would turn them into aliens.


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