Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes is a daily comic strip written and illustrated by Bill Watterson, following the humorous antics of Calvin, an imaginative six-year old boy, and Hobbes, his energetic and sardonic—albeit stuffed—tiger. The strip was syndicated from November 18, 1985 to December 31, 1995. At its height, Calvin and Hobbes was carried by over 2,400 newspapers worldwide. To date, more than 30 million copies of the 18 Calvin and Hobbes books have been printed, and popular culture is still replete with references to the strip.

The strip is vaguely set in the contemporary Midwestern United States, on the outskirts of suburbia, a location probably inspired by Watterson's home town of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Calvin and Hobbes appear in most of the strips, though several focused instead upon Calvin's family. The broad themes of the strip deal with Calvin's flights of fantasy, his friendship with Hobbes, his misadventures, his views on a diverse range of political and cultural issues and his relationships and interactions with his parents, classmates, educators, and other members of society. The dual nature of Hobbes is also a recurring motif. Calvin sees Hobbes a different way (alive), while other characters see him as something else (a stuffed animal).

Even though the series does not mention specific political figures like political strips such as Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury, it does examine broad issues like environmentalism and the flaws of opinion polls. A number of cartoons feature Calvin announcing the results of "polls of household six-year-olds" to his father, treating his father's position as though it were an elected political office.

Because of Watterson's strong anti-merchandising sentiments and his reluctance to return to the spotlight, almost no legitimate Calvin and Hobbes merchandise exists outside of the book collections. Some officially approved items were created for marketing purposes and are now sought by collectors. Two notable exceptions to the licensing embargo were the publication of two 16-month wall calendars and the textbook Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes. However, the strip's immense popularity has led to the appearance of various "bootleg" items, including T-shirts, keychains, bumper stickers, and window decals, often including obscene language or references wholly uncharacteristic of the whimsical spirit of Watterson's work.

Calvin and Hobbes was first conceived when Watterson, having worked in an advertising job he detested, began devoting his spare time to cartooning, his true love. He explored various strip ideas but all were rejected by the syndicates to which he sent them. However, he did receive a positive response on 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. The syndicate (United Features Syndicate) which gave him this advice rejected the new strip, and Watterson endured a few more rejections before Universal Press Syndicate 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, the strip was published in roughly 250 newspapers. By April 1, 1987, only sixteen months after the strip began, Watterson and his work were featured in an article by the Los Angeles Times, one of America's major newspapers. Calvin and Hobbes twice earned Watterson the Reuben Award from the National Cartoonists Society, 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.

Before long, the strip was in wide circulation outside the United States; for more information on publication in various countries and languages, see Calvin and Hobbes in translation.

Watterson took two extended breaks from writing new strips — from May 1991 to February 1992, and from April through December of 1994.

In 1995, Watterson sent a letter via his syndicate to all editors whose newspapers carried his strip. It contained the following:
“ I will be stopping Calvin and Hobbes at the end of the year. This was not a recent or an easy decision, and I leave with some sadness. My interests have shifted however, and I believe I've done what I can do within the constraints of daily deadlines and small panels. I am eager to work at a more thoughtful pace, with fewer artistic compromises. I have not yet decided on future projects, but my relationship with Universal Press Syndicate will continue.

That so many newspapers would carry Calvin and Hobbes is an honor I'll long be proud of, and I've greatly appreciated your support and indulgence over the last decade. Drawing this comic strip has been a privilege and a pleasure, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity.”

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!" The last panel shows Calvin and Hobbes zooming off on their sled as Calvin exclaims: "Let's go exploring!"

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, 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 spare artwork, comics as an art form were becoming dilute, bland, and unoriginal. Watterson strove for a full-page version of his strip (as opposed to the few cells allocated for most strips). He longed for the artistic freedom allotted to classic strips such as Little Nemo and Krazy Kat, 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. Then, 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, such as Bil Keane (The Family Circus), criticized him for what they perceived as arrogance and an unwillingness to abide by the normal practices of the cartoon business—a charge that Watterson ignored. Watterson had negotiated the deal to allow himself more creative freedom in the Sunday comics. Prior to the switch, he had to have a certain number of panels with little freedom as to layout (due to the fact that in different newspapers the strip would appear at a different width); afterwards, he was free to go with whatever graphic layout he wanted, however unorthodox. His frustration with the standard space division requirements is evident in strips before the change; for example, a 1988 Sunday strip published before the deal is one large panel, but with all the action and dialogue in the bottom part of the panel so editors could crop the top part if they wanted to fit the strip into a smaller space. Watterson's explanation for the switch:
“ 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?”

Despite the change, Calvin and Hobbes remained extremely popular and thus Watterson was able to expand his style and technique for the more spacious Sunday strips without losing carriers.

Bill Watterson is notable for his insistence that cartoon strips should stand on their own as an art form, and he has resisted the use of Calvin and Hobbes in merchandising of any sort. This insistence stuck despite the fact that it could have generated millions of dollars per year in additional personal income. Watterson explains in a 2005 press release:
“ Actually, I wasn't against all merchandising when I started the strip, but each product I considered seemed to violate the spirit of the strip, contradict its message, and take me away from the work I loved. If my syndicate had let it go at that, the decision would have taken maybe 30 seconds of my life.”

Watterson did ponder animating Calvin and Hobbes, and has expressed admiration for the art form. In a 1989 interview in The Comics Journal, Watterson states:
“ If you look at the old cartoons by Tex Avery and Chuck Jones, you'll see that there are a lot of things single drawings just can't do. Animators can get away with incredible distortion and exaggeration . . . because the animator can control the length of time you see something. The bizarre exaggeration barely has time to register, and the viewer doesn’t ponder the incredible license he's witnessed.

In a comic strip, you just show the highlights of action—you can't show the buildup and release . . . or at least not without slowing down the pace of everything to the point where it's like looking at individual frames of a movie, in which case you've probably lost the effect you were trying to achieve. In a comic strip, you can suggest motion and time, but it's very crude compared to what an animator can do. I have a real awe for good animation.”

After this he was asked if it was "a little scary to think of hearing Calvin's voice." He responded that it was "very scary," and although he loved the visual possibilities animation had, the thought of casting voice actors to play his characters was something he felt uncomfortable doing. Plus, he was not sure 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.

Except for the books, two 16-month calendars (1988–1989 and 1989–1990), and Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes, virtually all Calvin and Hobbes merchandise, including T-shirts as well as the ubiquitous stickers for automobile rear windows which depict Calvin urinating on a company's or sports team's name or logo, is unauthorized. As Watterson pointed out during the notes of one of the collection books, the original image was of Calvin filling up a water balloon from a faucet. After threat of a lawsuit alleging infringement of copyright and trademark, some of the sticker makers replaced Calvin with a different boy, while other makers ignored the issue. Watterson wryly commented, "I clearly miscalculated how popular it would be to show Calvin urinating on a Ford logo." Some legitimate special items were produced, such as promotional packages to sell the strip to newspapers, but these were never sold outright.

Calvin and Hobbes strips are characterized by sparse but careful craftsmanship, intelligent humor, poignant observations, witty social and political commentary, and well-developed characters. Precedents to Calvin's fantasy world can be found in Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts, Percy Crosby's Skippy, Berkeley Breathed's Bloom County, and George Herriman's Krazy Kat, while Watterson's use of comics as sociopolitical commentary reaches back to Walt Kelly's Pogo. Schulz and Kelly, in particular, influenced Watterson's outlook on comics during his formative years.

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, well-captured kinetics, and frequent visual jokes and metaphors. In the later years of the strip, with more space available for his use, Watterson experimented more freely with different panel layouts, stories without dialogue, and greater use of whitespace. He also made a point of not showing certain things explicitly: the "Noodle Incident" and the children's book Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie were 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 (though the larger Sunday strips often required more elaborate work); he then would use a small sable brush and India ink to complete most of the remaining drawing. 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.

Watterson has used the strip to criticize the artistic world, principally through Calvin's unconventional creations of snowmen. When Miss Wormwood complains that he is wasting class time drawing incomprehensible things (a Stegosaurus in a rocket ship, in fact), Calvin proclaims himself "on the cutting edge of the avant-garde." 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," much in the vein of Ecclesiastes. Over the years, Calvin's creative instincts diversify into sidewalk drawings ("suburban postmodernism").

Watterson also directed criticism toward the academic world. Calvin writes a "revisionist autobiography" in which he gives himself a flamethrower. In another strip, he carefully crafts an "artist's statement," knowing that such essays convey more messages than artworks themselves ever do (Hobbes blandly notes “You misspelled Weltanschauung.”). He indulges in what Watterson calls “pop psychobabble” to justify his destructive rampages and shift blame to his parents, citing "toxic codependency." Once, he pens a book report entitled "The Dynamics of Interbeing and Monological Imperatives in Dick and Jane: 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. Walking contemplatively through the woods, not long after he began drawing his "Dinosaurs In Rocket Ships" series, Calvin tells Hobbes:
“ The hard part for us avant-garde post-modern artists is deciding whether or not to embrace commercialism. Do we allow our work to be hyped and exploited by a market that's simply hungry for the next new thing? Do we participate in a system that turns high art into low art so it's better suited for mass consumption?

Of course, when an artist goes commercial, he makes a mockery of his status as an outsider and free thinker. He buys into the crass and shallow values art should transcend. He trades the integrity of his art for riches and fame.

Oh, what the heck. I'll do it.”

Such sentiments echo Watterson's own struggles with his syndicate over merchandising issues.

On several occasions, Watterson began a strip with a distorted view of reality: inverted colors, all objects turning "neo-cubist," or the world turning to black-and-white without outlines, for example. Only Calvin and Hobbes are able to perceive these changes, which the reader can interpret as their way of seeing certain situations, issues and subjects which he has difficulty understanding or accepting.

In the Tenth Anniversary Book, Watterson acknowledges that most of these strips were metaphors for his own conflicts, typically against his syndicate's desire to produce Calvin and Hobbes merchandise. Accused of only seeing issues in "black and white" (Calvin's reply of "Sometimes that's the way things are!" was directly taken from his response to this accusation)—e.g., crass commercialism versus artistic integrity, with nothing in between—Watterson chose to illustrate the situation literally, dropping Calvin into a world where everything had lost shades of grey. Conversely, the "neo-cubist" strip emerged from the way Watterson found himself "paralyzed by being able to see all sides of an issue".

A key characteristic of Watterson's style is that solid objects often exhibit "rubbery" bendable tendencies; e.g., the curvature of the wagon as it hurtles down a hill, or doors as they are quickly opened. This is done to exaggerate the kinetic aspects of rapid motion.

When the strips were originally published, Calvin's settings were seasonally appropriate for the Northern Hemisphere. Calvin would be seen building snowmen or sledding during the wintertime, and outside activities such as water balloon fights would replace school during the summer. Christmas and Halloween strips were run during those times of year.

Although Watterson depicts several years' worth of holidays, school years, summer vacations, and camping trips, Calvin is never shown to age nor have any birthday celebrations. (The only birthday shown was that of Susie Derkins). Such temporal distortions are fairly common among comic strips; consider the children in Peanuts, most of whom existed without aging for decades. Likewise, the characters in Krazy Kat celebrate the New Year but never grow old, and young characters like Ignatz Mouse's offspring never seem to grow up.

While Calvin does not grow older in the strip, reference is made in two strips—from November 18 and 19, 1995—to Calvin having once been two and three years old and now feeling that "a lifetime of experience has left [him] bitter and cynical." "This is a photograph of me when I was two," he tells Hobbes while flipping through a family photo album, and later remarks: "Isn't it weird that one's own past can seem unreal?" So while Calvin's age remains perpetually suspended at six within the realm of the strip, acknowledgment is made to a time before Calvin was as old as he is now depicted. Since temporal suspension is such a common narrative device among many comic strips, readers are likely to suspend disbelief, as most of them do regarding Calvin's precocious vocabulary, accepting that he "was never a literal six-year-old".

Ironically, in an early strip, Calvin's dad criticizes him for not living in the moment, proclaiming, "Yeah, I know, you think you're going to be six years old all your life."

In addition to his criticisms of art and academia, Watterson often used the strip to comment on American culture and society, admitting that the content of the strips has emerged as a sort of self-portrait. As the strip, with rare exception, avoids reference to actual people or events, Watterson's commentary is necessarily generalized. He expresses frustration with public decadence and apathy, with commercialism, and with the pandering nature of the mass media. Calvin is often seen "glued" to the television, while his father speaks with the voice of the author, struggling to impart his values on Calvin.

Hobbes also speaks on Calvin's unwholesome habits, but from a more cynical perspective; he is more likely to make a wry observation than actually intervene. Sometimes he merely looks on as Calvin inadvertently makes the point himself. In one instance, Calvin tells Hobbes about a science fiction story he has read in which machines turn humans into zombie slaves. Hobbes makes a comment about the irony of machines controlling us instead of the other way around, when Calvin then exclaims, "Hey! What time is it?? My TV show is on!" and sprints from the room in a panic to watch it, leaving Hobbes to contemplate the irony of the situation once again.

Calvin is clearly misanthropic, but his situation makes this understandable. His parents seem only to punish him again and again for his bad behavior, and as a result Calvin usually imagines his mother and always his father as villains or hideous monsters. At school, Calvin daydreams of being the hero "Spaceman Spiff". This causes him to fail in class, which results in more punishment and fuels Calvin's misanthropy.

Calvin seems to have sympathy only for animals, and he admires that Hobbes is not human, a fact the tiger trumpets quite a bit himself. Calvin and Hobbes often hug and vocalize their affections. "Not so hard," Calvin sobs, embraced by his animal friend, "...You squeeze my tears out." Unfortunately Calvin's affection for animals in turn adds to his misanthropy: he often directly mocks his father for joining the "rat race" and talks often with Hobbes of his resolve to behave like an animal in order to "get the most out of life".

Named after 16th-century theologian John Calvin (founder of Calvinism and a strong believer in predestination), Calvin is an impulsive, sometimes overly creative, imaginative, energetic, curious, intelligent, and often selfish six-year-old, whose last name the strip never gives. Despite his low grades, Calvin has a wide vocabulary range that rivals that of an adult as well as an emerging philosophical mind, implying that he comes from a naturally literate family, as seen in this anecdote:

Calvin: "Dad, are you vicariously living through me in the hope that my accomplishments will validate your mediocre life and in some way compensate for all of the opportunities you botched?"

Calvin's father: "If I were, you can bet I'd be re-evaluating my strategy."

Calvin (later, to his mother): "Mom, Dad keeps insulting me."

He has also said, "You know how Einstein got bad grades as a kid? Well, mine are even worse!" He commonly wears his distinctive red striped shirt. He is also a compulsive reader of comic books and has a strong thirst for pop culture, including trendy or modern apparel, pulp fiction, and electronic devices—which mostly remain a wish throughout the series. Nevertheless, his often-vulgar experiences seem to give him valuable experiences, contrasting his preferences (and unusual derivations of thoughts) to the standards and morals his parents set to him. Calvin chews gum regularly and subscribes to a magazine called "Chewing". Hobbes occasionally challenges Calvin's strange obsession, but otherwise just remains calmly waiting for the strip to end. Throughout the series, he is also revealed to be a "try and err" sort of person. Watterson has described Calvin thus:

* "Calvin is pretty easy to do because he is outgoing and rambunctious and there's not much of a filter between his brain and his mouth."
* "I guess he's a little too intelligent for his age. The thing that I really enjoy about him is that he has no sense of restraint, he doesn't have the experience yet to know the things that you shouldn't do."

On many occasions, Calvin sees himself in one of his many alternate guises: as the astronaut and explorer Spaceman Spiff, the superhero Stupendous Man, the private eye Tracer Bullet, and many others (see Calvin's alter-egos).

In the classic comic tradition of sidekicks, Hobbes represents Calvin's potential maturity and externalized conscience. A comic about a young boy throwing slushballs into a neighbor girl's head would be sad and trite without Hobbes there to wisely tease him, "You think she's cute, right?"

From everyone else's point of view, Hobbes is Calvin's stuffed tiger. From Calvin's point of view, however, Hobbes is an anthropomorphic tiger, much larger than Calvin and full of his own attitudes and ideas. But when the perspective shifts to any other character, readers again see merely a stuffed animal, usually seated at an off-kilter angle. This is, of course, an odd dichotomy, and Watterson explains it thus:
“ When Hobbes is a stuffed toy in one panel and alive in the next, I'm juxtaposing the "grown-up" version of reality with Calvin's version, and inviting the reader to decide which is truer.”

Hobbes' intangibility is called into question, however, when he pounces on Calvin (often leaving Calvin disheveled) and in one incident, ties him to a chair in such a way that his father is unable to understand how he could have done it himself. Also, in a very early strip, Calvin says that Hobbes ate a classmate of his (and Hobbes seems to verify this.) No other reference to Hobbes doing anything to another person is ever made, and this incident is probably just a humorous throwaway line.

He is named after the 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who had what Watterson described as "a dim view of human nature."[18] Hobbes is much more rational and aware of consequences than Calvin, but seldom interferes with Calvin's troublemaking beyond a few oblique warnings—after all, Calvin will be the one to get in trouble for it, not Hobbes. Hobbes also has the habit of regularly stalking and pouncing on Calvin, most often when Calvin returns home from school. Hobbes is sarcastic when Calvin is being hypocritical about things he dislikes.

Although the first strips clearly show Calvin capturing Hobbes by means of a snare (with tuna fish sandwich as the bait), a later comic (August 1, 1989) seems to imply that Hobbes is, in fact, older than Calvin, and has been around his whole life. Watterson eventually decided that it was not important to establish how Calvin and Hobbes had first met.

Calvin's mother and father are for the most part typical Middle American middle-class parents. Like many other characters in the strip, their relatively down-to-earth and sensible attitudes serve primarily as a foil for Calvin's outlandish behavior. At the beginning of the strip, Watterson says some fans were angered by the way Calvin's parents thought of Calvin (his father once remarked that he had really wanted a dog). Calvin’s father is a patent attorney; his mother is a stay-at-home mom. Both parents go through the entire strip unnamed, except as "Mom" and "Dad," or such nicknames as "hon" and "dear" when referring to each other. Watterson has never given Calvin's parents names "because as far as the strip is concerned, they are important only as Calvin's mom and dad." This ended up being somewhat problematic when Calvin's Uncle Max was in the strip for a week and could not refer to the parents by name, and was one of the main reasons that Max never reappeared.

Susie Derkins, the only character with both first and last names, is a classmate of Calvin's who lives in his neighborhood. Named for the pet beagle of Watterson's wife's family, she first appeared early in the strip as a new student in Calvin's class. In contrast with Calvin, she is polite and diligent in her studies, and her imagination usually seems mild-mannered and civilized, consisting of stereotypical young girl games such as playing house or having tea parties with her stuffed animals. Her approach to these games is arguably more modern, however, some might say even cynical. 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 rabbit dubbed "Mr. Bun," and Calvin, of course, has Hobbes. Watterson admits that Calvin and Susie have a bit of a nascent crush on each other, and that Susie is inspired by the type of women he himself finds attractive. Her relationship with Calvin, though, is frequently conflicted, and never really becomes sorted out. Their love/hate relationship is most obvious in some of the early comics involving Susie and Calvin's relationships, when some punchlines revolved around Susie and Calvin going out of their way to malign each other, followed immediately by each thinking romantic thoughts about the other.

Miss Wormwood is Calvin's world-weary teacher, named after the apprentice devil in C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. She perpetually wears polka-dotted dresses, and serves, like others, as a foil to Calvin's mischief. Throughout the strip's run, we get clues that Miss Wormwood is waiting to retire, takes a lot of medication, and is apparently a heavy smoker and drinker.

Rosalyn is a teenage high school senior and Calvin's official babysitter whenever Calvin's parents need a night out. She is also his swimming lessons teacher. She is the only babysitter able to tolerate Calvin's antics, which she uses to demand raises and advances from Calvin's desperate parents. She is also, according to Watterson, the only person Calvin truly fears. She does not hesitate to play as dirty as he does. Calvin and Rosalyn usually do not get along, except in one case where she played "Calvinball" with him in exchange for his doing his homework. Rosalyn's boyfriend, Charlie, never appears in the strip but calls her occasionally, calls that are often interrupted by Calvin. Originally she was created as a nameless, one-shot character with no plan for her to appear again; however, Watterson decided he wanted to retain her unique ability to intimidate Calvin, which ultimately led to many more appearances.

Moe is the archetypical bully character in Calvin and Hobbes, "a six-year-old who shaves," who always shoves Calvin against walls, demands his lunch money, and calls him "Twinky." Moe is the only regular character who speaks 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." And while Moe is not smart, he is, as Calvin puts it, streetwise: "That means he knows what street he lives on."

There are several repeating themes in the work, a few involving Calvin's real life, and many stemming from his incredible imagination. Some of the latter are clearly flights of fantasy, while others, like Hobbes, are of an apparently dual nature and do not quite work when presumed real or unreal.

Over the years Calvin has had several adventures involving corrugated cardboard boxes which he adapts for many different uses. Some of his many uses of cardboard boxes include:

* Transmogrifier
* flying time machine
* Duplicator
* "Atomic Cerebral Enhance-O-Tron"
* emergency G.R.O.S.S. meeting "box of secrecy"

Building the Transmogrifier is accomplished by turning a cardboard box upside-down, attaching an arrow to the side and writing a list of choices on the box. (To turn into an animal not stated on the box, the name of the animal is written on the remaining space.) Upon turning the arrow to a particular choice and pushing a button, the transmogrifier instantaneously rearranges the subject's "chemical configuration" (accompanied by a loud zap).

The Duplicator was also made from a cardboard box, except this time it was turned on its side. The "zap" heard after a person was successfully transmogrified was replaced with a "boink," coining the title of one of the collections after Hobbes remarks, "Scientific progress goes 'boink'?" Calvin intended to clone himself and let the clone do his work for him. However, the clone, being just like Calvin, refuses to do any work. In a future strip Calvin solves this problem by adding an Ethicator to the Duplicator, thus copying only Calvin's good side. "That Ethicator must have done some deep digging," says Hobbes. (Calvin, oblivious, replies, "Talk about someone easy to exploit!")

The Time Machine was made from the same box, this time right-side up. Passengers climb into the open top, and must be wearing protective goggles while in time-warp. Calvin first intends to travel to the future and obtain future technology that he could use to become rich in the present time. Unfortunately, he turns the time machine the wrong way and ends up in prehistoric times. Later Calvin learns from this mistake and returns to the time period to take photos of the dinosaurs. In another instance, Calvin goes to the near future to retrieve his supposedly-finished homework. It is, however, unfinished, because his future self (two hours into the future) "went into the future to get it." Calvin responds "Yeah! Here I am! Where is it?" The 6:30 Hobbes then says to the 8:30 Hobbes, "I knew this would never work," the response being, "Right as always Hobbes." Calvin forbids using the toilet while in "hyperspace."

The Atomic Cerebral Enhance-O-Tron (or quite simply, a thinking cap) was created from the same cardboard box, turned open-side-down, but with three strings attatched to it (input and output strings and a grounding strings (like a lightning rod for brainstorms so Calvin could keep his ideas grounded in reality (Hobbes thought he was too late for that))), and the other ends of the strings tied to a metal colander, which served as the thinking cap. When used, the wearer of the thinking cap would recieve a boost in intelligence, resulting in the head swelling. The intelligence boost, however, is temporary. When it wears off, the subject's head reverts to its normal size. Calvin created it in order to be able to come up with a topic for his homework.

The box was used only once as an emergency G.R.O.S.S. meeting "box of secrecy", and that was when Calvin's mother had allowed Susie Derkins to come to Calvin's house after school one day. Calvin of course was not too happy about this, and so called an emergency meeting of G.R.O.S.S.. Evidentially unable to access his treehouse, which is the usual meeting place for the Get Rid Of Slimy girlS club, Calvin and Hobbes held a meeting in the cardboard box. Hobbes voiced the opinion that the box needed air holes. Calvin's reply was "Too risky. The box of secrecy must remain secure."

Calvinball is a game played almost exclusively by Calvin and Hobbes as a rebellion against organized team sports (like baseball), although the babysitter Rosalyn plays on one occasion. Calvinball is played with whatever implements are available, often a volleyball (referred to as the "Calvinball") and a croquet set, and the rules are invented as the game goes along. The only consistent rule is that the playing rules can never be the same for two games. Calvin and Hobbes wear masks similar to The Lone Ranger's and Zorro's while they play. Calvin tells Rosalyn that another rule is that "no one's allowed to question the masks", but as this is the only time it actually comes up, it may simply be one of the ad hoc-invented rules.

Either player may change any rule at any time (with the exception of those rules stated above). Scoring is also entirely arbitrary: Hobbes has reported scores of "Q to 12" and "oogy to boogy." Calvinball is essentially a game of wits and creativity rather than purely physical feats, and in this Hobbes is typically more successful than Calvin himself. It is often regarded as an example of nomic.

In the Tenth Anniversary Book, Watterson states that the greatest number of questions he receives concern Calvinball and how to play it. He then answers the question once and for all: "People have asked how to play Calvinball. It's pretty simple: you make up the rules as you go."

Calvin and Hobbes frequently ride downhill in a wagon, sled, or toboggan (depending on the season) and ponder the meaning of life, death, God, and a variety of other weighty subjects as they hurtle downhill. The wagon and sled were conceived because of Bill Watterson's aversion to "talking heads" comic strips, as a way of making them visually exciting. The course of the vehicle and the obstacles that the characters negotiate as they travel also frequently serve as metaphors for and parallel to the subject of conversation (life becomes a blur, Calvin says as he speeds along), and the rides almost always end in a spectacular crash when they ride off a cliff, leaving the vehicle battered and broken. (Calvin tells Hobbes to help him "gather up the sled.")

During winter, Calvin often engages in snowball fights (which he almost always loses), usually throwing them at Susie but almost always resulting in Calvin getting buried in the snow as retaliation. He sometimes teams up with Hobbes for snowball fights, but Calvin cannot seem to resist also sneaking up on Hobbes, who always seems to get the drop on him instead. This also applies to water balloons.

Calvin also builds snowmen, but they are usually grotesque, monstrous deformed creatures (e.g., three heads, two noses, a snowman with a tree growing through it, and a snowman eating an ice cream cone scooped from the back of a second snowman, to name a few). Such creations usually bring swift discipline from Calvin's parents. For example, after his mother sees the "cannibal" snowman, Calvin is summoned to the house, leaving him to remark to Hobbes, "First she says go out, now she says come in." In a notable storyline, Calvin builds a snowman and brings it to life using the power "invested in him by the mighty and awful Snow Demons." The snowman immediately proves to be evil (reminiscent of Frankenstein's monster) and becomes what Calvin calls a "deranged mutant killer monster snow goon." This storyline gave the title to the Calvin and Hobbes book Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons.

Calvin believes in the aforementioned "Snow Demons" as "gods" that control the weather, and that they require burned leaves as a sacrifice for a cold, snowy winter. When he tells his father this, his father says, "I'm not sure whether your grasp of meteorology or theology is the more appalling."

Calvin, unlike Hobbes, thinks of snowmen as a fine art. Bill Watterson has said that this is a parody of art's “pretentious blowhards.” Once, out of ideas, Calvin signed the snow-covered landscape with a stick and declared all the world's snow as his own work of art, offering to sell it to Hobbes for a million dollars. Hobbes mellowly responds, "Sorry, it doesn't match my furniture," and walks away, leaving Calvin to contemplate, "The problem with being avant-garde is knowing who's putting on who."

G.R.O.S.S. is Calvin's childhood secret club, whose sole purpose is to exclude girls generally, and Susie Derkins specifically. The name is an acronym, reminiscent of Valerie Solanas' S.C.U.M or Thomas Pynchon's W.A.S.T.E (in The Crying of Lot 49). It stands for Get Rid Of Slimy girlS. Calvin admits "slimy girls" is a bit redundant, as—of course—all girls are slimy, "but otherwise it doesn't spell anything." After a misadventure with the car and a card table, G.R.O.S.S. relocated to a treehouse (and in one instance to beneath a cardboard box). Calvin and Hobbes are its only members, and each takes up multiple official titles while wearing newspaper chapeaux during meetings (Calvin is Dictator-For-Life, and Hobbes is President and First Tiger). Their anthem is generally unknown, but begins: "Oh Grohoooss! Best Club in the Cosmos . . .".

There are eighteen Calvin and Hobbes books, published from 1987 to 2005. These include eleven "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, has circulated around the Internet.) "Treasuries" usually combine the two preceding collections (albeit leaving out some strips) with bonus material and include color reprints of Sunday comics.

Watterson included a unique Easter egg in The Essential Calvin and Hobbes. The back cover is a scene of a giant Calvin rampaging through a town. The scene is in fact a faithful reproduction of the town square (actually a triangle) in Watterson's home town of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. The giant Calvin has uprooted, and is holding in his hands, the Popcorn Shop, a small, iconic candy and ice cream shop overlooking the town's namesake falls. It is a particularly popular place for local parents to take their children.

A complete collection of Calvin and Hobbes strips, in three hardcover volumes with a total 1440 pages, was released on October 4, 2005, by Andrews McMeel Publishing. It also includes color prints of the art used on paperback covers, the treasuries' extra illustrated stories and poems, and a new introduction by Bill Watterson, who is now happily teaching himself to paint. It is notable, however, that 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, Calvin and Hobbes reruns were made available to newspapers from Sunday, September 4, 2005, through Saturday, December 31, 2005, and Bill Watterson answered a select dozen questions submitted by readers. Like other reprinted strips, weekday Calvin and Hobbes strips now appear in color print when available, instead of black and white as in their first run.

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 never 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.

Remaining books do contain some additional content; for instance, The Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book contains a long watercolor Spaceman Spiff epic not seen elsewhere until Complete, and The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book contains much original commentary from Watterson. Calvin and Hobbes: Sunday Pages 1985-1995 contains 36 Sunday strips in color alongside Watterson's original sketches, prepared for an exhibition at The Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library.

An officially licensed children's textbook entitled Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes was published in a limited single print-run in 1993. The book includes various Calvin and Hobbes strips 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?" (108). The book is rare and increasingly sought by collectors.

Calvin and Hobbes was featured in an episode of Robot Chicken. This is the first time the cartoon has been professionally animated and parodied.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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