Calvin and Hobbes


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In November of 1985, a new comic strip was printed that would change the shape of comic strips for all time. Bill Watterson ingeniously invented the comic strip, “Calvin and Hobbes”. It ran for a total of 10 years, and was carried in 2,500 newspapers around the world. Besides being ran in newspapers, over 29 million copies of 17 different books have been printed. The comic strip was about a little six year old boy “Calvin” and his faithful stuffed tiger “Hobbes”. The comic is laced with hilarity and sarcasm, as Calvin and Hobbes get into one mischievous scrape after another.

Calvin is named after the theologian, John Calvin, who was the founder of Calvinism, and a strong believer in predestination. Calvin as a character is selfish, curious, creative, intelligent, and self-centered. Calvinistic predestination as a philosophical position entails the idea that human action plays no part in affecting a person's ultimate future. We see how this theory is related to Calvin, as he consistently gripes that the troublesome acts he commits are outside of his control and that he is simply a product of his environment, or a victim of circumstances. Hobbes is named after philosopher Thomas Hobbes, whom Bill Watterson was quoted saying “had a dim view of human nature. ” Hobbes is much more aware of consequences than Calvin, but rarely interferes with Calvin's troublemaking beyond a few warnings. This idea makes sense because in the end, Calvin will be the one to get in trouble for it, not Hobbes. Just like John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes might, the two characters are constantly bickering, often ending in a fight. Hobbes also everyday is waiting for Calvin to pounce on him, leaving Calvin with scrapes and bruises, and sometimes Calvin outsmarts Hobbes.

One major example of the recurring themes that take place in Calvin and Hobbes are the use of Calvin’s alter-egos. One important note about Hobbes in this is how Hobbes is completely uninvolved; as it is assumed that he might be seen criticizing the alter-egos. Stupendous man is a superhero Calvin often turns into with the help of a mask and cape his mom created for him. Stupendous man defends Calvin against his terrifying babysitter Rosalyn or, once, Miss Wormwood and the school principal. Spaceman Spiff is another alter-ego, as Calvin goes to far-away planets to fight alien monsters. This is said to be a parody of the comic Flash Gordon, and Calvin has or does generally crash on the alien planet. Captain Napalm is another alter-ego, and is a superhero whom protects justice and the American Way. The alter-ego is an important theme because Hobbes is not real, but he seems so much more real when considering all of Calvin’s imaginative alter-egos.

A major recurring theme throughout the strip is how Calvin turns to his imagination to deal with every situation that he dislikes. Rosalyn, the babysitter, is the most evident case in this. Rosalyn is the only person that Calvin actually seems to fear. He often turns to ”Spaceman Spiff” or Captain Napalm to deal with her, and his parents as well seem to fear her. Another time when Calvin turns to imagination consistently is when going for the cookie jar. He hates that he is unable to go for a cookie whenever he would like, so he generally will turn into a bug in order to get to them, and in the last column we always see his mother saying something about not getting a cookie. Another situation is almost every time we see Calvin sit down for dinner. When unhappy about the food, Calvin imagines being “Spaceman Spiff, ” and one time after “Hobbes” cut Calvin’s hair, he acts as Tracer Bullet, a private investigator, because he was wearing a hat. Through his imagination, Calvin is able to turn away and deal with situation that he is uncomfortable with, and the reader gets to enjoy this.

Another recurring theme is school and homework. Although he is very bright and contains a vocabulary much greater than any other six-year old, Calvin hates school and homework. Hobbes, the unreal tiger, always ends up doing Calvin’s homework, and a recurring strip we often see is Hobbes doing Calvin’s math completely wrong. As Calvin waits for the bus, he is always talking to Hobbes about how dumb it is that he is forced to go to school. He assumes that an intelligent boy like himself does not need to attend school. Even though as Calvin speaks throughout the strip he seems very intelligent, he often gets poor grades in school, and only on a few occasions do we see him get good ones.

Another recurring theme is dinosaurs. Dinosaurs were added towards the middle of the strip, and they are important because for a few moments, to Calvin, they are very real. Most kids might act up and in class and speak out, but Calvin has been seen on more than one occasion as a dinosaur, and he, out loud, makes dinosaur noises, and afterwards we see the class as a whole staring at him. In the last column we see how bored Calvin really is, as he puts his head on his desk and sigh’s. Most might see this as an act of embarrassment, but seeing as Calvin rarely gets embarrassed, we realize that this is only Calvin being bored and wishing he was out of school.

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