Hobbes was a manifestation of pure, unadulterated loneliness.
June 9, 2015 9:22 PM   Subscribe

Calvin And Hobbes embodied the voice of the lonely child. Calvin made it okay to be disheartened and disappointed by life and normalized the inherent loneliness that childhood can bring. posted by meowzilla (58 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
 
There is a mythic Calvin And Hobbes strip that’s been bouncing around the internet

That strip has always seemed so irreverent (in the worst possible way) and tone deaf to me.
posted by Nevin at 9:33 PM on June 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


Great article, very well written, thanks for posting! The fact that the very first thing the author does is discredit that fanmade abomination that is the "medication" ending to Calvin and Hobbes puts her thoughts on the subject into my good books.
posted by brecc at 9:49 PM on June 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


There's more than one reason Watterson chose to do a painting of Petey Otterloop for his contribution to the Richard Thompson/Parkinson's Disease fundraiser. Petey was a Calvin for the new generation... not an only child, in contention for "the world's pickiest eater", usually engrossed in the books of "Little Neuro" (a parody of "Little Nemo", a century-old comic about an imaginative dreamer), and his 'imaginary friend' was another kid who he refuses to admit exists because he's too weird. As I go through the "Cul De Sac" comics in reruns, I so wish Thompson hadn't had to end them due to his health.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:54 PM on June 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


A true understanding of Calvin and Hobbes starts with the realization that Calvin's parents are normal people, exasperated, understandably exhausted - and don't understand or appreciate him in any way whatsoever. They're perfectly average folks, not abusive in any way, but they are never nice or kind to Calvin.
posted by koeselitz at 9:56 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sounds like my parents, koeselitz, but instead of Hobbes, I had Wendell.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:58 PM on June 9, 2015


they are never nice or kind to Calvin.

Calvin's Dad is the master and Calvin in the initiate apprentice who doesn't understand what he's being initiated into. The older I get the more I appreciate Calvin's dad. And I think if the thesis of this piece is that Calvin's essence is loneliness then I think the same is true of both his parents - each one wants something out of life that the others are for whatever reason unwilling to fully give to one another.

But as Tolstoy said, "All happy families are alike." There's no story to be told there.
posted by GuyZero at 10:03 PM on June 9, 2015 [19 favorites]


I pretty much read Calvin and Hobbes for Calvin's Dad. And the snowmen.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:23 PM on June 9, 2015 [17 favorites]


Some of the strips in this post stir up a general feeling that I haven't had since I was a kid. Excitement mixed with, I don't know, a sort of melancholy. Man, did I feel those strips about school, and about wanting to escape. I grew up in a pretty rural area, and I always wished I could have had little journeys through the woods just like Calvin. In retrospect, I guess I did, but they were never as magical as the strips made them out to be.

I still have sort of mixed feelings about Calvin and Hobbes. I really appreciate how shitty childhood looks in them. It's like everyone else wanted you to believe you were living the happiest years of your life, but Watterson was saying "no, childhood can be awful, and it's OK if you feel bad."

At the same time, I wanted things to be as unique and funny and interesting as they were in Calvin's world (or imagination), but they never really lived up. I tried launching my wagon "to Mars," but all I did was go over a little hill and then get gently deposited on the grass. I didn't even get hurt. Calvin coped with childhood the way I wished I could, and in some ways I think that made me sadder.
posted by teponaztli at 10:32 PM on June 9, 2015 [20 favorites]


Yeah, that abomination strip is some Zen Pencils level bullshit.
posted by Artw at 10:47 PM on June 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


They're perfectly average folks, not abusive in any way, but they are never nice or kind to Calvin.

I don’t believe that’s true for a second, but those moments aren’t generally going to make for a good comic strip: Where’s the drama in Calvin’s Mum or Dad being nice to him?

There’s still the odd act of kindness depicted though: Off the top of my head, I can think of them not punishing Calvin for breaking his Dad’s binoculars & Calvin’s Mum saving him from having to eat worms. Can anyone think of any more?
posted by pharm at 1:05 AM on June 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


I feel like Calvin's parents accept him, even though he's impossibly difficult to deal with. Even as a kid I loved Calvin's mam, because she had the same wry, slightly sarcastic humour my mam and her sisters have. A humour that challenges you to get it, rather than panders to you. I didn't know that at the time, of course. I just kind of knew someone was making fun of me like I was an adult, and liked it.

And, as GuyZero points out above, his dad is guiding him, teaching him how absurd the world is, how to live in that absurdity. Reading Calvin and Hobbes from childhood to adulthood is a process of turning from Calvin into Calvin's dad.

Calvin's parents are both intelligent, nuanced, occasionally unhappy people, just like Calvin. They both absolutely love him. I love them both.
posted by distorte at 1:30 AM on June 10, 2015 [71 favorites]


This kind of article always reminds me of how great the Calvin & Hobbes strips are and how writing about them only ever reaches a tangential appreciation and/or criticism of that greatness. I like these articles because they remind me to revisit the strips.
posted by chavenet at 1:45 AM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I feel that the time Calvin's family has a break-in sheds some light on the way they care for each other. I can't really find somewhere to link to, though, but I expect most people in this thread has read all the strips anyway.
posted by Harald74 at 1:46 AM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


There’s still the odd act of kindness depicted though: Off the top of my head, I can think of them not punishing Calvin for breaking his Dad’s binoculars & Calvin’s Mum saving him from having to eat worms. Can anyone think of any more?

There's a least one spaceman spiff scene where spiff comes upon a slavering alien beast, only for the beast to offer cookies and milk or something, and the final panel being Calvin in a sandbox somewhat reluctantly putting his game on hold to enjoy the snack his mum has brought.

There's kindness from the parents all over in Calvin and Hobbes, there's just also discipline and boundaries, and with everything being sort of viewed through Calvin's eyes, the latter two are experienced almost as abuse (even as the reader can obviously recognise that is not the case).
posted by Dysk at 2:41 AM on June 10, 2015 [25 favorites]


Some comics where the parents show kindness and love

Dad takes a break from work to play with Calvin
First appeared in newspapers 14 January 1990.
GoComics link
This comic can also be found in:
The Complete Calvin & Hobbes (hardcover) book 2, page 234.
The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes page 191 (vertical layout).
Scientific Progress Goes 'Boink' page 63 (vertical layout, in black and white).

Mom knows everything
First appeared in newspapers 10 October 1992.
GoComics link
This comic can also be found in:
The Complete Calvin & Hobbes (hardcover) book 3, page 85.
The Days are Just Packed page 161.

Play before bedtime
First appeared in newspapers 22 February 1987.
GoComcis link
This comic can also be found in:
The Complete Calvin & Hobbes (hardcover) book 1, page 235.
The Essential Calvin and Hobbes page 216 (vertical layout).
Something Under the Bed Is Drooling page 87 (vertical layout, in black and white).

The binoculars incident as mentioned by pharm (part of a longer story arc)
First appeared in newspapers 25 May 1988.
GoComics link
This comic can also be found in:
The Complete Calvin & Hobbes (hardcover) book 1, page 436.
The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book page 83 (with commentary from Bill Watterson).
The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes page 171.
Weirdos from Another Planet! page 45.

Lunch in the sandbox as mentioned by Dysk
First appeared in newspapers 5 July 1987.
GoComics link
This comic can also be found in:
The Complete Calvin & Hobbes (hardcover) book 1, page 294.
Calvin and Hobbes: Sunday Pages 1985-1995 page 35 (with commentary from Bill Watterson).
The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book page 69 (with commentary from Bill Watterson).
The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes page 33 (vertical layout).
The Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book page 22 (vertical layout).
Yukon Ho! page 24 (vertical layout, in black and white).

Saved from worms as mentioned by pharm (part of a longer story arc)
First appeared in newspapers 22 May 1993.
GoComcis link
This comic can also be found in:
The Complete Calvin & Hobbes (hardcover) book 3, page 184.
Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat page 118.

The Break In as mentioned by Harald74 (part of a longer story arc)
First appeared in newspapers 2 May 1989.
GoComics link
This comic can also be found in:
The Complete Calvin & Hobbes (hardcover) book 2, page 103.
The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes page 73.
The Revenge of the Baby-Sat page 68.
posted by Real.Wolf at 3:03 AM on June 10, 2015 [55 favorites]


Oh sugar, that first one just made me cry at my desk.
posted by distorte at 3:13 AM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's also the long search for Hobbes when he goes missing in the woods after him and Calvin have some falling out while on an adventure, but at this stage the point is probably made.
posted by Dysk at 3:18 AM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


The series where Calvin finds an abandoned baby raccoon and tries to save it also depicts his mom's kindness.
posted by pxe2000 at 3:35 AM on June 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Hobbes & Bacon #1, #2, #3, #4
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:41 AM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Watterson gets childhood, but he also gets adulthood. Along with the Ripley's Believe or Not and the Guinness Book of World Records, the most popular books for silent reading time in my classroom are the Calvin & Hobbes books.

I used to tape Calvin cartoons to my quizzes. Gave it up after fifteen years because the kids started asking, "Why did you put that on there?" and I decided I'd rather not know how serious they had started getting about school.
posted by Peach at 3:44 AM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


The ending of the arc when Calvin manages to roll the family car into the ditch and then runs away.
posted by edgeways at 4:56 AM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Watterson has a quote, I think in the 10th Anniversary book, about Calvin's parents, particularly his mom-- it's something to the effect of you only ever seen Calvin's mom when she's reacting to something that Calvin has done and that means we often see her not in her best light, and that he always felt kind of bad about that.

So while yes, there are some sweet moments, I think there is something to the idea that since primarily see her when she's reacting to, say, Calvin having nailed nails into the coffee table, you can get the impression that his parents, particularly his mom, are mean.
posted by damayanti at 5:10 AM on June 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


I never thought Calvin's parents were mean. Given what he puts them through, I kind of thought they were saints. But maybe that is a perspective you only get after being a parent.
posted by COD at 5:30 AM on June 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


As a father of a 3.5 year old boy, that strip with Calvin's dad going outside to play with him hits me right in the feels.

I also identify greatly with Calvin. I was that weird kid with too much imagination to be contained.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:13 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


During my first semester in graduate school I had to take population genetics. Some parts of the course were okay, some were way over my head. Our instructor provided a cover sheet to be attached to each homework set, and the page had a large block of blank space on it. Following one particularly brutal set of problems, I returned my work with the math atheist strip copied onto the cover page. To my surprise, and delight, when he returned the problem set there was a Calvin and Hobbes strip by way of reply (sadly, I don't remember what strip it was). This continued for the rest of the semester, and remains my fondest memory of population genetics. My 11-year-old has just about read my books to pieces, and I love the way C&H appeals to so many different people.
posted by wintermind at 6:24 AM on June 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


Sometimes I think Petey Otterloop the picky eater is descended directly from this strip, which has always been one of my absolute favorites.
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:25 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


This thread is reminding me I have to go back and read this as a parent now (especially with a kid that sometimes equal Calvin's imagination, which can be trying, but I certainly wouldn't trade it for an easier time).
posted by typecloud at 6:32 AM on June 10, 2015


I've written about how Calvin & Hobbes influenced my childhood before, but reading this made me realize how I never noticed the loneliness as a child. Calvin's world always felt like an exaggerated version of mine, so I didn't realize until adulthood the ways I felt trapped or misunderstood. I don't know if that's on me or if Watterson intentionally wrote the normalcy of feeling unappreciated into the DNA of the strip.
posted by Turkey Glue at 6:41 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


How can a kid know so much and still be so dumb?
posted by shakespeherian at 6:50 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think there is something to the idea that since primarily see her when she's reacting to, say, Calvin having nailed nails into the coffee table

"Calvin, what are you DOING??"

"Is that a trick question?

And I'd like to echo oneswellfoop sadness that Cul De Sac didn't get to last longer. It was the heir apparent to Calvin & Hobbes' throne.
posted by JHarris at 6:56 AM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


This article made me so angry that I couldn't even finish it. Why assume that, because Calvin has an imaginary friend, there must be something wrong with him? The author rejects the theory that Calvin is hyperactive and/or insane, and proposes that he's just lonely and isolated.

NEWS FLASH: Happy kids who are not lonely have active imaginations too.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 7:18 AM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


And I'd like to echo oneswellfoop sadness that Cul De Sac didn't get to last longer. It was the heir apparent to Calvin & Hobbes' throne

*separates foods into colour and size and type*
posted by Fizz at 7:23 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why assume that, because Calvin has an imaginary friend, there must be something wrong with him? The author rejects the theory that Calvin is hyperactive and/or insane, and proposes that he's just lonely and isolated.

It might have been worth finishing it. I think it was more framing loneliness as part of the human condition, even for children. At least, that was the sense of it that resonated with me. To suggest someone experiences loneliness is not
to suggest that there's something wrong with them.
posted by distorte at 7:24 AM on June 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


I feel that the time Calvin's family has a break-in sheds some light on the way they care for each other.

Or the racoon thing, as mentioned above. I think there's a lot to be said for the involvement nature of Calvin's parents. They're there for him when he needs them, keep him healthy and fed, and let him slip the bonds and be himself as much as he needs to.
posted by phearlez at 7:37 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


NEWS FLASH: Happy kids who are not lonely have active imaginations too.

Addendum: Writers respond to what they see in a work. This writer sees loneliness. That doesn't mean that's all there is to see, there, and probably isn't meant to.
posted by lodurr at 7:47 AM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


This article made me so angry that I couldn't even finish it. Why assume that, because Calvin has an imaginary friend, there must be something wrong with him? The author rejects the theory that Calvin is hyperactive and/or insane, and proposes that he's just lonely and isolated.

NEWS FLASH: Happy kids who are not lonely have active imaginations too.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 10:18 AM on June 10 [1 favorite +] [!]


Sure that exists in the world, Calvin is not one of those kids. He has two friends Susie Derkins and an imaginary tiger. And he's often at war with Susie. I don't recall being shown him playing with other children his own age in the comic other than Moe the bully and I wouldn't call that playing and him and Susie mutually antagonizing each other.
posted by edbles at 8:09 AM on June 10, 2015


This article made me so angry that I couldn't even finish it. Why assume that, because Calvin has an imaginary friend, there must be something wrong with him? The author rejects the theory that Calvin is hyperactive and/or insane, and proposes that he's just lonely and isolated.

NEWS FLASH: Happy kids who are not lonely have active imaginations too.


Hold the phone. Did the article suggest that there was something wrong with him? Did the article suggest that happy, sociable kids don't have active imaginations? Seems to me that the article is ruminating on Calvin, who he is, and why - and in full celebration.
posted by entropone at 8:30 AM on June 10, 2015


OK OK. I went back and RTFA, and I now admit that my initial reaction was an overreaction. Carry on.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:39 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ben, if all these putzes who think Joyce Carol Oates is stupid enough to mistake a Triceratops for a Rhino had the guts to say something like that, my morning would have been somewhat less annoying.
posted by lodurr at 8:45 AM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Watterson has a quote, I think in the 10th Anniversary book, about Calvin's parents

Sadly, my copy was lost in a random post office mixup - but I remember Watterson saying more or less that he thought Calvin's parents were really trying their best, and that they were probably far more patient than he could have been. For that matter, so was Rosalyn, the babysitter, who kept coming back (if only because she was the only one who would look after him).

It's also worth noting that this is really from Calvin's perspective - there's that storyline where Uncle Max shows up, and Watterson realized that if he kept him around, we'd have to learn Calvin's parents names. In other words, it's not a portrait of parenting, it's a kid's perspective on his parents. And really, all the adults are pretty patient, even his teacher, Mrs. Wormwood, who clearly cares about her students even if Calvin exasperates her sometimes. Reading the comics as an adult makes you see all the completely understandable ways the adults around him behave, and part of what makes C&H great is that nobody has to be a total jerk to make Calvin feel alienated (except the baseball coach and Moe).

Anyway, I don't know what sunny world people grew up in, but it doesn't strike me as unusual for a kid to spend lots of time by himself, or even feeling ignored. Calvin doesn't need to be sad, or insane, or hyperactive for his character to make sense. No matter how happy or unhappy a kid is, they're basically being forced to navigate in a world they're having to learn about by experiencing, with all these unspoken rules they keep breaking, and expectations they barely understand. Calvin's experience with the baseball team, or even just his time in school, just alienates him because it's not how he wants to relate to the world and the people around him - but I think every kid has to learn to adapt that way. Who can blame him for feeling isolated sometimes?
posted by teponaztli at 8:46 AM on June 10, 2015


JHarris, that "trick question" comic is one of my absolute favorites. I still giggle quietly when I think about it :)
posted by Ambient Echo at 8:46 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


The pay-off to Real.Wolf's last link (excellent work!) is one of the stronger expressions of how solid Calvin's family really is:
http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1989/05/04

It's an interesting question: is Calvin lonely? I'm not sure the answer is yes. He may be too busy to stop and think about it. He's got an active imagination for sure, but that doesn't mean he's compensating for anything. If anything, I think he could socialize more, Suzie seems to like him well enough, for example, but he's too wrapped up in his own concerns to care about other kids.
posted by bonehead at 9:10 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not really sure what the author means by "loneliness." To me, feeling "lonely" means actively feeling the absence of companionship: i.e., either feeling shunned by others or feeling cut off from them (you've moved to a new town and don't know anyone, you've been ostracized by your social group etc.). Calvin seems to me to have no particular desire for a wider circle of friends/acquaintances. Hobbes never seems like a compensation device, a succedaneum for the "real" friends Calvin would really prefer to have. To that extent this reading seems misguided.
posted by yoink at 9:28 AM on June 10, 2015


Maybe alienated is a better term than lonely. It seems that Calvin realizes he doesn't fit into a big world that doesn't listen to him, but it still grinds on him that the world is illogical or indifferent. I read it as a defiant kid trying to learn the rules enough to be left alone.
posted by Turkey Glue at 10:39 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not really sure what the author means by "loneliness."

I guess that people who aren't only children themselves don't really grasp that bittersweet blissful paradox that makes you able to enjoy playing alone, with one kind of thing, entirely undisturbed, for days on end, but cry your eyes out at the end of vacation when cousin so-and-so has to travel home.
Loneliness of this kind has nothing to do with what others do to you; it's all about others not being there when sometimes you wish they would.

So one deals with the situation: one accepts both the pros and the cons and--as a consequence--most of the time doesn't seem on the outside to have a desire for a wider circle of friends. Calvin is uncannily authentic in this respect.
posted by Namlit at 10:43 AM on June 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


I guess that people who aren't only children themselves don't really grasp that bittersweet blissful paradox that makes you able to enjoy playing alone, with one kind of thing, entirely undisturbed, for days on end, but cry your eyes out at the end of vacation when cousin so-and-so has to travel home.
Loneliness of this kind has nothing to do with what others do to you; it's all about others not being there when sometimes you wish they would.


But I see no evidence in the strips, at all, that Calvin is the kind of kid who would "cry his eyes out at the end of vacation when cousin so-and-so has to travel home." I didn't define loneliness as being "what others do to you" (I instanced shunning as one kind of loneliness among others). As you say, loneliness is about "others not being there when..you wish they would." Calvin never, in my memory, expresses a wish that "others" were there. He's entirely happy playing with Hobbes.
posted by yoink at 10:53 AM on June 10, 2015


That strip has always seemed so irreverent (in the worst possible way) and tone deaf to me.

I agree, which is why my pick-up has a decal of Calvin micturating on that fake strip.
posted by Xavier Xavier at 11:24 AM on June 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I pretty much read Calvin and Hobbes for Calvin's Dad. And the snowmen.

Wait did Calvin's dad just explain tangential velocity on a spinning disk - essentially correctly?
posted by atoxyl at 11:41 AM on June 10, 2015


The one where he convices Calvin that the world used to be black & white has always been a great favorite in my family. Basically, because my dad can pull that off. He isn't mean enough to take it that far, though.
posted by lodurr at 11:49 AM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


How can a kid know so much and still be so dumb?

He's six years old. Kids can be deceptive, in that they seem mature and sharp, and then they do or say something to remind you that they're still very young, and have a long way to go.

Personal example: four year old will reason with you fairly well as to why why he should get dessert, but you still can't reason with him why actually taking a nap for an hour will give him more energy and take less time than if he bounces around on his bed for three hours. Oh right, he's still a tiny person.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:50 AM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


At the same time, I wanted things to be as unique and funny and interesting as they were in Calvin's world (or imagination), but they never really lived up. I tried launching my wagon "to Mars," but all I did was go over a little hill and then get gently deposited on the grass. I didn't even get hurt. Calvin coped with childhood the way I wished I could, and in some ways I think that made me sadder.

As a kid, I enjoyed Calvin & Hobbes, but what I wanted to model my life on was Bloom County. When I was nine, I tried holding an impromptu Dukakis rally in the front yard with my best friend at the time. It didn't work, and we were called in quick so we didn't get in trouble. But I had a big time making VOTE DUKE '88 signs in class.

I loved Calvin then and now, and maybe that's because I never did think of him as lonely. He and Hobbes were sufficient unto themselves. Susie was only there for him to needle, although Watterson showed that she was her own person and that Calvin was the fool in their exchanges. (Parenthetically, I dislike the fan strip "endings" that show that Calvin grows up and marries Susie. "Boys are mean to you because they like you" is a toxic model.) But Calvin never needed any of the random other kids in his class. He's as much of a perfect loner as Watterson appears to be.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:32 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I guess that people who aren't only children themselves don't really grasp that bittersweet blissful paradox that makes you able to enjoy playing alone, with one kind of thing, entirely undisturbed, for days on end, but cry your eyes out at the end of vacation when cousin so-and-so has to travel home.

I wouldn't take this as a universal experience, and would avoid wanting to project that onto Calvin as well. I don't think that shoe fits him. Calvin gets a bit mopey because others don't understand him sometimes, but I don't think he really gets lonely or stays that way for long. He's a bit detached, but he doesn't ache for human contact.

There's no indication that he explicitly trades-off living in or sharing his own world and more human contact.
posted by bonehead at 12:45 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


He's six years old. Kids can be deceptive, in that they seem mature and sharp, and then they do or say something to remind you that they're still very young, and have a long way to go.

How can a kid know so much and still be so dumb?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:42 PM on June 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Calvin and Hobbes resonated for me a lot, especially since I was an only child growing up in a rural area. So while I was, and am, pretty social, I spent a lot of time by myself (and often in the company of stuffed animals as a younger child). There were plenty of days where my only interaction was with a few other adults, and I don't think I'd describe myself as lonely. And I certainly didn't see Calvin as lonely.

Calvin sees Hobbes differently than anyone else does (Watterson, in one of his books, comments that his interpretation is that it isn't that either that Hobbes' animation is a figment of Calvin's imagination or that Hobbes comes alive when no one else is around -- Calvin just sees the world differently from others). So any focus on Calvin's interactions with other kids at school, where Hobbes generally can't go, would pull focus from the Calvin/Hobbes relationship that is the strip's focus. So I don't think the fact that the strip focuses heavily on time that Calvin spends alone (with Hobbes) necessarily suggests Calvin is a lonely kid.

...or maybe I'm projecting myself into the strip more than I'd like to admit.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:10 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


JHarris, that "trick question" comic is one of my absolute favorites. I still giggle quietly when I think about it :)

The look on Calvin's face in the third panel alone. It's just so perfectly drawn.

My nephew is turning 6 this weekend and I've been wondering when would be the right time to introduce him C&H. I'm hoping it's soon. :)
posted by bowmaniac at 7:29 AM on June 11, 2015


I think Calvins parents are doing the best they can. Calvin is hyper, adventuresome, and really, really smart, creative and imaginative. I strongly suspect Calvin is smarter than his dad. He almost certainly represents a form of chaos, creation, that the desk bound, probably accountant dad is often befuddled by. Calvin comes up with questions- lots of questions- that the dad's education probably didn't cover very well- and he fields them all with grace and patience and quite often, the right answer.

But, really, the dad is a rather tragic figure here- Calvin is everything he is not. Could he have been Calvin, when younger? I suspect Calvin takes more after his mother. How do you react to the chaos? The driveway full of snow monsters? The inevitable reflection of your own life... biking in traffic.... to an office... to a cubicle....


Also, most of the scenes of Calvin at school are about him in worlds of his own creation... I think he could care less about most of the children. He is, after all, wicked smart. They, well, likely aren't. Suzie is probably the closet thing that isn't a tiger to his IQ.

Interesting mirrors, indeed.
posted by Jacen at 10:46 AM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Suzie is probably the closet thing that isn't a tiger to his IQ.

This is of course why they tolerate each other.

I suspect Calvin takes more after his mother.

I'm sorta mostly with you on Dad except for this, because I have always thought exactly the opposite. Calvin's mom is smart and structured: She's Suzie. Calvin's dad is smart, creative, mischievous, and clever enough to enjoy convincing Calvin that old pictures are black and white because the whole world looked that way back then. Though, I'm not sure I'd characterize him as 'tragic.' He's got a really nice family.
posted by lodurr at 10:56 AM on June 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Like most great art, it's a great mirror. The article and these many comments whisper that to me. I love Calvin and Hobbes, and I admire when something as silly as a comic strip from the newspaper days can have a generation-spanning effect on people
posted by Redhush at 12:11 PM on June 12, 2015


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