Ode to Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes is the quintessential comic. It has a huge amount of repertoire. It is delightful for all ages. It has a combination of simplicity and sophistication in its art and humor. There is a Calvin and Hobbes comic that can apply to any situation, and it is not hard to empathize with each of the characters in turn. Each time that I have read Calvin and Hobbes, it has struck me in different ways. It is not because the comics have changed, but because they are so widely applicable that I find something of myself in them as I have changed over the years. The humor and situations vary, and that adds to the appeal. When once, spaceman spiff was the ultimate delight and hero, now I find myself drawn to the philosophical ponderings as they hurtle down dangerous hills in their wagon or sled. One of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes comics is on in which they are appreciating the view from a tree and eventually come back to the real world in which the wagon had crashed as they had gone off a cliff and into the tree.  The very world that Calvin and Hobbes live in is so beautiful and specific and yet generic enough that it could be almost anywhere. You can believe that Calvin’s family could live just a few doors down. The area around his house is a perfect combination of fall leaves, hills, creeks, ravines, and grassy flats that would be a fantasy dream-land for most children to explore. Calvin, Hobbes, His mother, His father, Susie Derkins, Moe, Ms. Wormwood, Roselyn, the principal…each of the characters has their own complex personality full of very real and aggrandized feelings, actions, and emotions. They are interesting to look at in their own right, and they are favorites of mine to include in games of celebrity. Hobbes has always been my favorite from his appreciation for the world, very clear interest in the wellbeing of nature, playful pounces, and witty humor. He has the side of dry sarcasm that I have always shared in my humor, and is more often than not the one who drops both a clever punch line and anchor of reason on Calvin. In one of the books, Bill Waterson explains that Hobbes’ two forms, stuffed animal and very real tiger, are not actually evidence of Calvin’s delusions but the realities that different people see. This has always resonated very strongly with me. I very much like the duality of Hobbes’ character, just as I enjoy the various settings and adventures that Calvin and his best bud Hobbes go through. Their interplay is a beautiful example of true friendship. Calvin and Hobbes also show the boundless potential of imagination from the ever-shifting environment of Calvinball to the monsters under the bed to grotesque snow men and class-time visions of dinosaurs and aliens. Growing up with Calvin and Hobbes has given a strong point of common ground with my family in particular and with friends and acquaintances as well. My mother tells the story of first tuning into Calvin the six-year old when my brother was six (I was two, so I don’t remember). Calvin was hammering nails into the table, and his mother charges in demanding to know what on Earth he is doing. To this he responds blandly by asking whether that is a trick question. We were hooked. I still have a collection of comic clippings lovingly placed in a three ring binder before the compendiums came out, and we have collected most of those as well. By chance, we ended up with two of the same volumes, and they quickly became my favorite coloring books. I can still remember the excitement when I found the Lazy Sunday compendium for a present to my brother. I look in longing at the complete collection of Calvin and Hobbes when I see it in Barnes and Nobel, never quite able but always on the verge of buying it. Calvin and Hobbes has helped me through some of my hardest times with its mix of humor and seriousness. It is a teaching tool when I teach Latin, and it is a dream and goal to translate the works into Latin completely. It is a pleasure to return to the vaults of Calvin and Hobbs after several years knowing what is waiting and wondering what new things you will find. The diction of Calvin and Hobbes is such that a six-year old can read and enjoy it while the hidden meanings of the words and their connotation brings delight to the adults. A masterpiece.