I learned everything I needed to know about life by reading Calvin and Hobbes comics. Well, that’s not entirely true. Maybe not everything, but many things. I do have a sunglasses-wearing stuffed tiger (as well as a Noah’s ark of stuffed animals including hippos, pandas, polar bears, rabbits, teddie bears, and sharpeis), but I draw the line at wearing shoes that look like bread loaves and horizontally striped t-shirts–never a good choice of apparel for the vertically challenged individual such as like myself. I’d like to say that I’ve worn my Calvin and Hobbes jammies to bits, but they are still intact.
Did I ever want to clone myself, like Calvin did in “Scientific Progress Goes Boink?” An emphatic Yes!, but as I have a fraternal twin brother, and we were a parental handful before we hit the terrible twos, a third would have been conceivable, but unthinkable.
From the pen and fertile imagination of creator Bill Watterson we have the mind-of-a-50-year-old-in-the-hyperactive-body-of-a-six-year-old boy, Calvin. He is the embodiment of a child who is not old enough to be drinking or driving, and yet already possesses a grownup attitude with an often entrenched and bitter philosophy of life (the ultimate conundrum). Calvin has hair that is never unspiked, and he has an opinion about everything–usually a negative one if it’s outside of his comfort zone.
These peccadilloes (and many more) are often put in check and balance thanks to the tuna-loving tiger named Hobbes that comes alive and interacts only with him, and then reverts back to its cuddly and inanimate form in the presence of anyone else. Hobbes is like the best friend who plays hoaxes and hijinks on you (particularly where a member of the opposite gender is involved), and then leaves you in the lurch when an authority or parental figure comes sniffing and questioning. (Some best friend).
But there are times when Hobbes is kind to Calvin and can be a welcome antidote to his dislikes, excessive use of hyperboles, and fits of sporadic genius that invariably go awry when applied for nefarious purposes. Hobbes is comforting and insightful sometimes, without too much moralizing; and gives Calvin that odd splash of cold water for his own good. Hobbes indulges Calvin in Calvin’s many childhood pursuits and whims like snowball fights, making mud puddles, sparring with extraterrestrial monsters on distant planets, listening to him during bath time and before bed, and even putting up with his tantrums. Just like any imaginary friend would.
Despite every half-baked idea that Calvin pulls off, Hobbes is always good for a hug when no one else (Hobbes included) seems to understand. He’s a modern day Winnie the Pooh: just as cute, but with much less roly-polyness, a tad bit more intelligence, and a lot more zip and moxie. He can give as much as he gets, with Calvin. Outside of mom and pop, you almost never see this misfit interacting with another member of the human race, and when you do, he clashes with them quite often (even with unacknowledged crush and age-mate Susie Derkins) … like a crotchety old man.
I discovered the magic of Calvin and Hobbes after high school. So in many ways, I regard it as a comic strip more for grownups than for children. There is something both charming and out of place about having such strong political views at such a young age. Almost mint compilations of Calvin and Hobbes in softback covers (I count The Essential Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes Treasury among them) are stored somewhere in the depths of my room. I had the pleasure of getting hundreds of pages of comics to read all at once, instead of painfully waiting for each panel with the newspapers. I think I’ll go and dig them out and revisit comic stripdom.