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|First appearance:||November 18, 1985|
|Last appearance:||December 31, 1995|
"Let's go exploring!"
-Calvin's last sentence, from
Calvin is one of the title characters of Calvin and Hobbes and the main protagonist, along with his stuffed tiger Hobbes. He is a perpetually six-year-old boy with a penchant for getting into trouble and a wild vivid imagination. The comic almost always focuses on Calvin's life, his troubles, and his adventures, with Hobbes alongside all the while. He is the founder of G.R.O.S.S.(Get Rid Of Slimy GirlS), a club designed to harass girls, whose operations are mainly directed at Susie.
Calvin is most remembered for his "dastardly plots" (most of the time against girls), his humor, his wisdom (and misapplication thereof) and his extensive vocabulary which is uncharacteristic of a six-year-old. His first piece of dialogue was the first line of the strip and his last line of dialogue was also the strip's final line. Calvin appeared in almost every strip of the series ever printed and published.
Calvin originated during Watterson's first steps in syndicated cartooning. In among all of his rejected concepts, one of them stuck; that of a little boy and his stuffed tiger, two minor characters in a submission of his. The approval regarding this premise got Watterson to create the characters of Calvin and Hobbes, who appeared in the very first strip of the series.
In the first strip of Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin told his father, who was washing the family car, that he was "off to check (his) tiger trap". The trap, set up the previous day, consisted of a rope baited with a tuna fish sandwich that he claimed was irresistible to tigers.
Like most children in Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin is extremely short, to the point that child-size short pants touch his feet. Aside from spiky blond hair, he has few distinct facial features, whereas other children in the strip often have glasses or freckles. Like all characters in the strip (and most in any form of cartooning), Calvin only has four fingers, including his thumb. Calvin 's eyes have been blue, green, red or brown throughout the Sunday strips.
Calvin's trademark outfit recalls that of Peanuts character Linus van Pelt: black pants or shorts and a striped red shirt. Uniquely though, Calvin wears white-bordered red sneakers. Calvin's winter clothes are a blue coat, black snow pants, a blue puff-ball hat, black boots and red or green mittens. Calvin is also seen wearing a yellow raincoat in rainy weather.
Calvin's underpants are a running gag in Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin has several kinds; a good-luck charm pair with a cartoon rocketship design, "tightey-whitey" generic underpants, and a pair licensed with cartoon characters.
Calvin's Alter egos
Calvin's hyperactive imagination leads him to imagine himself as other characters with different powers and goals; he tends to vanish into a fantasy to alleviate boredom or solve a problem. It is important to note that Hobbes is not seen taking part in the fantasies involving Calvin's alter-egos, except when criticizing his choice of alternate personae. In many comics that involve Calvin as an alter ego, the strip is stylized in such a manner as to portray Calvin's environment from his imaginative point of view.
The following entries describe Calvin's most prominent alter egos:
- Spaceman Spiff is an intergalactic explorer who pilots a personal spaceship similar to a flying saucer. Spiff is often held prisoner on alien planets, somewhat mirroring how Calvin feels constrained by childhood. Calvin mostly dreams of this alter ego at school, and often includes Miss Wormwood as an alien. Spaceman Spiff is apparently based on a red toy spaceship of Calvin's, which only appeared once. Spaceman Spiff strips are drawn in an outlandish, colorful (both figuratively and, for Sunday comics, literally) style akin to that of science-fiction adventure comics.
- Stupendous Man is a big-city superhero who dons a crimson hood and cape; his goal is simply to "defend liberty", a cliché in many early superhero comic books. However, he is never physically triumphant despite claimed "moral victories"; his powers are no match for those of antagonists such as Annoying Girl, Mom-Lady, and Babysitter Girl (counterparts of Susie Derkins, Calvin's mother, and Rosalyn, respectively). Among Calvin's three most prominent alter egos, Stupendous Man is the one that blurs the line between fantasy and reality the most: Calvin interacts in character with his entourage as Stupendous Man, and the superhero is also aware that Calvin is his alter ego. Stupendous Man comic are drawn in a vivid style reminiscent of early superhero strips.
- Tracer Bullet is a stereotypical 1920s private detective ( or "private eye"). Although liable to get into trouble with organized crime and colluding agents, Tracer Bullet seems fairly competent at his job, with no failures ever noted and one almost definite success. These strips are drawn in an elaborate film noir style that Bill Watterson claims is very time-consuming to accomplish, explaining the relative scarcity of Bullet's appearances compared to other alter egos.
Other alter egos
Calvin's behavior is ill-disciplined and reprehensible most of the time, however, he also has a contemplative and reflexive side, which he expresses sometimes while strolling in the woods and often talking with Hobbes or taking wagon, sled or toboggan rides.
The following sections summarize Calvin's behavior around his entourage:
Hobbes is seemingly Calvin's only friend, and his bond with Calvin is complex and diverse with more love than hate. Whenever quarrels occur between the two, they are inevitably overcome within a short delay (most notably during G.R.O.S.S. meetings).
Calvin fails to recognize his mother's effort and care toward him, and acts rudely around her. He struggles when told to take his bath, ignores his bedtime, and loudly protests the meals he is served for dinner. The only efforts he acknowledges are those that he doesn't require, such as when he is served hot cocoa after a long day outside in winter.
Calvin looks up to his father and believes even his most outlandish and colorful tales as truth. However, he detests being forced to build character and has vastly different values and philosophy. Whereas his father is a terrific outdoorsman, Calvin prefers to adhere to the television and stay inside during summer. Also, where Calvin's father sees the need for firm leadership, Calvin desires more laid-back policies and less discipline, and shows his disagreement with his dad through Polls.
Calvin's behavior around neighbor and classmate Susie Derkins is bipolar; although he goes to great lengths to set up mean-spirited pranks (it was Susie's arrival that spurred him into creating G.R.O.S.S.), he has also been seen enjoying and even seeking her company. He joined Hobbes at Susie's birthday party, got her a gift and managed to enjoy her company. On Valentine's Day, shortly after their first encounter, he sent Susie a hate-mail valentine card; later, he was pleased to observe that Susie had noticed his efforts. On at least four occasions, he has agreed to play House with Susie (although the first time he had little choice).
Defenseless against Moe's brute force, Calvin has little choice but to give in to the bully's demands. These include the dispensing of lunch money, the requisition of facilities that Moe wants access to, and joining the baseball team for fear of humiliation and beatings.
Calvin, being naturally hostile to all babysitters, antagonizes Rosalyn. His initiatives to postpone his bedtime under her rule (Rosalyn invariably gives Calvin an early bedtime) are mischievous and unsafe, such as locking Rosalyn out of the house and threatening her by stealing her science notes. Only once did he manifest the maturity not to oppose her, and this was in Rosalyn's last appearance.
Calvin's Social Relationships
Calvin's social relationships at home, in public, with other children and at school are not very stable. He has a hard time socializing, and thus, has no known friends. He is frequently bullied by Moe, and almost invariably antagonizes his babysitter, Rosalyn. His only real friend is his stuffed tiger, Hobbes, whom he is seldom seen without. Calvin's relationship with Susie Derkins is perhaps the most complex of all; although they usually appear to hate each other, some strips depict otherwise. For instance, Calvin agrees to play house with Susie on at least two occasions, and seemed please that Susie bothered to pay attention to his prank valentine. Even so, his dedication to G.R.O.S.S. is incomparable, and he labors hours upon hours to play tricks on Susie.
Calvin is never shown liking his Mom and Dad (Though gets along better with the latter to some extent). He detests his Mom's cooking, hates it when he's asked to clean his room or do his homework. His Dad always attempts to make him (Calvin) build character. Calvin often presents his Dad with the results of opinion polls, featuring Calvin's own views disguised in faux-political language while suggesting policies his father could adopt, like later bed-times for six year olds and a repeal of mandatory school attendence. Calvin threatens his father with defeat at a hypothetical upcoming election.
Named after 16th Century theologian John Calvin, (founder of Calvinism and a strong believer in predestination), Calvin is a selfish, impulsive, insubordinate, bratty, overambitious and obnoxious, but also imaginative, energetic, curious, and intelligent six-year-old who always acts before he thinks. However, he occasionally does try to show his true, good side in front of Hobbes.
Calvin is generally misanthropic, and only feels significant sympathy for non-human animals. He has a significant admiration for tigers, instituted as a result of his friendship with Hobbes. Once, he even (unsuccessfully) tried to adopt the lifestyle of tigers.
Calvin is a poor worker, postponing homework until the last minute and failing to pay attention in class. Despite his glaring lack of effort, he laments the amount of work he is given and insists that his dubious performance is not his responsibility but rather the system's. Although aware of his bad grades, he tends to concoct outrageous boasts, claiming that he will become very powerful and influential in the future without investing any more than he already does. When Calvin does apply himself, it is to fruitless goals; despite not having any ambition to be a palaeontologist, he studies dinosaurs extensively, and his knowledge regarding the content of his comic books is impeccable.
This is not to say that Calvin is unintelligent. Despite his low grades, he masters an expansive vocabulary and an advanced sense of irony which even rival those of an adult. Even so, he does not pass up opportunities to learn swear words, which he estimates to know too few of. He is prone to expressing philosophy when going for a stroll in the woods or using vehicles such as his wagon. His grapples with philosophical quandaries are usually cut short by a banal distraction, mischievous urge or sarcastic retort from either of his parents.
Bill 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."
- "The socialization that we all go through to become adults teaches you not to say certain things because you later suffer the consequences. Calvin doesn't know that rule of thumb yet."
- "I must admit, that Calvin is good. he's always been my favorite book character and a good read when I'm down in the dumps. He always makes me laugh, and his surly attitude and having Hobbes around really just does it for anyone."
Calvin has often been shown to have minor anti-social tendencies. He has wished he were dead, only to then say he really wished that everyone else was dead at least once, and often shows reluctance to join organizations. For example, story lines involving him as a Cub Scout were dropped because Watterson saw them as uncharacteristic, and, while explaining to Susie on a see-saw why he didn't sign up for recess baseball, says he hates organized sports (as opposed to when he plays Calvinball with Hobbes).
Calvin occasionally addresses John Calvin's belief in predestination. Being a short-sighted child who dodges work, Calvin considers predestination as a favorable release from his responsibilities, whereas Hobbes sees it as a threat to individual freedom.
Calvin's imagination far exceeds that of a normal child. His wild imagination may take him to worlds where he does battle with aliens, or it may stay on Earth and use earthly creatures, such as dinosaurs, to perform his imaginative deeds.
Calvin's thoughts will on many occasions wander to an "alternative reality," or an exaggerated world. Things that happen in the real world, such as his teacher yelling at him, often affect what happens in his imagination.
For example, during his daydreaming, Calvin often turns into Spaceman Spiff, while his parents or his teacher pose as the aliens.
Real World Impact
When not daydreaming in the middle of his classes, Calvin will also exhibit his imagination in the real world, an example being his turning into Stupendous Man or skipping school as part of a Spaceman Spiff scenario. This will often lead Calvin to injuries or punishment.
Imagination Turned Real?
Many occasions, things that would have been part of Calvin's imagination happen in real life. For example, Hobbes is a plain stuffed animal to anyone but Calvin, but his actions are real. One time, when Hobbes tied up Calvin during his attempt to be the next Houdini, his father disregards the fact that Hobbes tied Calvin up, yet he couldn't have tied himself up without the help of Hobbes. Also, the Duplicator, an imaginative invention of Calvin's, creates duplicates that act exactly like him, yet a simple cardboard box couldn't have done something to a great technological advance. His imagination, in these cases, caused real things to occur, though it has stirred controversy.
Calvin's personal life is documented to a certain extent.
Both Calvin and Hobbes seem to be fans of superhero comic books. Batman and Astro Boy are the only "real" superheroes Calvin likes; although he is never seen reading any of the comics, there have been a few explicit references in some strips. The strip also contains several made-up, generic superhero comics; among them are Captain Napalm, Nukeman, Captain Nitro, and Captain Steroid.
- Main article: Calvin's inventions
Calvin occasionally makes machines usually made out of a cardboard box (but with some exceptions), which normally lead to disaster. Here is a list of his inventions:
- Time Machine
- Transmogrifier Gun
- Upgraded Duplicator (with Ethicator)
- Cerebral Enhance-o-Tron, a.k.a Thinking Cap
- Writer's Block
- Huge bird foot
- Invisible Cretinizer
Calvin's last name
Calvin's last name is never revealed to the reader, although a popular misconception has circulated that his last name is "Wunderkind". This dates back to the strip in which Calvin fantasizes about winning the poster contest at his school and imagining his name in the newspaper. The word "wunderkind" (which means "child prodigy") appears next to his name.
It is also believed that Calvin's last name is Monroe. Originally, Monroe and Jones had an equal chance, but Jones appeared twice in Calvin and Hobbes, and was in a Homework paper, thus proving that it wasn't Calvin's last name. Mr. Monroe appeared only once and was eventually killed, much of how Calvin may have feelings and daydreams about his dad. Anyway, death was imminent for Mr. Monroe, who was probably supposed to be Calvin's father.
- Calvin probably has a crush on Susie.
- Calvin writes with both hands, but it is commonly shown to be right-handed. During the baseball strips, Calvin noticeably can be seen wearing a glove on a different hand in each panel.
- Calvin's main personality varies in every comic strip. He's mainly shown to be mischievous and aggressive, but also shown to be adventurous, curious, and intelligent (to Calvin's demise). He is occasionally shown to be inappropriate (according to Calvin's snowmen and some telivision shows) and miserable (when it comes to Moe, School, eating his mother's food and other problems in mind).
- Very rarely is he shown to be inappropriate. However, as seen above, he makes snowmen that are "anatomicaly correct", watches/is influenced by TV shows, and in one strip, while talking lengthly to Hobbes about life, he mentions that women should wear tight clothes. But he may be just overly curious and not inappropriate.
- Calvin hated being forced to learn how to swim, but he is commonly seen in his "kiddy pool" during the summer.
- Interestingly, in both his first and last appearances, Calvin is wearing a hat of some sort, the first being a pith helmet and the last being a snow hat.
- Calvin is shown to be ambidextrous. In fact, Hobbes and Susie are also shown to be ambidextrous while his father and mother are right handed.
- Aside from English, Calvin has spoken German and Latin (if only briefly).
- Calvin is shown to be a fan of Star Wars, Batman, and Looney Tunes, but seems to despise anything from Disney.
- Calvin sometimes is shown having a watch, but it disappears between panels.
- In some strips, Calvin is shown having five fingers. But in most strips, he is shown having only three or four.
- Calvin has two favorite cereals, "Crunchy Sugar Bombs" and "Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs", although he is forced to eat oatmeal and sometimes Bran.
- Calvin is often depicted of crashing 40% of the time on both the sled with red runners and the toboggan.
- Calvin and Susie are the only known characters who have creative imaginations.
- In the early production stages of the series, Calvin's eyes were covered by his hair. Later on, people told Bill Watterson to show Calvin's eyes.
- Calvin is known in one comic to have size 5 boots.
- Calvin treats math problems like 3 plus 4 like they're awfully advanced for 1st grade. He has extremely poor math skills, although he once accidentally got 10 minus 3 right (the answer was 7). Calvin's dad was upset when he saw that Calvin thought 8 plus 4 equals 7, so he tells him the actual answer is 12. He also believes that 5 plus 6 is 6 (when 11 is the true answer). His poor math skills are shown even stronger when it's revealed that Calvin thinks that three dimes is worth less than a quarter. However, a dime is smaller than a quarter by size, so that might be why Calvin thinks that three dimes is worth less. Although Hobbes usually shares Calvin's stupidity when it comes to math, he, unlike Calvin, seems to know to three dimes (which is 30 cents) is worth more than a quarter (which is 25 cents).
- Calvin is creeped out by somnambulists, or sleepwalkers.
- Despite having a fit about how disgusting tortellini is, he does not actually know what it is. It is one of many pasta shapes.
- Calvin has attempted to mail himself to Australia to avoid being babysat by Rosalyn.
- Despite Calvin not enjoying any kind of fish, he is sometimes seen opening cans of tuna. However, they are probably just for Hobbes.
- Calvin once stated he always carries a Swiss army knife.
- Calvin expresses thoughts about politics, environmental concerns, current events, palaeontology, archaeology and physics, yet gets poor grades on simple schoolwork.