|First appearance:||November 18, 1985|
|Last appearance:||December 3, 1995|
"It builds character. Keep at it."
Calvin's dad telling him why he has to shovel the walk.
Calvin's father, like many other characters in the strip, is a relatively down-to-earth and sensible character whose attitudes serve primarily as a foil for Calvin's outlandish behavior. Both parents go through the entire strip unnamed, except as "Mom" and "Dad," or such pet names as "hon" and "dear." He first appeared in the first strip, though he was the only parent shown until a few days later, when Calvin's mother was introduced.
Calvin's father is generally mild-mannered and calm. He steadfastly believes in the value of hardwork and tries to instill this within his son via chores, to little success; he is often shown telling Calvin that certain things (often negative) "build character." An avid outdoorsman, he loves riding his bicycle whenever possible (even riding it through the snow on one occasion), and often tries to teach Calvin to ride his bike. He is the only member of the family to enjoy their annual camping trip; he is shown to enjoy drawing or painting nature scenes when not fishing or swimming, and always tries to get Calvin out with him.
Several strips imply that Calvin's father was a party animal in his youth. On one occasion, Calvin goes through his college yearbook and asks if his father is the guy "...with the keg and the 'Party Naked!' shirt?" His father reacts quickly and defensively, implying that the picture is indeed of him. On another occasion, when Calvin asks what "the old college try" means, his father tells him it means when you get friends, beer, and pizza, and forget about tomorrow. Looking at another picture, Calvin asks who the "bimbo" in the picture with him is, and his dad angrily answers "That 'BIMBO' is your mother!," suggesting that his mom may have been a party animal as well.
He is patient to a degree, but gets annoyed with Calvin's antics faster than Calvin's mom does. Calvin's dad, however, has been shown to delight in using his position as "Dad" to make up ridiculous explanations to many of Calvin's difficult questions, such as where babies come from (telling Calvin there are assembly kits at Sears and K Mart) or how people calculated the load limit for bridges (telling him that they build the bridge, run trucks over it until it breaks, then weigh the last truck and rebuild the bridge). In another strip, Calvin's dad fed him the lie that the sun was no bigger than a quarter and set in Arizona every night. Another time he pretended The Disembodied Hand That Strangled People strangled him. He is shown on occasion to have a cynical streak in regards to commercialism and new technology, preferring a quiet, simplistic lifestyle (Hobbes comments that "[he]'s going into the future kicking and screaming"). Despite often being aggravated by his son, in some story arcs his gentler parental nature is revealed, showing that he truly loves and cares for Calvin by consoling him in times of crisis.
Notably, in one strip he is working when Calvin asks him to play outside; he originally says that he is too busy, but gives in to temptation and runs outside to join his son, and the two build a snowman together.
Although Calvin's father has repeatedly suggested (jokingly) that he's not actually related to Calvin, his answers to Calvin's questions show a sense of humor and playfullness quite similar to his son, suggesting that he was actually quite similar to Calvin growing up. It is clear that his father gives Calvin his sense of humor and his wild imagination. Calvin's dad has helped him build snowmen, suggesting that Calvin got his skill at creating snow sculptures and snowmen from his father. Calvin's Dad always repeated the words Build Character when Calvin complains. In one comic when Calvin, his mother, and his father went walking after the part which Calvin says, "I feel like I'm in Dr. Zhivago." And the part which his mom said that they were excercising,
Calvin: "But my toes are numb!"
Dad: "Numb toes build charcter."
Calvin: "Well, what about frostbite, hypothermia; what about death, do these build character too?!"
Relationship with Calvin
Calvin's behavior often causes his father annoyance, sometimes provoking him to yell at Calvin. In fact, Dad never wanted a kid in the first place - he wanted to buy a dachshund (this was said during an argument, however). Nevertheless, he sometimes gets out of the house, but when he and Mom hire Rosalyn to babysit Calvin, it's another story. He is sometimes regarded as being unloving towards his son, but in two "serious" story arcs (the Little Raccoon and the Binoculars), he consoles Calvin and holds his son while letting Calvin cry. Calvin's father was once put to the test when Calvin's mom fell sick and it was revealed he could not cook.
Behind the Scenes
The actual image of Calvin's father is a self-portrait of Watterson himself, minus his (now) facial hair. Watterson has said that he identifies more with this character than with Calvin. The character is more closely based on Watterson's own father, who is also a patent attorney, and often told his family that unpleasant things "Built character."
Calvin's dad's name
In the Tenth Anniversary Book, Bill Watterson said that he never named Calvin's parents, so Calvin's Dad most likely has no name at all, but here are some possibilities.
- When Calvin was pretending to be a bug, we saw a close-up of a letter Calvin's Mom was writing that said "Glenn" on it. This could also be Calvin's dad's name, although that is low in probability. Glenn is much more likely to be one of Calvin's mom's relatives.
- Also, another time when Calvin was pretending to be a fly, he flew over a piece of paper that said "Tom."
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