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Spaceman Spiff

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CalvinSpaceship
Saucer

Spaceman Spiff is the most prominent of Calvin's many alter egos. He is a space explorer who often does battle with aliens, either on foot or in space.

Role in C&H

Spaceman Spiff is really a result of Calvin's common daydreaming. The events in his daydreaming are usually events that are happening outside of his imagination, such as his teacher talking or other kids persuading him to slide down a slide.

In his imagination, Calvin imagines these people as aliens trying to kill him, often to try and get him to spill "secret information" or some "top-secret formula" about his "Death Ray Blaster" or "Atomic Napalm Neutralizer", weapons he uses to kill the aliens, albeit the fact that these weapons often seem ineffective. In reality, the "interrogations" are usually simple demands at home or at school that get Calvin in trouble constantly throughout the series.

Concept

3-27

A typical Spaceman Spiff scenario

Spaceman Spiff, "interplanetary explorer extraordinaire," explores the outermost reaches of the universe "by popular request" in a red flying saucer with a bubble canopy. Despite his title as an explorer, he frequently engages in conflict with aliens, sometimes with seemingly far-reaching implications. He talks in third person in all but three strips.[citation needed] As the comic developed and evolved over time, Watterson began to infuse Spiff's adventures with alliterations such as "Poised precariously over a percolating pit of putrid pasta."

Spaceman Spiff's Missions

The galaxy in which Spiff travels is a cruel place where Spiff is shot down or captured by ferocious and disgusting aliens (Some aliens, such as the Hideous Blob, do not appear hostile). In reality, these aliens are often people such as Calvin's mother and father or Miss Wormwood.

Frequently, Spaceman Spiff becomes stranded on an unexplored planet due to alien attacks or merely unexplained malfunctions. Most of these planets seem devoid of advanced civilization, and often have hostile environments or alien predators. Spiff rarely lands on a planet without crashing or experiencing some technological malfunction.

Creation

Unknown-5

Spaceman Spiff.

Early in the strip's career, the alien planets Watterson invented were, in his words, "rather generic." As his work matured, Watterson brought the Spiff saga in line with his principle that "Things are funnier when they're specific, rather than generalized," basing his alien landscapes on the rock formations of southern Utah, as well as the landscapes within the comic Krazy Kat. Gradually, the monsters became more detailed.

The vocabulary, and Spiff's array of high-tech gadgetry, offered a caricature of the "science" found in many science fiction books and TV series. Watterson described Spaceman Spiff as a parody of Flash Gordon. The grand "space opera" style of Spiff's adventures may also spoof Star Trek and Star Wars. Since all the Spiff adventures have a lone protagonist playing with reality, they are close to the early work of Philip K. Dick and that of other writers who have featured lone individuals going to the edge of their perceived world.

Trivia

  • In the Introduction to Opus: 25 Years of His Sunday Best, fellow comic strip artist Berke Breathed noted that in 1981, he had begun a storyline for his character Milo Bloom in Bloom County, which he described as 'a little blond-haired boy with an over-tweaked imagination working out his real-life anxieties and passions via space hero fantasies'; had it continued, it would have featured 'Dukakis and Donald Trump aliens'. Daunted by the negative reaction from the fans after the first strip based on this story, Breathed decided not to continue with the story, and began a new storyline by introducing a Penguin who watched the 'Mister Rogers' Show - an idea which sat much better with Bloom County readers. Five years later, Calvin rocketed into his adventures as Spaceman Spiff, which Breathed says 'was just how the comic universe was meant to be'.
  • The unit of measurement in the Spaceman Spiff universe appears to be the Zork, from which the Megazork is derived, and the Mip, from which the Micromip is derived.
  • Interestingly, unlike with other alter egos, Calvin keeps Spaceman Spiff mostly to himself. He is occasionally seen roleplaying Spiff at school, and has called his teacher and mother names used for the aliens, but has never mentioned his name to his entourage, including Hobbes. This is diametrically opposed to his superhero alter ego Stupendous Man, who frequently intrudes into Calvin's world and has gotten him into trouble at school.
  • In a weekday strip, Spiff climbs out of his craft in order to perform repairs. Instead of employing an airlock mechanism and a pressure suit, he simply throws back the canopy and steps out into the void. How he survives in space is unclear, as he did not even have a mouthpiece to give him oxygen.
  • "Spaceman Spiff" was originally an action-adventure science-fiction-based cartoon strip written and drawn by Bill Watterson, which was rejected by virtually every single syndicate.

Spiff's Weaponry and Equipment

Spiff carries a futuristic gun, originally named the Atomic Napalm Neutralizer. Later on, the name was changed to the simpler Death Ray Blaster/Zorcher, or just Blaster. It is difficult to say whether it was a replacement weapon or not, since both guns were similar in shape; Spiff also used similar weapons called the Atom Blaster, Mertilizer and Stun Blaster. In at least one strip, Spiff referred to what was apparently the same gun by 2 different names. Thus it might be that Calvin simply makes up the names for Spiff's weapons on the spot.

The Death Ray weapons and the Mertilizer had cooking-based settings such as "Shake-n'-Bake", "Medium Well", "Deep Fat-fry", "Frappe" and "Liquefy", yet they proved useless against almost every enemy Spiff faced. The real-life equivalent of these fantasy weapons often turned out to be Calvin's dart gun, water pistol or snowballs, explaining their ineffectuality. Spiff's other weapons include emergency-only Demise-O-Bombs and Hydro Bombs.

Jetpack

Spiff's emergency Jetpack.

Spiff is once seen using an emergency jetpack that he claims to keep in his pocket in order to evade hostile Zogwargs. Little is known about the device other than its appearance and the fact that it is inflatable, in order to fit in Spiff's pocket. However, one can speculate it is only useful for travel over ground, as Spaceman Spiff was unable to evade hovering Rocket scooters with it, and these could only be land-bound.

Spiff's Spaceship

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Spiff's Spaceship.

Spiif's saucer has just enough room for Spiff and little else- and yet the craft is equipped with an astounding array of weapons, detectors and propulsion devices, many of which tend to malfunction. The design of the ship appears to be based on a toy spaceship of Calvin's, which appeared in one strip.

Spiff himself wears goggles, whose lenses change their shape according to his emotions. Spiff's Spaceship always seems to be destroyed in crash landings, but is capable of zooming into a space zone where "Time has no meaning".

See Spaceman Spiff's spaceship for more detailed information.

Creatures Encountered

Spaceman Spiff has encountered numerous aliens throughout the galaxy. Here is the list of known aliens or alien species in the Spaceman Spiff universe:

Species

Individual

Planets Visited or Referenced

Planets that Spaceman Spiff has come across, most of them only once.

Calvin In Drawn Form

Calvin

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