Calvin And Hobbes: A Christmas Time Tribute

Christmas is coming pretty fast, and while I’m not a fan of the holidays in general, there’s something good I can share for this time of year, and I think a lot of you will remember as well. *Enter flashback sequence*

We all remember, don’t we? A boy and his stuffed tiger were having adventures in the woods, time traveling in a cardboard box, or fighting off the evil babysitter. Wait. The tiger was real? It talked to the boy, and interacted with him, but when others were around, it was just a stuffed lump. What’s going on?

That was the greatness of Calvin & Hobbes, a syndicated daily/Sunday comic strip, across America for ten years, from 1985-1995. Most around during that time will remember flipping through their paper, breezing through their comics section, and seeing a 3 or 4 panel strip about a wiser than his years 6-year-old, and the “imaginary” best friend tiger, that you would catch having existential debates about nature, gravity, and the perfect snowball. Calvin & Hobbes inspired a generation of people, including this writer, to become artist, get involved with art, and most important of all, to never lose your imagination.

Created by Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes was shopped around in several different incarnations before finally become what it was, and the initial syndication deal he had did not work out, because the newspaper syndication he was with only had him to a “development” deal, to ensure the strip wouldn’t go elsewhere. Not doing what Watterson felt was him, or the strip any justice, or favors, he politely backed out of the deal, sending back the check that was part of the “development deal”. He was locked into something where the strip probably never would have been published. After that, he went to Universal Press Syndicate, where they realized immediately that they had something golden (Watterson was in talks with them before this, but could not act until getting out of or breaking the development deal with the other syndicate).

A hit from the start in newspapers across the country, the stories about the boy and his tiger resonated with people of many ages with Calvin’s age and “friend” Hobbes to connect to kids, and the eloquent dialogue, and damp sarcasm getting a laugh out of teens, and adults alike.

Once the “collections” started hitting the shelves, the fame of these two, and their adventures were sealed in print history. Near 10 books, or “collections” later, and 3 giant treasuries, Watterson halted production of the strip with little warning, ending on December 31st, 1995. Watterson was, and is a very private, and reclusive individual, with only a few articles in print from years ago that had short interviews with him, most for smaller, or local print. The most you’ll ever see Watterson speak about himself, his inspiration for the strip, and content, are 2 places: The Calvin & Hobbes 10th anniversary collection, in which Watterson talks very openly, and surprisingly, about how the strip came to be, and reflections upon his and fan favorites, with crib notes at the beginning of each story, and a very long introduction to the book, which was the first real look into the mind of such a creative guy, that was known throughout the cartoon industry, but never really known as a guy, that live in Ohio with his wife and kids, enjoying peace and quiet.

The other place is the Calvin & Hobbes treasury, a 3 volume behemoth that has everything ever printed Calvin & Hobbes, with another bit of words from Watterson. Some controversial stories and gags, and some that have underlying pokes at world or political climates, and a few even outright in your face, all in one whole collection. Watterson stopped the strip coming up on coming up in a few weeks 17 years ago, and new generations still come across and older brother or sister’s copies of the books, or a hand-me down from parents. Calvin & Hobbes never placed itself in a finite time period, which may or may not have been planned out by Watterson, making his creation something timeless, and a priceless thing to pass down to your children, an old copy of “Revenge Of The Baby-Sat”, or “The Authoritative Calvin & “Hobbes”.

I spent an awful lot of time with them when I was younger, and still do now. Reading the books over and over, I realize now that I’m older that I learned a lot from those two, like big words, their meanings, and that it isn’t a great idea to put on your superhero costume and run through your school like a delusional maniac.  With Calvin & Hobbes having some of their best stories and musings during winter time in their universe, and the anniversary of the ending of the strip coming up soon, I couldn’t think of anything better to write about to relate to the holiday season more.

While working on this, I came across a hilarious fan tribute video to Calvin & Hobbes. Now, while Watterson is well-known for maintaining all of his rights, intellectual and otherwise (ala’ George Lucas), a video for fans of the series, and fans of a good chuckle will enjoy it. A video featuring snowmen doing the gruesome, and hilarious things that Calvin would mold them to do throughout the strip’s lifetime is at the link below, and while the 2 are not in the video, waxing poetic, or careening off a cliff on their sled, It’s very funny, and I wish that Bill Watterson stumbles across it one day, and chuckles. See the video here.


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