Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Calvin and Hobbes – The Main Players

Calvin: Despite his poor grades in school, Calvin demonstrates his intelligence through his sophisticated vocabulary and a philosophical mind. He commonly wears his distinctive red-and-black striped shirt, black pants, and white-and-magenta sneakers.

Watterson described Calvin as: “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.”

Hobbes: From the other characters’ perspectives, Hobbes is Calvin’s stuffed tiger. From Calvin’s point of view, Hobbes is an anthropomorphic tiger, much larger than Calvin and full of independent attitudes and ideas. When the perspective shifts to any other character, readers again see merely a stuffed animal, usually seated at an off-kilter angle and blankly staring into space.  Watterson explains: “When Hobbes is a stuffed toy in one panel and alive in the next, I’m juxtaposing the ‘grown-up’ version of reality with Calvin’s version, and inviting the reader to decide which is truer.”

Although the debut strip clearly shows Calvin capturing Hobbes by means of a snare (with a tuna sandwich as the bait), a later comic (August 1, 1989) indicates that Hobbes has been with Calvin since Calvin was a baby. Watterson eventually decided that it was not important to establish how Calvin and Hobbes met.

Calvins Parents: Calvin’s mother and father are American middle-class parents. Like many other characters in the strip, their relatively down-to-earth and sensible attitudes serve as a foil for Calvin’s outlandish behaviour. Watterson says some fans were angered by the way Calvin’s parents thought of Calvin. Watterson defends what Calvin’s parents do, remarking that in the case of parenting a kid like Calvin, “I think they do a better job than I would.”

Susie Derkins: Susie is the only important character with both a first and last name, is a classmate of Calvin’s who lives on his street. Named for the pet beagle of Watterson’s wife’s family, she appeared early in the strip as a new student in Calvin’s class. She is polite and studious, with a mild imagination consisting of stereotypical young-girl games such as playing house or hosting tea parties with her stuffed animals. However, she is also depicted playing imaginary games with Calvin in which she is a high-powered lawyer or politician and he is her house-husband. Though both of them hate to admit it, Calvin and Susie have quite a bit in common.

Moe: The stereotypical bully character, a “six-year-old who shaves” who pushes Calvin aside or to the ground, while threatening to pound him during recess or gym class. Moe is the only regular character whose speech is shown in an unusual font: his frequently monosyllabic dialogue is shown in crude, lower-case letters. Watterson describes Moe as “every jerk I’ve ever known.”

Miss Wormwood: Calvin’s world-weary teacher, named after the junior devil in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. She usually either wears a polka-dotted dress or a brown dress, and is another character who serves as a foil to Calvin’s mischief. Calvin, when in his Spaceman Spiff persona, sees Miss Wormwood as a slimy, often dictatorial alien.

Rosalyn: Calvin’s babysitter. She takes advantage of his parents’ desperation to leave the house and the fact that no one else will babysit for Calvin by demanding advances and raises.

There are many recurring gags in the strip, some in “reality” and others in Calvin’s imagination.

Calvin imagines himself as a great many things, including dinosaurs, elephants, jungle-farers and superheroes. Three of his alter egos are well-defined and recurrent:

  • “Spaceman Spiff” is a heroic spacefarer who narrates his experiences in the third person. As Spiff, Calvin battles aliens (typically his parents or teacher, but also sometimes other kids his age) with a ray gun known as a “zorcher” (later “death ray blaster” or “atomic napalm neutralizer”, a water gun or rubber band) and travels to distant planets (his house, school, or neighborhood).
  • “Tracer Bullet,” a hard-boiled private eye, says he has eight slugs in him (“One’s lead, and the rest are bourbon.”). He made his debut when Calvin donned a fedora to hide a haircut Hobbes had given him. These strips are drawn in elaborate, shadowy black-and-white.
  • As “Stupendous Man” he pictures himself as a superhero in disguise, wearing a mask and a cape made by his mother, and narrating his own adventures. While in character as Stupendous Man, he refers to his alter ego as a mild-mannered millionaire playboy. Stupendous Man almost always “suffers defeat” at the hands of his opponent. When Hobbes asks if Stupendous Man has ever won any battles, Calvin says all his battles are “moral victories.” Calvin often tries to pretend he and “Stupendous Man” are two different people, but it never seems to work. Stupendous Man has multiple “superpowers”, including but not limited to, super strength, the ability to fly, and a stomach of steel.

4 responses

  1. Gary

    You’ve got me laughing so much…

    July 5, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    • It took ages to get the articles together as I was laughing at all the Calvin strips as I searched through them…

      July 6, 2012 at 12:32 pm

      • Gary

        Well it’s an excellent article, where’s those books…

        July 11, 2012 at 7:55 am

  2. Pingback: Dear Mr Watterson – Trailer | socialpsychol

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