For me, Sunday newspaper comic strips began with Calvin and Hobbes. While I hold a special fondness for Charlie Brown and crew, the story of the lovable yet distracted six-year-old Calvin grabbed me at a young age.
Even at four, I noticed a certain advanced intelligence that was not in some of the other Sunday comics my grandmother would save for me. Now, on the evening of her funeral, I am compelled to focus on the character that she once said I reminded her so much of. I hope I can do the topic justice.
Calvin and Hobbes is the story of Calvin and his imaginary tiger Hobbes. Throughout the comic strip’s ten years of syndication, writer Bill Watterson created a character in Calvin that was unlike any other children comic characters I ever noticed.
But Calvin has and always will carry some interesting character ticks. While he seems to struggle in school, the kid is a freakin’ genius. Comic strips would regularly focus on Calvin and Hobbes discussing philosophy, religion, and politics. Really, this is no surprise, considering Calvin and Hobbes are both named after theologian John Calvin and philosopher Thomas Hobbes.
Constantly, Calvin fights off the mundane tasks of being a six-year-old by using cold, calculated logic. For example:
“I’m not going to do my maths homework. Look at these unsolved problems. Here’s a number in mortal combat with another. One of them is going to get subtracted. But why? What will be left of him? If I answered these, it would kill the suspense. It would resolve the conflict and turn intriguing possibilities into boring old facts.”
On one hand, this is just a kid avoiding his “maths” homework. On the other, Calvin is expressing, at six, a philosophical conundrum that screams for study. The kid is a genius, but cannot seem to get out of his own bubble.
Another trait Calvin shows is a dislike for social situations. In fact, using the term antisocial is not that off the mark. He seems to strongly dislike all organized situations, preferring the excitement of his own games with Hobbes then any social situations he may have with his classmates in school. If Calvin is truly a genius without an outlet, the need for his public school to force him to do things; ranging from gym class to book reports; would drive him insane. He’d rather discover things with Hobbes.
And while Hobbes is probably not a real creature, he is real in Calvin’s eyes. The relationship the two have leads me to feel that Calvin longs for a companion similar to his intelligence. He’s antisocial because, while he is physically six-years-old, everyone else is mentally six-years-old. It drives him to misbehave, almost to an ADHD level.
But that’s why Calvin and Hobbes is so popular, even though it has been seventeen years since a new comic strip has been released. Calvin shares a lot of the annoyances that I share. His need to find stimulation leads him to misbehave, just like I do and did. But Calvin, when push comes to shove, shows caring for his family, classmates, and especially society. He just thinks he could be a lot more help exploring the woods with Hobbes than writing a book report.
Calvin is one of the first characters in any medium that I related to. His awkwardness and need to find challenges reminded me so much of me that I feel closer to Calvin then any other fictional character.
When I was young, my family and I would visit my grandmother once a month. She would save the newspapers for me, knowing I would not want to miss a new Calvin and Hobbes comic. and It is because of my grandmother that I found the strip. It was through Calvin and Hobbes that I learned that I was not a screw-up just because I was different. I am just different, and that is okay. Sometimes it is okay to want to fly a kite instead of write a research proposal. Sometimes it’s okay to just stare at the sky. Sometimes it’s okay to just hate the world. But as long as you do what makes you happy, you are never a screw-up. I take that lesson to heart thanks to Calvin. I take that lesson to heart thanks to my grandmother.