Admit it. Your childhood was like this at some point.
"It's a magical world, Hobbes ol' buddy… Let's go exploring!"
—The final strip
What happens when you take the unpredictable panel layouts and surreal nature of George Herriman's Krazy Kat and Winsor McCay's Little Nemo; the childhood fantasy elements of Crockett Johnson's Barnaby; the lush art, distinct characterizations and biting satire of Walt Kelly's Pogo; and the gently comedic look at the hard truths of life from Charles Schulz's Peanuts; throw in a dash of classic cartoonslapstick, and fuse them all together into one comic?You get one of the most (maybe the most) beloved Newspaper Comics of all time, that influenced, changed and thrilled an entire generation, all drawn and written by one man—Bill Watterson. It came at a time when the comics medium needed it the most; almost everyone before Watterson attempted to copy the success of Peanuts by imitating the deceptively simple style and focusing on the Funny Animals like Snoopy that would bring in the money. Unfortunately, comic creators missed the mark on the aspects of Schulz's strip that actually should have been followed, mainly the philosophical themes and the down-to-earthiness. As a result, comics once again became gag-a-day strips rather than an artistic medium, and there was a shift from children characters to teenagers and adults.Watterson reminded us that newspaper comics don't have to be bland, crude drawings, Funny Animals can have deeper personalities and insights in life, and that it was still possible for a strip to successfully explore philosophical themes without feeling tacked on. And yes, comics about children can still be great. It was so successful that even Charles Schulz gave his approval in a foreword to one of the book collections.Calvin is a bratty, precocious six-year-old who lives in a slightly different, more exciting reality than everybody around him, full of alien visitors, dinosaurs, andparental cooking so awful that occasionally it tries to eat him. Hobbes is his best friend: to Calvin, he's a walking, talking tiger, but to everyone else he's just an inanimate plush toy.As if Calvin's life wasn't exciting enough, he also often imagines himself to be someone more glamorous, like sci-fi adventurer Spaceman Spiff, world-wearyprivate eye Tracer Bullet, Super Hero Stupendous Man, or a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Calvin's non-dinosaur-and-alien-related moments are often much more philosophical than a six-year-old generally appears, and Watterson directly acknowledges this in several anthologies and interviews. To Watterson, Calvin is a tool to subtly mock the modern age in its myriad forms—Calvin creates snowmen that resemble pretentious postmodern art sculptures, rails against the modern world's hyper-commercialized state while indulging in it like the worst six-year-old, and occasionally questions the justification for humanity's continuing existence while gazing at a piece of trash carelessly discarded in the woods.The strip was known for being fun to look at, due to Watterson's sheer artistic skill; for its ability to tell stories without dialogue; and for its varied and creative Sunday Strip layout. This in itself was a major controversy, as Watterson requested a fixed amount of square footage for his Sundays (as opposed to funny-page standards, which requires the cartoonist to fit the story into six or eight pre-sized panels that can be cut apart, reassembled or discarded as each individual newspaper sees fit). Watterson argued that, since comic strips are a visual medium, it would be in everyone's best interests for him to have complete visual control over his work, regardless of resulting upheavals in comics-page layouts. He won, and similar fixed-layout concessions have gone out to comics such as FoxTrot and Over the Hedge in following years.Watterson consistently denied licensing his characters for products or media other than the various compilations of the strip and even had a brutal fight with his syndicate over it. Though he won, this led to a booming market in unofficial merchandise, one of the more ubiquitous being window stickers of Calvin urinating on the logos of various American car manufacturers. At one point in time, he considered an animated series, expressing fondness for the medium, though no series ever came into existence.The strip ran from 1985 to the end of 1995, at which point Watterson retired for fear of the strip going stale. No new material has been released since then and Watterson, who changed careers from cartooning to oil painting, has become a notorious media recluse in the intervening years. In early 2011, he mailed an oil painting of a character from Cul De Sac to his syndicate as a donation for the Team Cul de Sac Parkinson's Research charity. This was the first piece of new art his syndicate had received from him in 16 years.A documentary on the comic, called Dear Mr. Watterson, was released on Nov 13, 2013. It features interviews with cartoonists such as Bill Amend and Berkeley Breathed, and explores the impact of Calvin and Hobbes. A Biopic about Bill Watterson is currently in development by Warner Bros.
Provides Examples of:
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Aborted Arc: Watterson once wanted to run a whole month's worth of strips involving Calvin getting stuck on the ceiling due to his gravity polarity being reversed, and then growing larger and larger (to the point of the universe being the size of a hula-hoop, when proportionately compared) to see how the fans would react. Watterson feared the backlash and quickly pulled out, however. Here is the arc.
Unlike some aborted arcs though, this one actually got a conclusion. He just didn't let it run as long as he originally planned.
Actually Pretty Funny: Once Calvin combed his hair, put on his dad's glasses and said "Calvin, go do something you hate. Being miserable builds character". Dad was not amused, but Mom laughed so hard she slid out of the chair she was sitting in, ending up on the floor.
One arc had the family return home after a trip to find that their house had been broken into. Calvin, being six years old, is concerned only about Hobbes, and rushes into the house to find him. His parents, however, are notably shaken, and remain so for the rest of the arc. Calvin's dad in particular has to come to terms with the fact that being a parent doesn't automatically make you some invincible figure as he imagined his father was when he grew up. It's a question of hiding all those fears behind a brave face for the sake of one's family, which he learns to do.
There was also the time Calvin got lost on a trip to the zoo. His dad worried, not unreasonably, that he might have climbed into the tiger pit.
There's also a sense of this in the story where Calvin accidentally pushes the car into a ditch. He runs away, but when found is surprised to find his parents were more worried about what happened to him than about the car (which, luckily, wasn't damaged.)
For readers who are parents, pretty much any of Calvin's hi-jinks can be this. Just look at the number of wagon/toboggan rides that have ended up with Calvin ramping off a cliff.
A Fool for a Client: Referenced in one strip: after Calvin nearly hits Susie with a snowball, he defends himself by saying "I didn't do it! You can't prove it. Besides, I missed, didn't I?" Cut to Calvin face down in the snow after Susie clobbers him with the tagline "The defendant petitions the court for a new trial on the grounds that his lawyer is incompetent" (with Calvin, of course, having been his own "lawyer").
Art Evolution: Acknowledged by Watterson in the 10th anniversary book, where he claims that sometime into the strip's second or third year, he intentionally made the art a little more cartoony and removed the pads from Hobbes' paws because they were "distracting."
It was in 1986 (the strip's second year) that the character designs began to settle in. Compare Calvin and Hobbes in January and December.
Art Shift: The usual simplistic style was occasionally replaced by a more detailed and realistic style for comedic effect. For example, this was used to create a Soap Opera strip atmosphere (imitating comics like Mary Worth or Apartment 3 G).
Literal-Minded: One Sunday strip was inked only in black and white with no in-between, one drawn with a lack of perspective. Both were lampshaded.
Aside Glance: Used frequently, mostly from Calvin. Other characters, such as Susie and Miss Wormwood, occasionally give them in response to Calvin's latest shenanigans.
Aside Comment: It's more rare for them to address the audience, but this is seen for example in one instance where Calvin and Hobbes begin a G.R.O.S.S. meeting with a recitation; Calvin then turns to the fourth wall and says, "You can tell this is a great club by the way we start our meetings!"
Attack Backfire: When Calvin and Hobbes fought the Snow Goons, they tried throwing snowballs at them, but that just allowed them to grow bigger.
Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: One strip has Calvin imagining he drinks a magic elixir and grows to over 300 feet. He proceeds to rampage through an imaginary town. His mum is not amused when Calvin asks for replacements for the toy cars that were lost in the rampage.
He also built several castles in his sandbox and said they were downtown Tokyo. Then he stomped across them with a growl and said he was Godzilla.
Author Avatar: Calvin, Hobbes and Calvin's father (who is physically based partly on Watterson himself) all serve as Watterson's voice on different issues. More rarely, Susie, Miss Wormwood and Calvin's mother occasionally highlighted other issues, often in the context of a larger story.
Author Filibuster: Shows up in quite a few strips, usually dealing with some issue Watterson had with corporate policy getting in the way of art, or how modern society couldn't appreciate nature or the power of the imagination.
Awesome but Impractical: After Calvin "invents" the Transmogrifier Gun, Hobbes questions the usefulness of a "handheld iguana maker."
Babysitting Episode: Periodically, Calvin would be babysat by Rosalyn, whom Calvin fears very greatly.
Bad Liar: Due to his tendency to live in his own reality, he can't make a convincing lie to save his life.
Dad: "LOOK AT THIS BATHROOM! WHAT ON EARTH WERE YOU DOING!?"
Calvin: "Nothing, Dad! I was just in here looking for some dental floss, when PLOOIE! The faucet handle blows sky high all by itself! It... it... uh... (points to Hobbes) What I mean is Hobbes was fooling around with your tools. I tried to stop him, but he wouldn't listen. And sure enough, he went and... and..."
Dad: (not fooled in the slightest) "I'll give you one more try."
Calvin: "ALIENS, DAD! Big, evil, bug-eyed monsters from Pluto! They did it, and made me swear not to tell!"
Mom: "WHO MADE THIS MESS OUT HERE!?" (glares at Calvin)
Calvin: "It wasn't me, Mom! It was... uh... it was... it was a horrible little Venusian who materialized in the kitchen! He pulled out this diabolical high-frequency device, pointed it at various objects and..." (gets sent to his room)
tagline: "Mothers are the necessity of invention."
Calvin once hit Hobbes with a pillow that tore open and left feathers all over the room. When Dad asked him about the mess, he said that a herd of ducks flew in the window and molted. Dad's response was to say Calvin couldn't have dessert for a week.
Calvin: Boy, I'm in a bad mood today! Everyone had better steer clear of me! I hate everybody! As far as I'm concerned, everyone on the planet can just drop dead. People are scum. (Beat)WELL-L-L-L? Doesn't anyone want to cheer me up?
A story arc had Calvin be lifted into the stratosphere by a helium balloon.
Completely averted in an earlier strip, he jumps off a stepladder while holding a balloon, and promptly lands splat on his face causing the balloon to float away. The former example may have been Calvin imagining, however.
Calvin:[Reading his creative writing assignment to the class] Needless to say, Frank's family was upset when he didn't come home that night. But everybody understood that the human population had doubled in just two generations to almost six billion, so some thinning of the herds was necessary to prevent starvation. (This parodies a common, and accurate, justification for deer hunting.)
Batman Gambit: Susie pulls one off against Calvin during a story arc in which Calvin steals Susie's "Binky Betsy" doll and holds it for ransom, demanding $100 for her return (via an "anonymous" note signed "Sincerely, Calvin"). Susie puts an envelope by "the tree out front," as she was instructed to do, but hides behind the tree, out of Calvin's line of sight. Calvin sees the envelope and is overjoyed, thinking she caved and coughed up the money. However, just as Susie had planned, Calvin takes his eyes off of Hobbes for a few seconds to check the envelope, inside of which is no money, but a note that reads "Now we're even." Calvin is confused and has no idea what that means... until he turns to see Susie running off with Hobbes, whom SHE holds for ransom.
Be Careful What You Wish For: Bill Watterson experienced this trope once he was allowed to design his own formats for the Sunday strips. It turned out to be rather difficult, especially since the strip had to provide a logical path for the reader's eye. Watterson noted that Sunday strips with the new format took two or three times longer to draw than strips with the old format.
Behind the Black: When Calvin cajoles Hobbes into helping him push the car out of the garage and onto the driveway, the car starts sliding backwards, even though according to every single panel, the ground is completely horizontal. Hobbes even says, "The driveway must be slanted downhill!"
This is Truth in Television—a subtle grade that people don't really notice can still be enough to cause an improperly braked car to roll.
Word of God says Calvin likely has a mild crush on Susie, which he expresses through trying to annoy her.
Berserk Button: Calvin may never live down the Noodle Incident (or possibly was innocent for a change and cannot prove it; even Santa isn't sure what exactly happened), and hates it when Hobbes teases him about it. He also doesn't like being reminded about his height (see The Napoleon below). He also explodes whenever Hobbes suggests that he likes Susie, and when his good duplicate starts sending Susie mash notes.
Hobbes: Why do you wear long pants in the summer? Don't you get hot?
Black Bead Eyes: The normal state of the characters' eyes, although they can turn into normal eyes when a particular expression calls for them.
Black Comedy: The infamous strip in which three deer hunt humans in an office building. Just think about it for a second: A man is shot to death for laughs in a comic that ran in the Sunday papers. Yes, it was gore-free and meant to be satirical, but still, Watterson was pushing the envelope as far as it could go with that one.
In addition, many of Calvin's snowman creations reveal a rather macabre sense of humor …
"Oh yeah? Define 'well adjusted!'" Said in defense of a snow sculpture depticting a snowman beheaded by a giant, cackling chicken.
Blank Book: Invoked in one of Calvin's wild stories to avoid an assignment.
Blatant Lies: Calvin, dressed as a Native American and carrying a toy bow, is confronted by an angry Susie who shows him a sucker-top arrow and demands to know if he shot it at her. His reply: "No. What is it?"
In response to a bubble of gum that popped and covered his entire head: "Good heavens! I think I blew my face inside out!"
Played for Laughs when Calvin pours the school cafeteria's manicotti down his shirt. He then walks over to Susie, lifts his shirt (spilling the manicotti), and screaming "AAAGH MY INTESTINES ARE SPILLING OUT!" Susie screams and runs away.
Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Calvin at first wanted to collect bugs. Then he wanted to collect stamps. He decides on stamped bugs.
Brilliant but Lazy: Calvin, who generally refuses to put effort in to school work, but displays a vocabulary and has thoughts of those who are much older than six.
He once explained himself to his father, however, when asked why he didn't do well in school despite being fantastically good at inhaling information about things he was interested in, such as dinosaurs. The answer? "We don't learn about dinosaurs."
Another strip had our heroes finding a garter snake and then asking questions about snakes. Hobbes suggests that they get Calvin's Mom to get them a book from the library, but Calvin protests that he doesn't want to learn anything because it's summertime. Hobbes replies that "if no one makes you do it, it counts as fun," and with that revelation Calvin genuinely enjoys himself.
"I'm not dumb. I just have a command of thoroughly useless information."
Lampshaded by Mrs. Wormwood. "Calvin, if you put half the effort into your homework that you put into avoiding it..."
Byronic Hero: Poor integrity? Check. Lack of respect for authority? Check? Self-exile? Inasmuch as one can do so in suburbia, check. Cynicism? Check. Unspecified past crime? Noodle Incident. A rare instance, however, where his self-entitlement is played for laughs, rather than drama.
Calvin: OK, this guy goes into a bar. No wait, he doesn't do that yet. Or maybe it's a grocery store. OK, it doesn't matter. Let's say it's a bar. He's somewhere in the vicinity of a bar, right? So anyway, there's this dog, and he says something odd, I don't remember, but this other guy says, um, well, I forget, but it was funny.
Hobbes: I'll try to imagine it.
Calvin: Yeah, you'll really laugh.
Cardboard Box Technology: Calvin used his box as the Transmogrifier (when upside down), Duplicator (when on its side) and a time machine (when right side up).
Cassandra Truth: One of the subtler Running Gags in the series is Hobbes trying to warn Calvin against whatever it is he's currently planning. Unfortunately, whether Calvin is trying to fix the leak in the bathroom faucet, pushing his parents' car out of the garage or duplicating himself to get out of cleaning his room, Calvin never listens and Hilarity Ensues.
Some of the Silence Is Golden Sunday strips use this too. Something happens to Calvin that apparently makes him do something bad (he gets kidnapped by aliens and a robot duplicate cause trouble, his dad's leaf pile attacks him, a gust of wind pulls him back into bed after he was told to get up) and his parents refuse to believe him when he tells them what happened.
Catchphrase: "[Something that Calvin hates] builds character!" from Calvin's dad. Calvin copied this to mock his father, in combination with his glasses and hairstyle. The last panel is Calvin's Mom laughing uncontrollably in a chair and Dad trying to play it off.
Bill Watterson has said that Calvin's dad is based on his father, especially that phrase. Although visually he's based on Bill himself, minus the moustache.
Chekhov's Gun: Lampshaded in a strip where Calvin finds his Transmogrifier gun during a mile-high plunge at the tail end of the Balloonacy arc. As Calvin himself puts it, "Boy, these things come in handy all the time!"
The Chew Toy: Calvin. Moe, Susie, and Hobbes are always beating him up, even when he does nothing to deserve it. Although, Susie hardly ever attacks Calvin unless provoked, so in Susie's case he almost always deserves it. In stark contrast, Moe beats up Calvin almost always when he has done nothing. Hobbes tackles him at the end of every school day when he walks through the door, and while he's usually the voice of reason he can sometimes be as big a Jerkass as Calvin to Calvin, and get away with it because he's bigger and has claws.
Christmas Creep: Calvin deliberately tries to spread Christmas Creep in one strip. He sings "Silver Bells" at the top of his lungs in mid-September. His parents respond by forcing him outside. Calvin shoots back, "Not thinking about it won't make it go away!"
Comet of Doom: Calvin tells Hobbes that the world will be ending soon because Halley's Comet is going to appear and comets are harbingers of doom. Hobbes says this is just a superstition, so Calvin decides he'd better write his book report after all.
Comic Book Time: Despite the passage of summer holidays, Christmases, etc., Calvin and his classmates never age. Lampshaded by Calvin's father at one point:
"Yeah, I know, you think you're going to be six all your life."
This might have actually been the creator trying to tell his readers that someday he would move on to other interests, as insane as it sounded at the time.
Or that this is what most 6-year-olds think at the time.
Composite Character: Calvin's father displays traits of both Bill Watterson's father (saying things "build character," taking his family on miserable camping trips, jogging in the snow, having a job as a patent attorney) and Watterson himself (the visual appearance, the love of bicycling, the love of the outdoors, the apprehension about consumerist culture and his role in it).
The Conscience: Hobbes will sometimes serve as one to Calvin. And maybe if Calvin listened a little more, he probably wouldn't get in as much trouble as he does.
Covered in Gunge: A more family-friendly example occurs whenever our heroes have a sledding accident and end up covered in snow.
Creator Thumbprint: Bill Watterson cites Charles Schulz as one of his main creative influences, and it shows in his art style. A few of the stylistic twists Schulz used in his strip, such as profile shots of characters that show only their eyes and nose but not their mouths, or the use of the word "AUGH" when uttering a cry of surprise or dismay, were adopted by Watterson and later used in Calvin and Hobbes.
Calvin: My report is on bats. —AHEM— Dusk! With a creepy, tingling sensation, you hear the fluttering of leathery wings! BATS! With glowing red eyes and glistening fangs, these unspeakable giant bugs drop onto…
Entire Class: BATS AREN’T BUGS!!!!
Calvin: Look, who’s giving this report? YOU chowderheads … or ME?!
Ms. Wormwood: Calvin, I’d like to see you a moment.
Apparently some readers didn't realize that this was an in-universe example. Bill Watterson commented in the tenth anniversary book on the ease of writing the story in that he only needed to know as much as "a lazy six-year-old", but after the story ran he "received more information on bats than he ever cared to know."
Also admitted in Real Life regarding dinosaurs: Watterson had been drawing them based on half-remembered books from the 1960s (i.e. as tail-dragging, shambling behemoths) originally, but updated them as science had advanced.
In another story arc, Calvin believes that the simple machines consist of the lever, the pulley, the inclined plane, and the internal combustion engine.
Calvin: I'm doing a crossword puzzle. Number three across says "bird." Hobbes: Hmm… Calvin: I've got it! "Yellow-bellied sapsucker!" Hobbes: But there are only five boxes. Calvin: I know. These idiots make you write real small.
Calvin's dad: At least it's not snowing! Right? Right? (Later, as they sit in the rain eating cold canned ravioli.) I mean, say it was snowing so hard we couldn't make a fire.
And it stops raining the exact moment they decide to leave.
Cultural Posturing: Hobbes, when talking about tigers (although it's rather ethnocentrism since tigers are not known to possess any culture at all).
Curious as a Monkey: Calvin. He throws water on his dad to test his dad's reflexes and drops an expensive compass out of a tree to study gravity.
Cut and Paste Comic: This strip where Calvin talks about his grandfather complaining that all comics today are just xeroxed talking heads.note The joke being that that particular strip is just two poses copied and pasted four times.
In the strip proper, there are minor differences that indicate they were all drawn separately. Watterson was just that good.
Cut-and-Paste Note: One story arc played it straight by having Hobbes cut up Calvin's Mom's magazines and send Calvin insults in the mail. Another gloriously subverted it:
Susie: (reading) Susie, if you want to see your doll again, leave $100 in this envelope by the tree out front. Do not call the police. You cannot trace us. You cannot find us.
A Day in the Limelight: Calvin's Dad occasionally got the spotlight and was often used to voice Watterson's concerns about consumerism and the rat race. Calvin's Mom didn't get these as much, although she sometimes went through the frustrations of everyday life, such as poor customer service and long lineups.
Deadpan Snarker: Calvin's dad and Hobbes, though virtually every character has their moments.
Hobbes especially. Calvin's dad doesn't seem to be sarcastic as frequently.
Calvin: Here's another ad with attitude. This guy didn't like his job, so he quit, and now he climbs rocks! See, he's his own man! He grabs life by the throat and lives on his own terms!
Hobbes: If he quit his job, I wonder how he affords those expensive athletic shoes he's advertising.
Calvin: Maybe his mom bought them for him.
Hobbes: I hope she'll pay his medical bills when he falls off that rock.
Nearly everyone gets some snark now and then. Even a freakin' Ouija Board gets its moment.
Calvin: Oh, great Ouija Board, will I grow up to be President?
Ouija Board: G-O-D-F-O-R-B-I-D.
Calvin: When I want an editorial, I'll ask for it, you stupid board!!
Death Is Cheap: Calvin and Hobbes drive over and run into trees all the time, yet are shown to be perfectly fine the very next time. (Though it's never shown how tall the cliffs are, but it's heavily implied that they're pretty high.
The height of the cliffs could be more to do with Calvin's imagination, and how everything is much bigger when you're small.
Declarative Finger: Used frequently by at least Calvin and his dad, and by Hobbes, who provides the page image.
D.I.Y. Disaster: Done in two strips: One where Calvin floods the kitchen, the other getting bad enough to where it floods the entire house. The next strip after even makes a Continuity Nod saying Calvin's dad didn't give him dessert because he flooded the house.
Do a Barrel Roll: He's done it in fantasies involving airplanes. Another time, he walked through the snow to make the message "do a barrel roll" visible to airplanes.
Beautifully done in one arc's strip in which Calvin attempts to fix a leaky faucet, only to break it open. Hilarity Ensues.
Calvin: "La da dee dee da/I think I'll get a bucket…Dum de doo…/ Nothing's wrong … Da dee doo ba…/I just want a bucket to hold some … stuff./Ta tum ta tum/Let's see, how many buckets do we have? Dum de doo…/No cause for alarm … No need to panic …/I just want a few buckets. La la."
Calvin's parents: (simultaneously) "Your turn."
Dream Within a Dream: Calvin dreams that he walks out of the house and then finds his house is several miles in the air, only to wake up, get out of bed, and find that his bed is several miles in the air. He then wakes up for real, except by that point he's too scared to move.
There's also the Reality Within A Dream, where he's woken up by his mother and gets ready for school and actually GETS OUT THE DOOR before being woken up again. He lampshades this by saying "My dreams are getting way too literal."
Dysfunctional Family: Calvin's family qualifies as one. Dad gets enjoyment out of mundane activities, Mom is constantly driven to wit's end, and let's not get started on Calvin.
Early-Installment Weirdness: Calvin started out as a member of a Boy Scouts-esque organization, which was quietly dropped after Watterson had more trouble coming up with material for them than he thought he would. Then he realized Calvin would never have joined such a group in the first place.
Easter Egg: Watterson occasionally slips some into the comics—for example, on at least two occasions he altered his signature to fit an Art Shift. This page lists a few of them.
Enemy Without / Evil Twin: Subverted and inverted. In one arc, Calvin creates a duplicate of himself to do his chores, but the duplicate is too much like him and refuses to help. Then it gets him in a bunch of trouble, not because it's more evil than him, but because it knows it can have fun and the original Calvin will get all the blame. In a later arc, Calvin manages to duplicate only the good side of his personality, who then masquerades as Calvin while the real article gets to slack off. (Running Gag: "If you're Calvin's good side, you ought to be a lot smaller.") This goes better, until the good duplicate tries writing romantic poetry for Susie, to the original's horror. The good duplicate eventually gets so frustrated with the original that it stops being good and just self-destructs.
Calvin: Actually, there's not much left to explain.
Eye Shock: Usually with several extra pairs of eyes jumping out of shocked characters' heads.
Face Palm: A common reaction to Calvin's shenanigans.
Fake Rabies: Calvin made an attempt to fool his mom into thinking he was rabid using toothpaste foam. She didn't fall for it; he leaves considering the possibility that "Maybe Dad will fall for it if I bite him first."
Faking Amnesia: Calvin does this in one story arc as an excuse for his bad grades:
Calvin: Gee, it was awfully nice of you strangers to have me over for dinner.
Dad: Calvin, knock it off.
Calvin: You mean me? Is my name Calvin?
Dad: You're not fooling anyone, young man. You do not have amnesia.
Calvin: This all seems vaguely familiar ... and yet ... and yet ...
Dad: You're asking for an early bedtime, kid.
Mom: Well, he seems to remember he likes dessert anyway.
Calvin: This is "dessert" you say? Hmm ... perhaps my memory would return if I had some more.
Dad: That's it—bed!
Fandom Specific Plot: A good number of Fanfics are about Calvin as a teenager or adult; often including putting him in a more obviously romantic relationship with Susie.
Fan Myopia: In-Universe. Calvin shows Susie some of his "Captain Napalm" bubblegum cards and offers to trade with her.
Susie: "I don't collect Captain Napalm bubblegum cards." (Leaves)
Calvin: "It must be difficult going through life with no sense of purpose."
Fantastic Racism: Hobbes seems very proud of a perceived superiority of tigers over the rest of Earth's species.
Fashion Hurts: When Calvin complains about a choking necktie, his father reminds him that some people have to wear ties everyday.
Felony Misdemeanor: Expulsion from G.R.O.S.S. for cavorting with the enemy (Susie), or singing the anthem ahead of schedule.
Hobbes: OHHOHH GRO-HOSS, BEST CLUB IN THE COSMOS... ♪ Calvin:Stop that, you anarchist!
Fille Fatale: A humorous variant occurs when Susie "charms" Hobbes into betraying Calvin during their water balloon fight. Hilarity Ensues. More generally, Hobbes's crush on Susie is the in-story explanation of why he never hurts her despite Calvin's urging, if you go for the Hobbes-is-real explanation.
Film Noir: Tracer Bullet's adventures are parodies of stock noir plots.
Forgotten Phlebotinum: The transmogrifer, transmogrifer gun, time machine and duplicator only made one or two appearances after their initial debuts, despite how they could easily get Calvin out of his many situations. The Cerebral Enhance-O-Tron never appeared again after its debut, as well.
Forgot to Pay the Bill: At one point, Calvin claims he didn't do his homework because his parents forgot to pay the gravity bill.
Former Teen Rebel: Calvin's dad. ("Is this you with the keg and the "Party Naked" T-shirt?")
Franchise Zombie: Averted. Watterson ended the comic to prevent this from happening.
Most sources will tell you that there isn't any Calvin and Hobbes official merchandise; it's not true. There were 2 wall calendars, done right after the strip started and before Watterson got concerned about merchandising, one t-shirt for the Museum of Modern Art, a very limited book for educators, and a small selection of artwork increased to be wall-sized. All of these are really rare. See pictures of the only (non-book) items of official merchandise here.
There's also a necktie◊ which has become something of a collector's item.
Freak Out: Calvin had one of these in school when he realized he was trapped inside during a beautiful day. Miss Wormwood was surprisingly sympathetic, advising Calvin to "take a drink of water and a few deep breaths" as she took him back to his seat.
Unsurprisingly sympathetic, given that other strips state that she drinks Maalox straight from the bottle and smokes heavily just to get through the week. She might relate to him the most in this aspect, in an odd way.
As mentioned in Adult Fear above, When the family came home from vacation, Calvin was freaked out that Hobbes might have been taken from him.
Friendly War: Calvin and Hobbes are often at each other's throats, but it's usually only in good fun.
The comic also gives us Calvin vs. Susie Derkins. After a shouting match, Calvin Breaks the fourth wall and says, "It's shameless the way we flirt!" Could be Belligerent Sexual Tension if they weren't 6 years old (Watterson has written that Calvin likely has a mild crush on Susie which he expresses by being obnoxious toward her).
Calvin: I know it's redundant, but otherwise it doesn't spell anything.
Fun With Flushing: Calvin has an elaborate strip where he flushes a toy boat down the toilet. In another one, he and Hobbes dip the dangling paper from the roll into the toilet and flush it. At one point, Calvin himself gets into the toilet bowl, flushes himself around in circles, and then informs his mother that he'd finished his "bath."
There was also the time he threatened to flush Rosalyn's school notes.
The Gadfly: Calvin's dad. He's told Calvin that wind is caused by trees sneezing, that electricity is magic, that Calvin came from a Blue Light special at K-Mart, that they were going to put the Christmas tree in the garage and not decorate it (and implied that Calvin wouldn't get a present). Most of these would result in him getting threatened by Calvin's mom, especially the Christmas one (after which he complains that the season gets less jolly every year.)
Generation Xerox: Calvin's mom was apparently just as wild as he is when she was his age (according to his grandmother), and his father clearly has a highly active imagination in his own right.
...But Calvin is no kind and loving god! He's one of the old gods! He demands sacrifice! [...] Yes, Calvin is a god of the underworld! And the puny inhabitants of earth displease him! The great Calvin ignores their pleas for mercy and the doomed writhe in agony!
Another strip has Spaceman Spiff about to be sacrificed to the evil god "Nollij" (in this case, Calvin getting called to the blackboard).
Godwin's Law: In one strip, Rosalyn orders Calvin to go to his room, only to receive a Sieg Heil and "Jawohl, mein Führer!" in reply.
In another, Calvin's mom tells him that no, he will not be spending the afternoon at the comic book store as he announced. "And you can stop goose-stepping around the house!"
Gone Horribly Right: In order to avoid doing his chores, Calvin clones himself using the newly-invented Duplicator. He succeeds in creating a perfect clone...who of course outright refuses to do the chores as well. Hilarity Ensues.
Calvin: Gravity must pull especially hard on tigers.
Hobbes: (thinking as he sails through the air, about to pounce on Calvin) That's an impression we like to cultivate.
Green Aesop: Probably the most of any newspaper comic. Some are good, and actually quite funny, but others (mostly from the later run of the strip) descend to almost FernGully/Captain Planet levels (see the Anvilicious entry on the YMMV page).
The best such story arc started with Calvin and Hobbes surprised and enraged to learn that part of the forest they love to play in is in the process of being razed to be the site of "Shady Acres Condos". It gave us the wonderful Hobbes quote, "The only shade I see is from that bulldozer." Another gem is when Calvin asks how humans would feel if animals bulldozed the condos to put in new trees—cut to Hobbes in the bulldozer, saying it's no good, as the driver didn't leave the keys.
Another famous line; while looking at a pile of garbage in the forest, Calvin sadly says "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us."
Grilling Pyrotechnics: Calvin once tried to talk his dad into invoking this. Natch, he concludes that he has the most boring dad in the world.
Guns Are Worthless: You can probably count the number of times that Spiff's "Death Ray Blaster" wasn't useless against an enemy on one hand.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Watterson arguably torpedoed his own efforts to get rid of illegal merchandise by not allowing any legitimate products in the first place (i.e., if his relationship with his syndicate had not been so adversarial, Watterson could have called on the resources of a mighty corporate legal department to crack down on those Calvin-peeing-on-things stickers.)
Also, Watterson revealed in one of the anthologies that after winning the right to lay out his Sunday strips however he wanted, he discovered that crafting the new, more artistic strips took several times longer than the old, formulaic ones.
In-universe: Calvin saves a snowball from winter in the freezer in order to throw it at Susie in June. Guess who ends up being hit by the snowball.
Hollywood Pudgy: Discussed in-universe in the arc when Calvin joins the school baseball team. Calvin complains to Susie at the bus stop about how lucky she is to be a girl and not be expected to play sports, to which she comments, "On the other hand, boys aren't expected to spend their life 20 pounds underweight."
Horrible Camping Trip: Calvin and his family have been on a number of these, the worst being the trip where it began raining the moment the trip began and cleared up the moment the trip ended.
Calvin: (whispering gleefully) Do you know what all of Dad's words meant? Hobbes: (whispering) No, but I wrote 'em down so we can look them up later.
And then there's what Calvin's Mom had to say about the whole affair:
Calvin's Mom: Calvin, tell your dad that any judge would take this trip as grounds for divorce.
Calvin: Dad, Mom says …
Calvin's Dad: All right! All right!
And of course, let's not forget the one where they go camping on an island: Calvin drops a bag of very expensive equipment in ten feet of very cold water, his dad accidentally stacks a tackle box and bags on his glasses, and apparently he'd left the car headlights on back at the canoe rental place.
Human Mail: Calvin sometimes attempts to run away by sitting in a box by the mailbox with a vague address written on it (for example, "To OS TRYLA"). It … doesn't work.
Humanoid Aliens: Often encountered by Spaceman Spiff, although they're never too humanoid.
Humans Are Bastards: Used repeatedly, and one arc has Calvin as so disgusted with humans that he resolves to become a tiger. It's driven home when he decides to go back to being a human only because he finds out tigers are endangered because of humans, and he doesn't want to be killed.
There's also a strip in this vein satirizing hunting, in which a trio of deer walk into an office with hunting rifles and kill an employee. Calvin claims that they do this to curb human overpopulation, a popular justification for deer hunting.
Though the Sunday strip where Calvin explains why he hangs out with Hobbes instead of human kids is a heartwarming moment.
One memorable comic strip...
Calvin: Hobbes, look! I caught a butterfly in this jar!
Hobbes: If people could put rainbows in zoos, they would.
*beat panel as Hobbes walks away*
*Calvin opens the jar, releasing the butterfly*
Humble Goal: Hobbes's wish is to have a sandwich. He achieves it. This is contrasted with Calvin, whose more extravagant wish for "a trillion billion dollars, my own space shuttle, and a private continent" goes unfulfilled.
Another time, Calvin and Hobbes are outside and Calvin asks Hobbes what he would wish for if he could have anything. Hobbes wishes for "a big sunny field to be in." Calvin points out that Hobbes is already in a sunny field and says he should wish for something big like power or riches. Then he looks at Hobbes napping in the grass and admits that it's hard to argue with someone who looks so happy.
Hypocritical Humor: Calvin complains about having to walk up hills before sledding down them and asks Hobbes to pull him up on the sled. Hobbes declines, prompting Calvin to grumpily say that "He's so lazy and selfish."
Perhaps best exemplified when Calvin ranted for three panels about people who complain too much. In the fourth panel, Hobbes says "Maybe they're not very self-aware," to which Calvin replies, "Boy, that's another thing that gets on my nerves!"
A similar comic had Calvin making an out-of-the-blue comment to Hobbes, "Do you ever wonder why birds don't write their memoirs? Because birds don't lead epic lives, that's why! Who wants to read about what a bird does? Nobody!" Two panels later, he complains about people who make bizarre comments out of nowhere and suggests the solution of punching them right there, to which Hobbes says, "If you wait, he might top himself." Watterson said that this is an exaggeration of his wife's own abrupt subject changes.
Yet another one showed Calvin making a list called "One Million Things That Bug Me." After listing a half dozen random things, Hobbes pops his head in and says, "What about 'excessively negative people'?" to which Calvin responds, "Yeah, that's a good one…HEY!"
Combined with Leaning on the Fourth Wall—a series of four visually identical panels of Calvin and Hobbes talking while facing each other. The subject? How newspaper comics have degenerated into talking heads with little artistry.
Calvin announces to Hobbes that he has outgrown morality and "the ends justify the means." After Hobbes shoves him into the mud (because "You were in my way, now you're not-the ends justify the means"), he stipulates that the rule only applies to him.
Susie and Hobbes enjoy throwing snowballs and water balloons at Calvin, yet beat him when he throws them at them.
In the duplicator arc where clones of Calvin were made, they choose to go about their own thing not caring if they get in trouble or not since they would just be mistaken for the original anyway.
Calvin: "What a bunch of devious little stinkers! Where'd they learn to misbehave like that!?"
I Can Explain: Calvin panics as he tries to explain to his mother what he thinks Miss Wormwood told her. He almost confesses to the Noodle Incident in doing so, which his mother didn't even know about.
Averted in a strip where Calvin is hammering nails into the living room table. His mother freaks and demands to know what he's doing, to which he simply retorts, "Is this a trick question?"
Identical Panel Gag: In one strip, Calvin tells Hobbes about his grandfather, who complains that modern comic strips are "nothing but a bunch of xeroxed talking heads". Every panel in the strip is the same two-shot of Calvin and Hobbes, with only the speech bubbles changing. (Although, on closer inspection, there are enough tiny differences to show that each "identical" panel was actually drawn separately.)
Calvin: I hate all the rules and organization and teams and ranks in sports. Somebody's always yelling at you, telling you where to be, what to do, and when to do it. I figure when I want that, I'll join the Army and at least get paid.
Ignored Aesop: Understandable, since Calvin's imagination doesn't really work in such a way as to promote obvious, learnable lessons.
Calvin: Well, Hobbes, I guess there's a moral to all this. Hobbes: What's that? Calvin: 'Snow Goons are Bad News'. Hobbes: That lesson certainly ought to be inapplicable later in life. Calvin: I like maxims that don't encourage behavior modification.
Ignoring By Singing: In this strip, Hobbes starts mocking Calvin's height, telling him he'll always be short and that his parents are planning to sell him to a circus sideshow. Calvin shouts "I'm not listening!" then puts his hands over his ears and starts singing "The Star-Spangled Banner".
I Just Want to Be Special: Calvin occasionally laments the fact that, as a human, he doesn't have any of the cool traits many animals do, like retractable claws, fangs, opposable toes, wings, the ability to light up his behind the way fireflies do, etc.
I Know You Know I Know: Calvin wanted to trick Susie so he could soak her with water balloons. So he left an easily decipherable "secret code" note for her to find (in backwards letters), hoping she would go behind his house. She caught on quickly and hid elsewhere to spray Calvin with the garden hose.
Calvin says this after his attempt to launch a giant snowball (by placing it on the end of a plank balanced atop a log and jumping on the other end of said plank) ends with him getting splattered. Hobbes' response: "Then it worked very well."
Hobbes also invokes this when he's about to tackle Calvin, but then Calvin ducks down to pick up a penny, causing Hobbes to pass over him and crash-land on the floor. Hobbes then gets up and walks away with as much dignity as he can muster, leading Calvin to say Hobbes would just love him to think he missed Calvin on purpose.
Incredibly Lame Fun: Calvin plays a game where he asks Hobbes to guess a number between one and seven hundred billion. No "higher/lower" or "warm/cold"; only "nope, guess again". Hobbes wanders off after two guesses.
Calvin: What's the matter?! Don't you like games?!
Informed Ability: Played for Laughs with Calvin's imaginary alter ego Spaceman Spiff. He's constantly described as a tremendous pilot, superb marksman and all round brilliant space explorer, but pretty much every story about him begins as his ship is crashing and/or he's captured by aliens. His "Death-Ray Blaster" also tends to be utterly useless, because in real life it's actually a squirt gun. Spaceman Spiff's piloting is also lampshaded in one strip: "The intrepid Spaceman Spiff is stranded on a distant planet! ...our hero ruefully acknowledges that this happens fairly frequently."
Same with Stupendous Man; after yet another blunder, Hobbes asks Calvin if Stupendous Man ever won any battle. Calvin replies they are all "moral victories."
Informed Flaw: In one comic, it's claimed Susie eats sandwiches by taking them apart and eating each ingredient separately. Not only is this never referenced again, several later comics show Susie eating her sandwich normally.
Innocent Prodigy: Calvin, who goes from his imagined personae to deep insight at the drop of a hat.
Intellectual Animal: Hobbes. "There are times when it's a source of great personal pride to not be human."
Irony: The very first mention of "Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie", which becomes Calvin's favorite book.
Dad: You might like this story.
Calvin: Oh yeah? How good can it be if it hasn't been made into a TV show?
Ironic Hell: After dozens of nights after having to read Hamster Huey over and over again, Calvin's dad muses:
Dad: Architects should be forced to live in the buildings they design, and children's book authors should be forced to read their stories aloud every single night of their rotten lives.
It's All About Calvin. Very much so. While he'll occasionally show concern for others, for animals (the little raccoon), or for the environment, the majority of strips show Calvin only thinking about himself.
Calvin: I don't want to pay any dues in life. I want to be a one-in-a-million, overnight success! I want the world handed to me on a silver platter!
Calvin (Yelling after him): Surely you concede I deserve it!
I've Heard of That - What Is It?: When Calvin is told that he'll be having tortellini for dinner, he doesn't allow his ignorance of what it is to stand in the way of a loud tirade about his dislike for it.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Calvin's heart is well hidden, but Hobbes being damaged or an injured animal can bring it out. He can also get genuinely remorseful if one of his pranks goes too far.
Meanwhile, the trope is averted with Moe.
Karma Houdini: Everyone but Calvin, though Moe is the most egregious example. He constantly tortures Calvin, despite being the only character to whom Calvin never does anything that would warrant it. Though at times Calvin insults Moe anyway, figuring if he's going to get beaten, he might as well get the most out of it.
One time when Moe is extorting his lunch money, Calvin says "Your simian countenance suggests a heritage rich in species diversity" (i.e. your ape-like appearance means you probably have ancestry there). Calvin gets away with it when Moe has no clue what he just said, and Calvin notes after he leaves, "That was worth 25 cents."
Kids Prefer Boxes: In addition to using cardboard boxes to make all sorts of devices, one time Calvin sent away for a motorized propeller beanie. When it finally arrives, he kicks it away after realizing that it doesn't let him fly around town as he had imagined and prefers to play with the cool cardboard box it came in instead.
Calvin's Dad: Well, the house is still standing. Calvin must have gone to bed. Calvin's Mom: His light is still on. Calvin? Are you awake? (opens bedroom door, gets hit by Bucket Booby-Trap) EEP! Did you watch a scary movie?!? Calvin: No. Don't come in. The rug is rigged too.
After reading a bunch of scary comics in A Nauseous Nocturne, Calvin fears a monster is coming to eat him. He's right.
Know Your Vines: After Calvin utterly fails a report on plants, he angrily asks what good it does to identify plants while holding a branch. Hobbes then replies "I believe that's poison sumac you're holding."
In one series, Calvin built a time machine to travel two hours into the future and get a copy of his homework from himself after it was already finished. Predictably, it doesn't work.
6:30 Calvin: Well, since we're you from the past, I suppose you know why we're here. Did you do the homework? 8:30 Calvin: Me?? No. 6:30 Calvin:No?! Why not?? 8:30 Calvin: Because two hours ago, I went to the future to get it. 6:30 Calvin: Yeah, and here I am! Where is it?! 8:30 Calvin: That's what I said two hours ago!
In another series, Calvin didn't want to make his bed, so he and Hobbes spent all afternoon trying to build a robot to do it for him. They couldn't get the robot to work, but since they spent so long on it, the bed never got made. Mission accomplished!
Hobbes: Wouldn't inventing a robot be more work than making the bed?
Calvin: It's only work if somebody makes you do it.
Calvin explains to Hobbes that he's taking a toy telephone into the woods to "try some bird calls". The next thing we know, the receiver's been wedged into his mouth and the cord is wrapped around his head and body by Hobbes.
In another strip:
Calvin: Hey Hobbes, want to see an antelope?
Hobbes: An antelope? Calvin: Come on! (goes to an anthill) See, she's climbing down the ladder to her boyfriend's car. (beat) You're not laughing. Hobbes: It's not funny.
In yet another strip, Calvin tells this joke to Hobbes: "What do you get when you cross a cantaloupe with Lassie? A mellon-collie baby!" Hobbes is not amused.
Done with Hobbes' tendency to get 'captured' during games with other people, since he can't move when anyone besides Calvin is around. "I've noticed that when we play games with girls, you get captured a lot."
There is also a strip where Hobbes asks Calvin why he wears "long pants" in the summer. His answer, and the punchline, is "Short pants touch my feet, ok?!"
Large Ham Title: Calvin briefly renames himself "Calvin, Boy Of Destiny". Or as he puts it, "Calvin! Boy...of Dessssstiny!"
Laughing Mad: Calvin once got a little too excited when making a snowball, to the point where he freaked himself out and wondered if he hadn't "tapped into some primeval well of the human psyche".
Leaving Food For Santa: The throwaway joke of the Christmas Day 1988 strip has Calvin telling his dad that he's leaving out a sandwich for Santa. Calvin then asks whether Santa would like some milk with it, and his dad responds, "I think "Santa" would rather have a cold beer," much to his mother's annoyance.
Lethal Chef: Calvin's mom, in Calvin's mind. Though her cooking really is usually depicted as a formless mass of goo on a plate, it's Calvin who often imagines her dishes having lethal consequences or unspeakable ingredients. At one point, even Calvin's dad (after some comments by Calvin) demands to know what exactly it is he's eating, and that whatever it is, he's not eating it (it's supposed to be stuffed peppers). In this particular strip, Calvin refuses to eat his dinner, so his Mom mentions that it's monkey brains. Calvin, naturally, is eager to try it, but now Calvin's dad has apparently lost his appetite…
Another strip had virtually the same thing happening, this time with rice.
Yet another had a variation of the joke, in which it's dad who tries the Reverse Psychology by whispering to Calvin in a confiding tone that he's right not to want to eat the food since it's actually toxic waste that will turn him into a mutant. Calvin gobbles it all up greedily in a fantastic flash. Mom remarks that there simply has to be a better way to make him eat.
It also seems to run in the family. One story arc involves Mom getting sick and unable to cook dinner. Dad takes her place in one strip:
Dad: Since your Mom is sick, I'll be cooking dinner tonight.
Calvin: YOU can cook?
Dad: Of course I can cook. As you can see, I survived two years of my own cooking when I had an apartment after college.
Calvin: Mom says you ate canned soup and waffles three meals a day.
Dad: Your mom wasn't there, so she wouldn't know. Get the syrup out, will you?
And then there was the strip where Calvin tried to make breakfast in bed for his sick mom:
Calvin: I made toast, orange juice and eggs for you all by myself!
Mom: Oh, that's wonderful, Calvin!
Calvin: The eggs got burned and kind of stuck to the pan, but you can probably chip them out with this chisel.
Mom: Um … where is the toast and orange juice?
Calvin: Dad said not to tell you about that until you're all better.
Similarly, after he saw a cloud take the form of his own head giving him a raspberry, he decided that it was an omen. Of "very peculiar high altitude winds, I guess…You know, some sort of cumulonimbal thing." Quoth Hobbes: "Science kinds takes the fun out of the portent business."
Most of the time he just does this to screw with Calvin's head. Watterson has never been a father, but he imagines fatherhood would be filled with this temptation.
Granted, he did choose to provide an interesting lecture on relativity, using a record player to illustrate his lesson. Calvin ended up unable to sleep, with his brow knitted from trying to understand that.
Susie: I suppose anything so idiotic would have to be. Can I play in your game or not?
Calvin: I don't know, it seems you'd rather be making smart remarks.
Calvin can be a male example of this from time to time.
Little Professor Dialog: One of the prime examples of this trope, to the point where it almost becomes a Running Gag. Watterson explained in one author's foreword that his favorite thing about Calvin was "his ability to precisely articulate stupid ideas."
When Susie tells Calvin she enjoys going to school to learn, Calvin stares closely at her before declaring: "Your bangs do a good job of covering up the lobotomy scars."
After Hobbes cuts Calvin's hair and messes up, he tries to cover it up by tying a cloth around his head. While Hobbes thinks he looks like Lawrence of Arabia, Calvin thinks he looks more like a lobotomy patient.
Calvin pretends to be giving one to a pumpkin while carving it into a jack-o-lantern.
Look Ma, No Plane!: In one story line, Calvin thinks a motorized propeller beanie will let him fly, complete with fantasy sequence where he waves at a plane. Another Sunday fantasy has his parents letting him drive the car, and he drives so fast he breaks the speedometer, goes airborne and passes a jet.
Another strip had Calvin pretending he was the plane complete with a fantasy of him flying through the air with his arms out like a plane's wings. According to his mom, he was just running around in circles with his arms out in the backyard until he got sick.
Calvin: From now on I'm playing "bus".
Loophole Abuse: When asked to explain Newton's First Law of Motion in his own words, he answers the question by using his own words:
Calvin:[writing] Yakka foob mog. Grug pubbawup zink wattoom gazork. Chumble spuzz. [aloud]' I love loopholes.
Miss Wormwood: (After Calvin has, as usual, been daydreaming): Pay attention! Now, what state do you live in? Calvin: Denial! Miss Wormwood:(sigh) I don't suppose I can argue with that … (Calvin happily goes back into his daydream).
Malicious Misnaming: Moe tends to refer to Calvin as "Twinky". This is presumably unconnected to the word's modern racial usage.
Mama Bear: Calvin's mother can and does do this whenever Dad's teasing goes too far:
Mom: I know somebody who's going to get a lot of coal in his stocking, buster.
Man Made House Flood: One strip has Calvin calling his dad at work, apparently to make small talk. The final panel reveals the real reason he's calling: He somehow managed to flood the house, and the waterline is high enough to reach the top of the ladder that Calvin is currently on. In another, Calvin manages to turn the stairs into a waterfall. Unlike the previous example, we see how the waterfall happened; Calvin was horsing around in the bathtub.
Another time, Calvin calls Dad at work, but Dad is very busy and tells Calvin to hang up unless he's calling about something really important. Calvin hangs up, looks at the overflowing sink that is rapidly flooding the kitchen, and decides that this should qualify as "really important" in about 15 minutes.
Marshmallow Dream: Hobbes and his 'weasel dreams.' Occasionally, it would be Calvin who got torn up and not the pillow.
Calvin: Why do you suppose we're here? Hobbes: Because we walked here. Calvin: No, I mean here on Earth. Hobbes: Because Earth can support life. Calvin: No, I mean why are we anywhere? Why do we exist? Hobbes: Because we were born.
For that matter, some of the more surreal events of the strip. Was Calvin actually abducted by aliens and replaced by a robot double? Did he truly hijack the spaceship of a shape-shifting alien who took his place? How about the Snow Goons? Or the monsters under his bed? They could all be credited to Calvin's imagination, but there's never any proof that they're not real.
The incident that most fans point to is the time that Calvin asks Hobbes to tie him to a chair so that he can break free. Calvin is tied so tight that his parents are stumped as to how he got himself into the situation, despite Calvin's insistence that Hobbes did it.
Calvin has in fact done several strange things that have little explanation other than that Hobbes is real. When he took a picture of Hobbes "pouncing" on him, it was indeed a picture of Hobbes flying through the air with seemingly no outside force (possibly a friend could have thrown him, but of course Calvin has no friends). Hobbes also once wrote a good story for Calvin's homework assignment, and Calvin honestly had no idea what it was about until he read it to his class.
Hobbes made a photo of Calvin while the boy was sneezing. There was no way Calvin could do this by himself - setting the time right would be nigh-impossible and we can see Calvin's hands on the photo.
Meaningful Name: Averted in early strips. The characters both share the names of philosophers, but a read through the early strips shows that any real significance once the strip itself got philosophical is a coincidence. (Calvin was, in fact, originally going to be named Marvin until a strip of the same name launched.) Later characterizations played this trope straight. John Calvin was a theologian who believed in predestination, similar to how Calvin often ponders destiny and blames his faults on other forces. Thomas Hobbes was a philosopher who after going through the English civil war wrote the book Leviathan, which advanced a very dim outlook on human nature. Likewise, Calvin's tiger often finds problems with humanity's stupidity, saying that tigers are superior. Other parallels exist, as well.
Mental Story: Even leaving aside the question of whether or not Hobbes is real, a lot of stories take place in Calvin's imagination.
Merchandise-Driven: Defied at the cost of such hostility that Watterson actually thought about quitting the strip. All those Calvin window stickers you see are infringement. According to this site, the only legal products made were two calendars, a Museum of Modern Art t-shirt, and a book, "Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes."
At one point, Calvin fantasized about being an ancient god who brings whole worlds into existence and torments those who don't appease him. "The doomed writhe in agony!" The only thing keeping the strip from being mega-creepy is the fact that it ends with the reveal he's playing with Tinker Toys.
Also, Calvin has no friends aside from Hobbes. He joined a boy scouts-like organization once and participated in one organized sport but quit both as soon as he could. His tendency to get lost in his imagination tends to weird out the other kids.
Unintentionally invoked in a Sunday strip in which a daydreaming Calvin uses an F-15 to bomb his school off the face of the Earth. Watterson, upon receiving angry letters about how depicting such a thing was inexcusable, commented that some readers must have never been children themselves.
Mundane Wish: In a Sunday strip, Calvin asks Hobbes what he'd wish for; Hobbes says he wants a sandwich. Calvin doesn't understand why and wishes for enormous wealth. Hobbes gets his wish, and Calvin obviously does not.
Another strip had Calvin ask a similar question, to which Hobbes replies that he'd wish for "a big sunny field to lie in." Calvin is aghast at how mundane this is, but then observes Hobbes sleeping in the grass. "Actually, it's hard to argue with someone who looks so happy."
Mustache Vandalism: Discussed by Hobbes. Calvin's scheme to avoid getting attacked by Hobbes when he comes home by putting a dummy of himself in front of the door backfires, with Hobbes inviting the dummy inside and locking the real Calvin out. Calvin then overhears Hobbes asking the dummy: "May I draw mustaches on all the superheroes? I may? Oh joy!"
My Brain Is Big: This happens to Calvin when he invents a "thinking cap" to make himself smarter.
My Future Self and Me: Calvin's third and last adventure with the time machine features three Calvins, from only an hour apart.
My God, What Have I Done?: There are times when Calvin realizes his shenanigans have gone too far and he genuinely feels bad about it.
Naked People Are Funny: The strip became notorious among some early on for showing Calvin completely in the nude (although usually just from the back).
Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Doom Drop, Pallbearer's Peak, Dismemberment Gorge, Lookout Hill, Mount Maim and Suicide Slope. These are the names Calvin gives to the various cliffs and hills he and Hobbes go down in the sled or the wagon, depending on the time of year. Presumably a joke on Watterson's hometown (and ambiguously the setting for the comic; see Where the Hell Is Springfield?) of Chagrin Falls, Ohio.
The Napoleon: In one summer strip, Hobbes asks Calvin why he's wearing long pants on a hot day and wonders why he doesn't wear short pants instead. Calvin immediately gets very angry. When Hobbes asks him what's wrong, a frustrated Calvin screams, "Short pants touch my feet, okay?!"
Negative Continuity Spaceman Spiff apparently suffocates to death in one of Calvin's daydreams, but still reappears later on. Then again, it is just a daydream…
Never My Fault: Calvin will invent entirely new realities rather than admit he made a mistake in this one.
New Media Are Evil: Sometimes used, sometimes criticized. The combination almost seems hypocritical on Bill Watterson's part. Various remarks by Watterson in the Tenth Anniversary Book include:
"I would suggest that it is not the medium, but the quality of perception and expression that determines the significance of art. But hey, what would a cartoonist know?"
He refers to television as the '20th century drug of choice' in that book as well. And then in There's Treasure Everywhere, there's a strip where Calvin gets so shaken reading a violent comic book, he puts it down and turns on TV instead, and then in the last panel:
Calvin's Mom: No you don't. There's too much violence on TV. Why don't you go read something?
And for that matter, There's Treasure Everywhere is the same comic collection that brought us:
Calvin: I resent the quality of network programming! It is all fluff, violence, sensationalism and sleaze! I hunger for serious, tasteful entertainment that respects my intelligence!
Calvin's Dad: Then turn off the stupid TV and read a book.
There's also a strip in which the TV appears to be broken, and Calvin and Hobbes are reading a book. Calvin reads Karl Marx's famous "religion is the opiate of the masses" quote and ponders the meaning; a thought bubble from the TV reads, "It means Karl Marx hadn't seen anything yet."
Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: "Tyrannosaurs in F-14s!!" He once doodled in the margins of his new school textbook, creating an animated flip sequence in which "T-rex drives the Batmobile and explodes."
No Name Given: Calvin's last name, and the names of his parents. Susie Derkins is the only major character with both a first and a last name. Several minor characters who don't appear but are only mentioned, and then usually just the once, have full names: this includes three of Calvin's classmates and the author of his favorite book. Watterson commented that he invoked this on purpose with regards to Calvin's parents, because Calvin was the main character, and as such his parents were only important as Calvin's parents. Part of the reason that Uncle Max never made a second appearance was that Watterson found it awkward that Max couldn't refer to Calvin's parents by their names.
The mysterious "Noodle Incident" is the Trope Namer. The story is just as fragmented and impenetrable in-universe; not even Santa Claus can piece it together. Calvin himself claims he was framed (on the few occasions he can even think about the event without having a panic attack).
One early strip mentioned the equally-ambiguous "Salamander Incident". Whether or not this was the Noodle Incident's working title or another incident entirely was never elaborated on. Again, Calvin claims all evidence against him is purely circumstantial.
Calvin's favorite bedtime story, Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie, is another example. Watterson is on record as saying that he will never define what the story is actually like, because inevitably it would be funnier in the reader's head. There's also the sequel, Commander Coriander Salamander and 'Er Singlehander Bellylander, which Dad has an even lower opinion of.
Funnily enough, there now is a children's book called that, by one Mable Barr (the in-universe writer was "Mable Syrup") .
Nose Nuggets: Calvin walks outside in the cold, then wrinkles his nose before making an Aside Glance and saying, "Don't you hate it when your boogers freeze?" Lampshaded in an anthology, where Bill Watterson wrote, "I hope some historian will confirm that I was the first cartoonist to use the word 'booger' in a newspaper comic strip."
Not So Different: Calvin has gotten this with both Ms. Wormwood (with whom he's been shown to share very similar feelings of frustration and weariness, though for very different reasons) and Rosalyn (who can relate to him and some of his interests surprisingly well, as in some ways she's still a "kid" herself).
Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Hobbes may or may not be one. Interestingly, Calvin seems not to know or care that his parents don't "see" Hobbes as he does.
Possibly averted with Mr. Bun, Susie's rabbit doll, who Hobbes remarks on as being "comatose".
Oblivious to Love: Calvin and Susie Derkins. Word of Godsays that Calvin likely has a mild crush on Susie. Calvin apparently doesn't know how to deal with it, so he does his best to gross out and anger Susie, who then always gets mad at him.
Strangely enough, in the strip it's Hobbes who is attracted to Susie and is always persuading Calvin to go play with her.
Calvin: So what happened to the mandibles of death, you sissy fur ball?!? Hobbes: I was beguiled by her feminine charms. Yow. Go soak your head.
Evidently, this romantic channel seems to work both ways, seeing how Susie even sent a Valentine's card addressed to Hobbes.
Of course, in one of the strip's two versions of reality, Hobbes's independent personality is merely a figment of Calvin's own imagination. In which case, Hobbes flirting with Susie is really Calvin flirting with her by proxy.
Susie flirting with Hobbes is really her flirting with Calvin by proxy no matter how you slice it.
It's not like Calvin never gives any indication of liking Susie himself. In fact, before you ever see her, the first strip to mention her features him comically blatantly bringing her up for no apparent reason and loudly protesting too much that he doesn't like her, with Hobbes teasing him about it.
Perhaps the most obvious example of their mutual crush is when Calvin sends Susie an offensive valentine, to which she replies by shouting and hitting him. As she's walking away, she smiles and thinks "A Valentine and flowers! He likes me," while Calvin simultaneously thinks, "She noticed! She likes me."
And another strip in which Susie and Calvin run into each other, do nothing but trade insults, and walk away. Calvin observes: "It's shameless the way we flirt."
Obfuscating Stupidity: Possibly Calvin. His philosophical discussions imply that he's smarter than his grades indicate and he once told Susie that he found life easier the lower he kept everyone's expectations when she questioned why he was happy about getting a 'C' on a test.
Lampshaded in one strip where Calvin (he's only 6 years old), explains to his mother the complicated notion that black holes create a depression in space so that other objects "roll" towards them…and then adds "Speaking of gravity, I dropped a pitcher of lemonade in the kitchen when my roller blades slipped." While grinding her teeth and cleaning up the mess, his mom wonders how he can be so smart and yet so dumb.
Off the Chart: Calvin gives his dad a talk about approval ratings that includes a chart like this.
Old Shame: Before adapting the character into one of Calvin's alter egos, Bill Watterson tried to produce a comic strip starring Spaceman Spiff. In this early version, Spiff was a cigar-smoking astronaut with a Chaplin moustache. He had a dimwitted assistant named Fargle, and they flew through space in a zeppelin. For obvious reasons, as Watterson notes in the Tenth Anniversary Book, the syndicates rejected it.
One-Two Punchline: Bill Watterson was fond of these, with Hobbes adding another punchline on the far right of the last panel, often a mockery or lampshade hanging on what Calvin was saying.
Calvin: Whatcha doin', Mom? Mom:(sobbing) I'm cutting up an onion. Calvin: It must be hard to cook when you anthropomorphize your vegetables.
OOC Is Serious Business: Calvin's mom finally panics about Calvin being sick when she says it's summer and therefore he won't be missing school, to which he simply replies "I know" without his normal glee at getting out of it.
Orifice Invasion: In one strip, Calvin imagines this is how he gets a 'frog in the throat':
Our Zombies Are Different: In late April 1987, Calvin got bored with his homework and started walking around sticking his eyes and tongue out and walking around pretending to be a zombie. Hobbes saw this and decided to follow along, thinking "When In Rome". The April 30th strip had them staring at each other pretending to be zombies until they started laughing at the sight of each other.
CALVIN: "Heh heh...Of course, REAL zombies NEVER get the giggles by looking at each other."
In one strip, Calvin asks his dad why the sky is blue and how clouds stay in the air. His dad can't remember why, only being able to guess vaguely and can't answer his questions. Very strange considering his usual glee in deliberately giving Calvin the wrong facts.
There is also a time when Susie asks Calvin for the answer on a test, versus the other way around, and Calvin supplies the correct answer, albeit accidentally.
Painting the Medium: The aforementioned black-and-white, un-outlined strip led to a punchline of Calvin's dad telling him "The problem is, you see everything in terms of black and white." Actually, that's more like not painting the medium.
Another example is Moe, who always spoke in mixed-case instead of all-caps.
Paper People: Deconstructed in one strip where Calvin imagines himself to have turned into one; he can't move unless he wriggles on the floor, is susceptible to the slighest gust of wind, but can hide by standing sideways.
Paper Tiger: Parodied. Calvin asks Hobbes what a paper tiger is. Despite being a tiger himself, Hobbes responds that a paper tiger delivers newspapers. Calvin is thus completely confused by his book that used the term.
Parents as People: Back in the nineties, it was pretty shocking to show a father openly regretting having children unless he was a villainous character. What's more, Calvin goes to great lengths to instill this antipathy in his parents (hiding dead bugs in his own mother's shampoo, blockading his dad's driveway with snow so he'll be late to work). The pair can't even have a nice dinner out without Calvin destroying the house in their absence. Hence, when badgered with letters regarding Calvin's cruel parents, Watterson simply said, "They do a better job than I would."
Parental Bonus: Some of the things Calvin says would be completely incomprehensible to younger readers.
Calvin: "Why would it be worth four dollars a minute to talk on the phone to goofy ladies who wear their underwear on TV commercials?"
And not just limited to Calvin. After Calvin asks his mom for a little brother to beat up on, it cuts to Calvin's dad getting interrupted at work by a phone call:
Calvin's Dad: "Honey, can we discuss that operation some other time?…"
Pluralses: "Thanks, Hobbeses! You guys are life savers!"
Perp Sweating: Calvin's parents can do this without even trying. Like when he broke Dad's binoculars.
Picky Eater: Calvin provides the image for the main page.
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Roughly two-thirds of all G.R.O.S.S. meetings consist of Calvin and Hobbes arguing over procedural matters, getting into fistfights and then declaring a truce, rather than actually doing anything to get rid of any girls, slimy or otherwise.
Poor Man's Porn: Parodied when Hobbes admits to checking out tigresses in National Geographic.
Puff of Logic: When a good-side-only duplicate of Calvin desires to "tear [him] limb from—", at which point he instantly evaporates for desiring the "evil" of violence. Thereafter, with no small degree of wry humor, Hobbes points out that of everyone he knows, Calvin's the only one whose good side is prone to badness.
Punny Name: Mable Syrup, author of "Hamster Huey".
Puppy-Dog Eyes: Calvin tries to use these to get a flame thrower. Doesn't work.
Push Polling: Calvin tends to employ this when discussing his dad's "approval ratings."
Put Off Their Food: In one strip, Mom tells Calvin that the icky stuff on his plate is monkey brains in order to get him to eat it. But now Dad can't eat it because it Squicks him out.
Put on a Bus: One story arc features a visit by Calvin's Uncle Max, whom Watterson first intended to be a recurring character. But while writing the story he realized Max wasn't bringing out any new sides to Calvin, and also found it awkward to write around Max not addressing his brother and sister-in-law by name, so Uncle Max boarded a plane and went home, never to appear in the strip again.
Radish Cure: Calvin's mom lets Calvin smoke a cigarette his grandpa left behind. He really doesn't enjoy it, but the Aesop he learns was not to trust his mother.
Rain Dance: Calvin attempts a "snow dance" to get school cancelled. It doesn't work.
Reality Ensues: Almost a Running Gag in this strip. One instance: Calvin actually gets an A on a paper for once. The (large) center panel is a huge, mid-city celebration, with confetti, cheering spectators, a gigantic Calvin statue and Calvin himself riding in a limo with the key to the city. Unfortunately, back in reality, Ms. Wormwood just moves along to more classwork, much to a deflated Calvin's chagrin.
Another instance: Calvin is in the car with Mom and imagines that he is a daredevil pilot flying low over the Grand Canyon. He says this is where they'd go if he was driving. Mom spoils his fantasy by pointing out that he is not driving and that Arizona is not on the way to the grocery store.
Reality Subtext: Countless strips were based on exchanges between Watterson and his syndicate.
Reclusive Artist: Watterson rarely gave interviews or public statements while drawing the strip, and since it ended he's all but disappeared from the public eye.
During his political cartooning years, he did the same, as well as skipping award presentations in his honor and ignoring the demands of his superiors, no matter how minor. This reclusive nature seems to point to a personal issue with people rather than concern for the well-being of his craft.
There's only one (maybe two) known photographs of him as well. He did sometimes caricature himself outside the comic though.
Recursive Reality: Calvin once grew to the size of a galaxy and found a door that led back to his own room.
Refuge in Audacity: Several examples. Calvin would occasionally do this, often in an attempt to baffle Miss Wormwood and get out of doing actual schoolwork.
Calvin: Miss Wormwood, could we arrange our seats in a circle and have a little discussion? Specifically, I'd like to debate whether cannibalism ought to be grounds for leniency in murders, since it's less wasteful.
Rogues Gallery: Calvin imagines many of the people he knows as Stupendous Man's enemies: Susie becomes Annoying Girl, Miss Wormwood is the Crab Teacher, Rosalyn mutates into Baby Sitter Girl, and Calvin's Mom is his Arch-EnemyMom-Lady.
Rule 34: It's the example given in the common image illustrating the concept. And, yes, there really is. Badly drawn, to boot.
Certain aspects of Calvin's personality are inconsistent. In particular, in some strips he only wants to play outside, while in others he can't imagine doing anything but watching TV, usually dependent on which one his parents least want him to do, or just for an opportunity to mock television.
Running Gag: Many. The Transmogrifier, the bicycle, the Noodle Incident, Calvin's "snow art," and the recurring bedtime story Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie, to name a few.
The Hamster Huey gag is played on when his dad snaps from being forced to read it every single night and instead gives them a new take on the story.
(Calvin and Hobbes lying in bed, eyes wide open) Calvin: Wow, the story was different this time. Hobbes: Do you think the townsfolk will ever find Hamster Huey's head?
Other notable running gags include Calvin's annual struggle to be "good" enough in December to avoid the wrath of Santa, Calvin being ambushed by Hobbes at moments when he least expects it, and of course Calvin's alter egos.
Calvin's hatred of baths and his tendency to hide or throw tantrums at bath time.
Does Calvin's fictitious flamethrower count?
Additionally, a good number of running gags revolve around Calvin's dad:
Calvin's political polls on his dad.
Dad's camping trips, that always make Mom and Calvin miserable.
Calvin asking his dad a question, and Dad responding with an elaborate answer that is complete nonsense. For example, why do you close your eyes when you sneeze? Because otherwise the force of the explosion would blow your eyeballs out of their sockets, they'd dangle on your face by the optic nerve, and you'd have to aim them with your hands when you want to look at something.
Calvin grossing Susie out at the school lunch table:
Calvin: Processed lunch meat is pretty scary. What are those little specks anyway? Lizard parts? Who knows? And this "skin." I heard it used to be made of intestine, but I think nowadays it's plastic. Of course, they dye and wax fruit so it looks better. It's like eating a candle. Yep, we'd probably be dead now if it wasn't for Twinkies.
Susie: And Mom wonders why I'm so hungry after school.
Sadist Teacher: Calvin sees Miss Wormwood as being one of these. In truth, Miss Wormwood is probably a decent teacher, she's just too boring for a hyperactive kid like Calvin, which of course is what makes her classes so hard for him to sit through. Kids like Susie who study hard have no problem with her. As Bill Watterson puts it, she seriously believes in the value of a good education, so needless to say, she's an unhappy person when she has to put up with the likes of Calvin.
Calvin: I want a high-paying job when I get out of here! I want opportunity!
Miss Wormwood: In that case, young man, I suggest you start working harder. What you get out of school depends on what you put into it.
Calvin: Oh…then forget it.
Sanity Ball: When Calvin and Hobbes are interacting, Hobbes has the ball. When Calvin's parents, Miss Wormwood, or Rosalyn enter the scene, overly imaginative Calvin usually has the ball. When it's just Calvin's mom and dad, Mom has the ball. When Susie shows up, Calvin's typical reaction is throwing the Sanity Ball at her and running away.
Calvin gets frustrated trying to build a model airplane and smashes it to shrapnel with a hammer. Then he tells Hobbes that the plane "got hit by anti-aircraft guns."
Hobbes: Your planes do tend to run into those, don't they?
Scandalgate: In one strip, where Calvin pretends that his dad is an elected official, he mentions major scandals during his dad's administration, such as "Bedtimegate" and "Homeworkgate."
Scenery Porn: The Spaceman Spiff segues often include amazing arid alien landscapes. Bill Watterson admits that he didn't make them up on his own, but they're illustrations of the desert scenery of the United States, which he figures are as wonderfully alien a landscape as Mars.
Also subverted in a strip where Calvin is Watching the Sunset, there is a great panoramic drawing of the scene, and he's complaining about the shows he's missing.
The strips featuring Calvin's wagon typically exploit the liberty of the Sunday strip to give us some great visuals of the hilly forest, while Calvin and Hobbes discuss some philosophical matter.
Calvin: Ha! I've got a great word and it's on a "Double word score" box! Hobbes: "ZQFMGB" isn't a word! It doesn't even have a vowel! Calvin: It is so a word! It's a worm found in New Guinea! Everyone knows that! Hobbes: I'm looking it up. Calvin: You do that, and I'll look up that 12-letter word you played with all the Xs and Js! Hobbes: …What's your score for ZQFMGB? Calvin:957.note Doubly funny when you realize that when doubling an integer, the product will of necessity be even, and 957 is an odd number.
The Scream: Calvin, for five panels, upon learning Rosalyn is coming over.
Mom: Take a breath before you pass out on the floor!
Calvin again, out of fear, as his dad attempts to teach him to ride a bike:
Dad: Think about how impressed your friends will be! Think about how much fun you'll have! ... think about inhaling.
Spaceman Spiff, faced with the ultimate weapon of interrogation: a calm discussion of wholesome principles!
Screw This, I'm Outta Here: In this strip, Calvin decides to go into Stupendous Man mode while Rosalyn is babysitting him. Hobbes leaves and comments "I'm going to get in bed now and avoid the rush".
The Scrooge: Calvin's dad is a penny-pincher, particularly when it comes to heating the house. Once, when Calvin asks him to turn the heat up, he instead tells Calvin to go and stand outside for a few minutes so when he comes back in it will seem warm by comparison.
Calvin (from outside): I'm telling the newspapers about you, dad!
Second Place Is for Losers: This is Calvin's attitude in regards to the school safety poster contest. His "Be careful or be roadkill!" poster loses out (for obvious reasons) to Susie's entry, leading him to rant to both Hobbes and his dad about this.
Security Cling: Up to Eleven after Hobbes feigns a lethal pounce on Calvin, scaring him half to death. Calvin holds onto Mom so tight that it looks like he's attached to her with velcro. His parents think the little guy is scared out of his mind because of the comic book he was reading at the time (bonus— Hobbes, in "stuffed animal" form, is in pounce position in the last panel, just as he would be in "real tiger" form).
Calvin (cracking an egg above the stove with only one eye open): The secret to making life fun is making little challenges for yourself. Hobbes: Like the challenge of explaining the stove and floor to your mom? Calvin: Rats. See if there's another carton in the fridge, willya?
Serious Business: Chewing gum, which has as many as 12 consumer magazines dedicated to it.
Moe: Gimme a quarter, Twinky. Calvin: Your simian countenance suggests a heritage unusually rich in species diversity. Moe: What? Calvin: Here you go. (tosses him a quarter) That was worth 25 cents.
Also (this is an earlier strip—from Moe's first appearance, in fact):
Calvin: Moe, I was wondering something. Are your maladjusted antisocial tendencies the product of your berserk pituitary gland? (Beat Panel) Moe: What? Calvin: (looks out to the Fourth Wall) Isn't he great, folks? Let's give him a big hand!
Severed Head Sports: Calvin builds a snowman that plays ten-pin bowling with another snowman's head.
Shoot the Messenger: Lampshaded by Calvin when he is sent to the principal's office for shouting "BORING!" at one of Miss Wormwood's lectures.
Shout-Out: In the tenth anniversary book, Watterson notes that Miss Wormwood is named after the apprentice devil in The Screwtape Letters. He also comments on naming his leads after theologian Jean Calvin and philosopher Thomas Hobbes.
In an early Sunday strip when Calvin and his parents went to an art museum, in one panel, his parents are admiring a Krazy Kat landscape.
Hobbes once does Calvin's hair for school picture day. Calvin keeps asking him how it looks and Hobbes finally tells him that he looks like Astro Boy. Upon hearing that, Calvin exclaims that he can't wait to get his picture taken.
One Spaceman Spiff strip has him finding a planet with a city and civilization that are the size of ants, likely an ode to the Twilight Zone episode "The Little People".
In an arc in which Calvin gets turned into an owl with his transmogrifier gun, when he realizes that owls don't have to go to school, he starts singing the "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah" song from Song of the South.
Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: Calvin's religion, so much as he can be said to have one, is Santa Claus. He's been known to beg forgiveness at the sky when threatened with the "Naughty" list, though his arguments boil down to half-truths and legalese.
He also attempted to overpower bad weather with the sheer force of his words. Twice.
"It's man against the elements! Conscious being versus insentient nature! My wits against your force! WE'LL see who triumphs!"
Done in one strip, where Calvin sneezes so hard that he launches himself into space—and sends himself back with another sneeze.
There's also this one strip where Calvin's head explodes from a particularly violent sneeze. Turns out, he was pretending. It was still pretty damn funny, though …
Snowball Fight: A recurring trope, most often Calvin vs. Hobbes or Susie.
Snowlems: The Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons.
Solar Powered Magnifying Glass: Stupendous Man uses a giant magnifying glass from an observatory telescope in order to fry Calvin's school off the map. Calvin's mom doesn't believe him when he says that the school got fried, and still makes him do his math homework.
Somewhere, a Palaeontologist Is Crying: Readily apparent in early strips where dinosaurs are concerned, which Watterson admits to drawing based on information he remembered from the 60s. After getting caught up on modern palaeontology he was able to draw them much more accurately.
Spiritual Successor: Some readers have remarked that the current comic Frazz features a main character that looks and talks like a grown up Calvin would. In online chats the creator admitted to the similarities, but said that they were unintentional, although Watterson was a huge influence on his work.
Spoof Aesop: All over the place. The lesson Calvin learned about the Snow goon incident was "Snow goons are bad news."
Squirrels in My Pants: Subverted: Calvin actually had a hole in his pocket that some pennies dropped through.
Stable Time Loop: Shamelessly subverted: Calvin goes two hours forward to try to get an essay that he should have written assuming that he got it done, only to discover that his future self did the same thing two hours ago to no avail. Rather than giving up, they then decide to go back in time with the intention of beating up Calvin's self from somewhere in the middle for the same reason. While all this is worked out, past and future Hobbes both write a story about the whole time travel debacle, and it gets an A+.
Starfish Aliens: With Calvin's imagination? You bet. A lot of his aliens end up having rather human personalities, though.
Stealth Insult: Hobbes gets in a lot of these. One example, from a strip where Calvin made wings for himself out of construction paper:
Hobbes: If paper feathers are all it takes to fly, don’t you think we’d have heard about it before? Calvin: It takes an uncommon mind to think of these things, Hobbes. Hobbes: I'd agree with that.
The same joke, substituting an incomplete set of playing cards for marbles, is used in the next strip:
Calvin: "I'm not playing with a full deck!"
Stop Copying Me: A few examples. When Calvin does it to Hobbes, he is stopped by Hobbes quoting from an incomprehensible philosophy text. (But first he tries insulting himself, and Calvin answers, "At least you have the courage to admit it.)
When Calvin does it to his dad, his dad stops him by saying, "I forfeit all my desserts for a week." So Calvin accepts his dad's "forfeited" desserts.
Sunday Strip: After doing normal Sunday strips for the first few years of the series—"normal" meaning in this case that they were designed so that the first two or three panels could be left off at the discretion of individual page editors without changing too much—Watterson negotiated the right to lay out his Sunday strips however he wanted. This resulted in unique strips, such as some with only three panels (an inset in the top left, the joke itself as a panorama, and a small punchline in the bottom right, like the "Tyrannosaurs in F-14s" strip mentioned above) and some strips with dozens of panels.
Take Our Word for It: Calvin's favorite bedtime story, "Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie", in Calvin and Hobbes. As Bill Watterson explains in the comic's 10th anniversary book, "Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie (like the Noodle Incident I've referred to in several strips) is left to the reader's imagination, where it's sure to be more outrageous."
And taken to another level where Calvin's father is frustrated with Calvin wanting to hear the story every night despite having heard it enough to have the whole thing memorized, so he changes it a bit. The only clue we get is a terrified Hobbes asking Calvin "Do you think the townspeople will ever find Hamster Huey's head?"
Maybe inspired by Emil, who's Calvin a hundred years earlier, and has been involved in one incident the narrator repeatedly informs us he or she "Has promised the parents not to talk about."
Take That: Bill Watterson has used Calvin and Hobbes to mock modern art, art criticism, and superhero comic books. Either Calvin uses phrases copied verbatim from art journals to describe his snow men, or his breathless praises of comic books as an art form are interrupted by comments like, "Oh no, Captain Steroid's getting his kidneys punched out with an I-beam!" Watterson's career peaked during the Dark Age of western comics, which likely influenced his opinions quite a bit, but as to why he didn't seek out fellow "comics can be art" proponents such as Dave Sim and Scott McCloud and join up with the Graphic Novel movement is a mystery.
Watterson directed a few Take Thats at Garfield creator Jim Davis over the years. In a rare 1987 interview, he harshly condemned Davis' comic strip U.S. Acres, calling it stupid and badly done. In The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book, Watterson extensively discusses why he hates merchandising, and how it robs a comic strip of its heart and soul. He even writes about how a cartoonist risks becoming a "factory foreman", remarking on how he went into cartooning "to draw cartoons, not to run a corporate empire." He disgustedly remarks on how he would have sold out his own creation if he'd done this. Given the context, it was pretty clear who he was talking about. Granted, since Jim Davis stated that he created Garfield for the purpose of making money, and probably didn't intend there to be much of that deeper significance in which Watterson puts so much stock, it's unlikely that Watterson would have liked it anyway.
Bill Watterson's foreword to Bill Amend's first FoxTrot book is an extended take that against Jim Davis. For example, Watterson champions Quincy the Iguana for not thinking "the cute thoughts that quickly get most comic strip animals in the greeting card business."
Of course, one could also make the case that there are no Quincy the Iguana cards because the average person thinks Reptiles Are Abhorrent.
Watterson had Calvin reading from Chewing, a magazine that rated chewing gums in excruciating detail (e.g., "[T]he top five brands of chewing gum based on flavor retention, elasticity, bubble capacity, and chewing rebound"), offered advice for chewing it, and otherwise was a spot-on parody of every review mag.
In one strip, Calvin specifically states that the specified hobby magazines like Chewing are meant to make people feel special due to some interest they have so the salesmen can make them buy stupid stuff like Bubblegum-chewing equipment. It's not really a take that on review magazines, but rather hobby merchandising.
Specifically, Watterson based Chewing off a lot of bicycling magazines he'd read.
Watterson made several strips with subtle jabs at his editors and the syndication people.
There is a Take That related to Calvin and Hobbes, although not in the strip itself. For strips in Bloom County that parodied cartoon cats that featured characters such as Garfield and Hobbes, Bill Watterson retaliated hilariously with this comic◊. In response Berke Breathed said this:
"I have committed other thefts with a clean and unfettered conscience. Garfield was too calculated and too successful not to freely raid for illicit character cameos. Calvin and Hobbes was too good not to. Calvin creator Bill Watterson took these thefts in stride and retaliated in private with devastatingly effective illustrated salvos, hitting me in my most vulnerable places. Bill's sketch is an editorial comment on my addiction to the expensive sport of power boating and the moral compromises needed to fund it. That's me doing the kicking. The chap on the dock represents my cartoon syndicate boss, which says it all, methinks."
In one comic Calvin talks about wanting to be a talk radio host. It ends with him saying "Imagine getting paid to act like a six-year-old!" The strip in question was published in 1994, right around when Rush Limbaugh was first beginning to attract a wide audience.
Given what Watterson says about the term "graphic novel" in the Tenth Anniversary Book, it's possible he had a very cynical viewpoint of the term and had his impressions of comic books too colored by the contemporary examples he had in front of him to listen to anyone talking about it being a legitimate art form.
That's light compared to Calvin's other bone-headed stunts. He once tried to fly with construction paper feathers taped to his arms and had Hobbes throw him off a cliff, where he crashed PAINFULLY. Next he jumped out of his bedroom window using a bed sheet as a make-shift parachute thinking he'll float down. He doesn't, and falls like a rock, right onto ROSE BUSHES.
To Serve Man: Spaceman Spiff sometimes views aliens as this. One time he finds out that a certain planet's McZargald's has served over 75 million Earthlingburgers.
Totem Pole Trench: They try this to sneak into a movie theater on their own. With Hobbes as the head, leading the ticket lady to say "This is a new one".
Trademark Favorite Food: Hobbes loves tuna note salmon in later strips, Calvin likes Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs.
Trailer Park Tornado Magnet: In one strip where Calvin pretends to be a tornado while messing up his room, the narration reads "The twister searches for a trailer park! Finding one, it touches down!"
Unnamed Parent: Calvin's parents are just Mom and Dad, or "dear" to each other. Word of God says they have no names, because "as far as the strip is concerned, they are important simply as Calvin's mom and dad." This results in a near-total lack of "on-screen" relatives for Calvin (save one Uncle Max), since they could never address Calvin's parents by name.
As the strip went on Watterson broke his own rule, and fleshed Calvin's parents out more and more, sometimes writing strips where Calvin and Hobbes don't appear at all. See A Day in the Limelight.
Unreliable Narrator: Calvin usually portrays himself as being a victim when there are times he's not, Played for Laughs. It's posible that the Free-Range Children is a case of this—even though Calvin appears to live behind a forest, it looks practically like a national park.
Unusual Euphemism: Calvin's dad, after dropping a Christmas present on his foot: "Slippin'-rippin'-dang-fang-rotten-zarg-barg-a-ding-dong!"
Spaceman Spiff talks like a B-movie hero. "Zounds!"
"Zounds" is actually a 16th century curse word, abbreviated from "God's wounds!" Much like saying "holy cow" instead of taking the Lord's name in vain, it was a curse that was changed to a less blasphemously offensive form.
Verb This!: In one of Calvin's comics, in response to a character's assertion that he is merely toying with her, Amazon Girl yells "Toy with this!" and uses a hyper-phase distortion blaster to blast a spine-shattering hole through his torso.
Visual Pun: In one strip, Calvin and Hobbes toast to their friendship … and then chow down on some toast.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Our heroes sometimes come across this way, particularly with the number of fights they get into, the times Hobbes tackles or outright tries to prey on Calvin, the insults they often exchange, and so forth.
Calvin and Susie are also this. Despite their cycle of Calvin being a smart-aleck or trying to pelt her with snowballs and ending with Susie KO'ing him, they still hang out together very often; for instance, when Calvin is forced outside by his dad after watching Saturday morning TV, he immediately goes to Susie's, who happily invites him in.
Invoked by Hobbes when Calvin sent away for a motorized propeller beanie. While he restlessly waits the six weeks for the beanie to arrive, Calvin keeps dreaming about how he'll be able to use it to fly around the neighborhood. When it arrives, it turns out to be an ordinary beanie with a propeller.
Another has the pair on one of their dangerous wagon-riding adventures while Calvin argues that having is much better than wanting, and he can't think of anything he would rather have later than right away. Hobbes says, "Death comes to mind" as the wagon careens off a cliff.
In another strip, Calvin muses on the idea that when you get something it's new and exciting, but that when you have something it's old and boring, concluding that it's important to keep getting new things. Hobbes remarks, "I feel like I'm in some advertiser's dream."
Wasteful Wishing: Calvin asks Hobbes what he'd wish for; Hobbes says he wants a sandwich. Calvin doesn't understand why and wishes for enormous wealth. Hobbes gets his wish, and Calvin obviously does not.
What Happened to the Mouse?: After the story arc in which there is a break-in to Calvin's house, nothing is ever said of it again. Although the family eventually get a new TV to replace the one that was stolen, it's never mentioned if the burglars were caught.
When It All Began: The very first strips show how Calvin 'caught' Hobbes in a tiger trap baited with tuna fish. Bill Watterson later wrote he thought it was important to develop how the characters actually met at the time, but later realized it was superfluous. The meeting now contains a bit of Fridge Logic in that Hobbes is seen by everyone else to be Calvin's stuffed tiger, but Calvin supposedly caught him in his backyard …
Like lots of other things in the strip, Watterson wants us to put all these puzzle pieces together.
Where the Hell Is Springfield?: We're never told precisely where Calvin and co. reside, but it's presumably an outer suburb (with access to woods, fields, and other more rural areas) near some Midwestern city.
They live in a purple country and their house is right next to the letter "E" in "States."
And an hour and a half's drive away from the coast.
In The Essential Calvin and Hobbes, which includes cartoons from the collections Calvin and Hobbes and Something Under the Bed Is Drooling, the back cover features a scene of a giant Calvin rampaging through a town. The scene is based on Watterson's home town of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and Calvin is holding the Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop, an iconic candy and ice cream shop overlooking the town's namesake falls.
Who Are You Calling Names?: In one story arc, when Calvin confronts his own good-natured duplicate after the latter tries winning Susie's love:
Calvin: There you are! "Good" Calvin: There you are! Calvin: What's the big idea giving Susie a mushy Valentine?! Are you nuts?!? "Good" Calvin: She wouldn't even accept it! You're such a jerk, she always thinks you're up to something! Calvin: Who are you calling a jerk, you namby-pamby goody-goody! "Good" Calvin: You, you self-centered, conniving brat! [they fight each other] Hobbes: [looks at the fourth wall] Wow, how existential can you get?
William Telling: In one strip where Calvin tries to knock a snowball of a snowman's head.
Wish Fulfillment: If looked at in a certain context (and taking note of the numerous clues sprinkled throughout), the strip is Bill Watterson wishing he was still a kid growing up in the Sixties.
Women Are Wiser: Susie includes this in her imaginings of what adult married life would be like. Then again, she imagines herself married to Calvin, so …
Calvin's mom is also this, especially when dealing with her husband's obsessions such as camping and biking.
The relationship between Calvin's parents is completely (and hilariously) inverted in one strip where Calvin leaves Hobbes in the woods:
Calvin's Mom: Any luck?
Calvin's Dad: Of course not! How am I going to find a stuffed tiger in the woods at night? Why can't Calvin keep track of his toys? I must be crazy to be out here…
Calvin: Hey Dad. Know what I figured out? The meaning of words isn't a fixed thing! Any word can mean anything! By giving words new meanings, ordinary English can become an exclusionary code! Two generations can be divided by the same language! To that end, I'll be inventing new definitions for common words, so we'll be unable to communicate. Don't you think that's totally Spam? It's lubricated! Well, I'm phasing.
Father: (Making the peace sign) Marvy. Fab. Far out.
"Explain Newton's First Law of Motion in your own words." "Yakka foob mog. Grug pubbawup zink wattoom gazork. Chumble spuzz."
World of Snark: Nearly every main character has many sarcastic moments, though some of them more so than others.
Calvin: What are you talking about? I hit you in the back.
Susie: It knocked my eyeball out! Find it and pack it in snow so they can save it! Ow! Ow!
Calvin: (bends over to look for it) Gosh, did you really lose your eyeball? I didn't know they came out! Wow. I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to knock it out. Can I see the socket? Boy, where do you suppose it rolled.
Susie: (kicking him in the backside) SOMEWHERE OVER THERE, POOP HEAD!!
Write What You Know: In-universe, this is the reason Calvin gives a bemused Hobbes for his attempt to use "man who flicks through channels with a remote control" as a trope in a story he writes.
Uncle Max looks exactly like that, minus the glasses. (Max was the brother of Calvin's dad, so family resemblance is justifiable.)
Yes Virginia: Defied. An early strip actually depicts Calvin's parents setting out presents for him on Christmas. Some Imagine Spots depict Santa Claus, but there is never any proof given that Santa Claus might be real.
There was that time Santa Claus watched him from the North Pole while deciding whether he was "good" or not but wasn't proof to Calvin since he obviously didn't know about it. Calvin even hung a lampshade on it once by asking why Santa doesn't just reveal himself, and even compares it to God.