When Calvin flies on a "magic carpet" to go see his dad at work, he and Hobbes yell and wave when they see him in his office, and then complain that he doesn't notice them. Why didn't they just fly up to the window and knock on it? I understand that the story could never work without Dad not noticing him, since the world in which Calvin can fly on the hallway carpet is different from the real one. Still bugs me a little.
It's quite possible they simply didn't think of it. Calvin isn't exactly the best in the world at thinking things through — especially when a subject bores or frustrates him. So when waving and hollering doesn't work he's so annoyed that he gives up and flies home instead of trying other ways of getting Dad to notice him.
Just about everything in the strip can argue for Hobbes being real or not, both hypotheses work. Except for the time Hobbes tied Calvin to a chair with the knots behind him. How could this kid tie himself to a chair with the knots behind him? Funny bit, but for me it was the final straw. If Calvin is indeed tied to a chair with the knots behind him, there was somebody with opposable thumbs helping him. It obviously wasn't his parents and as far as we know Susie Derkins is his only "friend." By process of elimination we are forced to conclude that Hobbes is real.
Not to mention the instances in which Hobbes leaves behind cat tracks in the snow/dirt. Imaginations don't leave footprints. Or the time he was locked out of his own house.
You have not seen the type of trouble people just learning to tie knots can get themselves into. This troper has witnessed much worse catastrophes in attempts to teach new Boy Scouts how to knot things. The fact that Calvin managed to do this while seated is more difficult, but Calvin has always been one to take a small problem and make it a major disaster.
^This. At the risk of turning this discussion in a somewhat "family unfriendly" direction, there is a subculture of bdsm known as "self-bondage" which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Some self-bondage techniques allow you to securely tie yourself up and then escape later, but there's always a danger of getting "stuck" and being unable to untie yourself. If Hobbes is imaginary then this is explains what happened to Calvin.
Those knots looked awfully well done and without extra loops or slack to allow for self-binding. I stand by my original conclusion.
There's also a comic strip in which Hobbes and Calvin are on the run from a swarm of oncoming hornets. Upon discovering that they were only riled up because Calvin was throwing rocks at their nest, Hobbes strips off Calvin's clothes and leaves him hanging by his underpants on a tree branch far above his head. While it is technically possible for Calvin to have taken off his clothes and climbed the tree itself, this Troper finds it very hard to believe that he could have hung himself in such a fashion just for fun, especially if there really was a swarm of hornets after him.
To be fair, unless there is a third party witness the hanging from a tree might only be happening in Calvin's imagination.
As well as the hornets.
Don't forget all the times that Hobbes has tackled Calvin, either when he's coming in the front door or simply at random. Calvin's Mom constantly notices her son's scratches and bruises, and often wonders how Calvin could get so dirty at school, whether he stepped on a land mine, or whatever else. You'd think not even Calvin would be crazy enough to constantly maim himself if Hobbes was fake.
There was a strip where Calvin took a photograph as Hobbes tackled him through the door. The picture showed "stuffed" Hobbes in the air, and Calvin's dad concluded that Calvin simply tossed him in the air.
That's how Calvin's dad saw the picture. Calvin sees the picture the same way he sees the real Hobbes, as shown in another strip.
Cuts and scrapes like those can be produced simply by jumping into a gravel pit. There are methods other than "ambushed by tiger" to obtain injuries like that.
Too true. But again, that means that Calvin is deliberately jumping into gravel pits on purpose to injure himself while pretending that his tiger is real. Yeah, this troper prefers the Hobbes-is-real argument.
He is a six year old boy. The idea that he would regularly climb or jump into places where he could get dirty and scraped up while pretend-fighting with his stuffed animal isn't that unreasonable.
There was also the series of strips where Calvin brought a snowgoon to life, and it tried to attack him. He goes running into the house, and his mother immediately looks out the very door that Calvin came running in through, only to find a snowgoon on the doorstep. She immediately assumed Calvin built it, overlooking the fact that there was no room for Calvin to have done so. It was literally taking up the entire door step, with no way for Calvin to have gotten around it to get inside. Spooky. See it here: http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/2011/01/04
And later in that storyline, the snow goons start building hundreds of snow goons themselves. There is seriously no way one kid could build them all.
The answer is simple. Calvin is schizophrenic.
You mean he has Dissociative Identity Disorder. That's not what "schizophrenic" means.
That's my it-just-bugs-me: psychoanalyzing and diagnosing Calvin. Enough already. Calvin is just a wildly imaginative child. He does not have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, DDNOS, BPD, ADHD, PDQ, COD, UPS or MSNBC.
Sad as it is for a six year old boy, my belief was that the story of Hobbes jumping on him every day was what he told his mom, and that the bruises where actually from Moe beating him up every day.
That had never occurred to me. I'm sad now.
Since Calvin is able to see, hear, and interact with Hobbes, then he would have Schizophrenia as well as Dissociative Identity Disorder, assuming that there is something wrong with him psychologically, which I don't like to think there is. On the bruises being his way of hiding his being bullied by Moe, it may be that I just plain don't want to believe it, but I don't think it's sound. Calvin's scenes in school never depict him with bruises, and he seems to be submissive to Moe, going at great lengths to avoid being hit. He also seems to be rather open with his mom regarding his problems with Moe, since when Moe is extorting Calvin for money, his mother knows. There's also the strips where he hides behind the door, tries to get Susie to act as bait, and even goes so far as to CUT UP HIS FATHER'S BROOM in order to make a decoy. To go to such great lengths just to preserve a flimsy lie doesn't seem realistic, even for a boy as imaginative as Calvin. Besides, I never thought his encounters with Hobbes left him terribly beat up at all; it always seemed to me he was just dirty ("stepped on a land mine" could be interpreted as being incredibly dirty) from rolling in the mud, with a few scratches, scrapes, or bruises from twigs or rocks he may have bumped into, all this occurring before his mother noticed he was home. I don't find it hard to believe that Calvin's first action upon coming home would be to grab Hobbes and then go play.
To me the answer is that if Hobbes is not real then the strip is unreliable, especially when it focuses on just Hobbes and Calvin. Calvin being tied to the chair was all in his imagination.
Given the many depictions of Calvin as a spaceman, detective, vengeful God, etc, I think the strip was very clear that it was unreliable at times.
But when we saw Calvin drawn as, say, Spaceman Spiff, it was clear to the viewing audience that we were seeing inside his imagination. His mother never saw him as a tiger after he transmogrified himself. But she did see him with his hands tied behind his back.
That was his father, actually. And he could not understand, how Calvin could do that to himself. Watterson noted that this is indeed an important moment: he said: "the question remains, really, how did he get that way? His dad assumes that Calvin tied himself up somehow, so well that he couldn't get out. Calvin explains that Hobbes did this to him and he tries to place the blame on Hobbes entirely, and it's never resolved in the strip. Again I don't think that's just a cheap way out of the story. I like the tension that that creates, where you've got two versions of reality that do not mix. Something odd has happened and neither makes complete sense, so you're left to make out of it what you want."
I've actually done that tied up in a chair thing to myself before. You just tie the knots and then sit down.
My explanation is that it's a work of postmodern art, meaning that nothing is concretely "true" or "real".
Someone on the WMG page suggested that Hobbes is a Pooka, like Harvey. That...just makes so much sense!
And your explanation probably is more in line with Watterson's own intentions, as he's said before that the point of Hobbes and how other people see him isn't whether or not he's real, but that everybody has different perceptions of reality. In short, it's all subjective. So this troper thinks that the people obsessively trying to deduce whether Hobbes is real or a simple figment of Calvin's imagination are missing the point.
I think the first troper is wondering why Bill Watterson didn't like it and didn't allow it to be reprinted. This troper would also like to know why.
'Xactly. Most of the examples of Lost Episodes are stuff that had to be taken away due to crossing the line. This alternate strip is just... unfunny, at most?
The original strip was not reprinted because people were afraid it would encourage kids to climb into washing machines (since Calvin expresses a desire to bath in one like Hobbes did).
And yet they run a strip where Calvin takes a bath in the toilet. Go figure.
Arguably, it's less dangerous for a kid to try to flush himself down a toilet than for a kid to climb into a running washing machine.
Did anyone else ever try to make up or imagine names for Calvin's parents? I like to imagine them as being named Bill and Melissa, for obvious reasons. And yes, I know that Word of God says that they only matter as Calvin's Mom and Calvin's Dad, but let's not forget that Watterson broke his own rule by developing them both considerably as the series went on.
Yes! I had always thought of them as looking extremely like a Jonathan and Jane. I also had a last name in mind for the family, but I can never remember for the life of me what it was.
As a child, I always imagined Calvin's Dad's name to be Tom, because I had an uncle Tom who looked just like him.
Helen and James.
They're both named "Dear."
Well, if you go with the (at the time of this writing) last entry on the WMG page, his dad's name is Joe. As for his mom, I have no idea.
I always saw Calvin's dad as a "Dan" for some reason, and Calvin's mom as "Lucy." Why? Calvin makes a joke about how he'll name an Australopithecus woman after Mom someday. And for some reason, I always attach the last name "Brooks" to Calvin's family. Calvin Brooks. I dunno.
This troper, while enjoying Calvin & Hobbes immensely, has always been bugged by one detail: While normal kids have imaginary friends, Hobbes almost qualify as an imaginary enemy. I mean, half the times, he just bugs Calvin, bullies him, makes fun of him, etc. What's the point of having an imaginary friend if you imagine him to treat you barely better than everybody else does?
Armchair (okay, swivel chair) psychology time: I don't think Hobbes is an imaginary friend in the strictest sense. My read is that he's supposed to be the ego/superego to Calvin's id, except that rather than exercise any real restraint on Calvin's destructive (and self-destructive) impulses, he merely comments passively on them. Of course that does nothing to explain why Hobbes is constantly beating the holy bejeezus out of Calvin by pouncing on him...
From Calvin's perspective Hobbes isn't an Imaginary Friend, he's a real person with his own unique personality. From that perspective it's completely logical that Hobbes would be at odds with Calvin's views and behavior, and since Hobbes is manifested as a tiger it is also logical that he display these disagreements in a violent/aggressive fashion since Hobbes constantly displays legitimate tiger instincts (as opposed to his made-up ones, such as good math skills that is to say).
In addition to the above tropers' points of view, you have to admit it's funny when Calvin chases Hobbes.
Calvin: I am a man of few words. Hobbes: Maybe if you read more, you'd have a larger vocabulary. (Calvin, of course, thinks its a Stealth Insult and chases Hobbes)
Does anyone think that Calvin's parents' criticism of his snowman-building is a bit too critical? If I was Calvin's father, and I saw my son making the enormous snow-monster devouring snowmen (you know the one), I certainly wouldn't think to myself, "The schools don't assign enough homework." I'd be thinking about the possible moneymaking opportunities involved with having a natural-born snow sculptor for a son. Yes, I know things like that were more or less Watterson's way of criticizing social prejudices of art forms (or something like that), but this sort of thing needs to be brought up.
The real interesting thing is, no one else in the neighborhood sees anything in Calvin's snow art either. Maybe the city is a crossroads for the creatively sterile, and Calvin (and Susie, somewhat) are literally the only people with imagination around.
Which would explain why all the kids that aren't Calvin or Susie seem so mean-spirited and the adults don't dismiss Calvin as an over-imaginative kid: none of them have much imagination. The reason Susie is the closest thing to Calvin's friend is because she's the only other person who can imagine things anywhere near like he does. Also, she was worried for her educational future during the strips where she and Calvin got sent to the Principal because her parents have such high expectations of her because they see nothing important about her imaginative games.
Calvin lives in Ohio. There's your explanation.
To be fair, Calvin's snow art tends to be rather... disturbing. Calvin's parents would probably think better of his art if so much of it didn't involve dismembering.
Indeed, since one strip reveals that the neighbors have supplemented their fences with large trees just so they don't have to look at Calvin's Little Shops of Horrors.
Calvin may be at that stage where he does macabre art. There are children around Calvin's age who have done some odd/disturbing things when it comes to art, though it tends to vary individually.
I know it's a small point, but one strip that has always bugged me is the one where Calvin and Hobbes are playing Scrabble, where the conversation goes
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, and I'll look up that 12-letter word you played with all the Xs and Js!
Hobbes: What's your score for ZQFMGB?
He got an odd number of points for playing a word on a "Double Word Score" box. That doesn't make sense.
That or Fridge Brilliance - he cheats by playing an illegal word, and cheats again by telling Hobbes the wrong score.
Since that's quite blatantly the joke of the strip, you should be calling out Hobbes for not catching it. Calling Calvin out for 957 being an odd number on a double word score box sounds like something akin to I Take Offense to That Last One.
Or, if we focus solely on the odd/even thing and not the actual score of the "word," he could have made a parallel play (i.e. B over AT for another 5 points), as opposed to solely playing through another tile.
This is the same boy who made Calvinball, can't expect him to follow the rules.
It's not the only Rule of Funny invoked in this strip. Calvin complains about Hobbes making a word with all the Xs and Js. In a typical Scrabble board, there's only one X and J. That, and I'm pretty sure you can never reach a score as high as 957 unless you used 80% of the pieces all at once.
Per Google the highest theoretically possible Scrabble word score is 1778, but the highest-scoring word ever played in a sanctioned tournament is only 365, and the highest game score is only 830.
During the arc where Calvin tried to use time travel to get out of writing a story, did the 7:30 and 8:30 Calvins (and the 8:30 Hobbes) already remember the whole thing from 6:30? 8:30 Calvin claimed to remember "what [he] said two hours ago," but he still seemed surprised at later points. ("Yeah! This is HIS fault!" "HEY!" "Oops." "YOU DID??") Did Calvin have to fake his way through the meetings at 7:30 and 8:30 from memory after returning to 6:30? Did he stay awake for hours wondering why he couldn't have just explained things to his 6:30 self at 8:30? (And if 8:30 Hobbes was the writer, working from his memories of two hours before — can't tell which is which from the relevant strip◊ — does that mean the mission to exploit a Stable Time Loop was a partial success?)
Keep in mind this is all one big Imagine Spot. What's really happening is that there's one Calvin playing around with his toy tiger in a cardboard box, stopping briefly to write a story about himself, pretending Hobbes did it. He only goes through the supposed time loop once and most importantly, he's not trying to make it all make sense, he's just creating a story in his head. And like any six year old thinking up a story, it's going to be riddled with plot holes.
Messing around with the timeline, especially in a time period as short as two hours, messes with your memories a bit, too.
I think what Hobbes meant was that there wouldn't be many babes left for him to meet because most of them had been poached.
Plus if he went to a captive breeding center to pick up chicks, he'd have all these doctors and caretakers watching him. That's not cool, man.
In all the years of reading Calvin and Hobbes, I never got over the fact that it seems not a single person in the world ever reacts to Calvin's antics with anything other than annoyance/anger. It's not just Calvin's parents or teacher, who would feel worn down over time - not even his classmates, neighbours, or random strangers ever laugh once at what he does, even the funny harmless things. I even remember one strip where Calvin's mom remarks how they get less traffic on their street thanks to Calvin's snowmen. Now imagine that there was a kid who actually made snowmen like that. Do you really think that everyone would avoid that house or would they constantly drive past to take photos? It's just an extreme Values Dissonance that while we find Calvin hysterical, everyone in his world in a humorless jackass.
I consider that 1-half-the punchline, 1-half-how Watterson views the world.
To his classmates at least, Calvin is an antisocial loner who lives entirely in a fantasy world and is prone to random outbursts that come this close to physical violence. To some extent, they might even be afraid of him.
When people in-universe find a character hilarious or quirky, it's like a comedian laughing at his own jokes. There's also the risk of making Calvin look like a Jerkass Sue. At least by calling him out all the time, it keeps Calvin's character grounded.
I can recall exactly once that someone reacts without anger. When Calvin the pterodactyl is soaring over the waves and is interrupted (angrily, for the moment) by Miss Wormwood the plesiosaur, she tells him that they are studying geography and asks him what state he lives in. His response? "Denial." She mutters "I don't suppose I can argue with that..." and Calvin the pterodactyl resumes his soaring. She's not laughing at his joke (Was he even trying to make a joke?), she's not amazed at his self-awareness, but she concedes the point to him without rancor.
It also seems that Ms. Wormwood can sympathize with Calvin in some ways. When he had a conniption due to being in school on a beautiful day with only one life, she simply told him, "Next time, try a drink of water and a few deep breaths." Not So Different indeed.
And he has made people laugh sometimes. There was one strip where he steals his dad's glasses and pretends to be him (speaking to his dad as if his dad were Calvin). While his dad doesn't find it funny, his mother is in stitches in the final panel. On another occasion, after an Imagine Spot where his personal gravity is weakened and he goes flying into the air, we see his dad wanting to hear the whole story because he finds it so interesting.
Hate to break it to you, but his dad was being sarcastic if I remember correctly.
Not exactly. He did seem to find it genuinely interesting, if only in a "Oh boy, what kind of ridiculous excuse will he come up with this time?" kind of way.
Why is Calvin so readily dismissed by everybody? He's endlessly imaginative; his vocabulary could top many an adult; his knowledge of culture and politics, though often warped by his own selfishness, is outstanding for a six-year-old; shouldn't his parents and/or Miss Wormwood be alerting the media or something? Calvin may be rambunctious, but he's certainly impressive. This bothered this troper to no end while reading the strips as a kid. Susie Derkins, while an example of a more average kid, could apply as well.
I don't know about Calvin's parents, but Miss Wormwood probably assumes Calvin's just repeating every word that comes out of his parent's mouths.
It seems to be more along the lines that everyone is frustrated that while Calvin can be genuinely brilliant, he utterly refuses to apply that brilliance to anything productive, choosing to idle away in his imaginary world and fight tooth and nail to avoid doing anything that even remotely seems like work. Most of them probably realize that if Calvin actually wanted to, he could accomplish just about anything.
The brilliance of Calvin and Hobbes is that it's not about what it's like being a kid, it's about what it feels like to be a kid. You make great snowmen, and come up with neat stories and important observations about society, and still everyone treats you like you don't matter as much as grown-ups. If you want to get really weird with canon, maybe the entire strip is from Calvin's point of view, even the "real world" parts. Perhaps words like "transmogrifier" are just a "dynamic equivalence" translation. A Calvin in our world might call it a "change-ula box-matic," but feel like he's using a cool and impressive word.
I think this hits the nail on the head. The reason Calvin's imaginative creations look so impressive to us is because we're seeing them as written and illustrated by one of the world's greatest cartoonists. In the more mundane reality inhabited by Calvin's parents, they're not so awe-inspiring. There are even early strips where Calvin's attempts at creativity (sculpting a bowl, drawing a picture, etc.) produce the sort of clumsy, unremarkable results you'd expect from a six-year-old. As the strip progressed, though, it ended up spending more and more time inside Calvin's head, where Watterson's creative brilliance has full control.
I'm not sure where I read it, but Watterson admitted that he regretted making Calvin's vocabulary so large, he felt it made Calvin's dialogue a bit unbelievable. At the same time though, that is what's funny; this is a six year old making amazing and well spoken arguments.
It's a statement on the failings of the educational system. Calvin obviously has talent, but he's in a world of adults who don't have any clue how to nurture it, or even care that much. The same could be said of his parents.
Imagine being around someone who acts the way Calvin does, every day, ALL DAY LONG. For them, it isn't funny anymore.
As Watterson once put it, Calvin has never been a literal six-year-old.
Furthermore, I can't possibly see Calvin's parents or teacher "calling the media." None of them seem attention-hungry sorts, and the very last thing that a kid like Calvin needs is more attention and more of the sense that the world revolves around him.
So, just who is Spiff? Judging from story clues, his job is to explore the universe and check out undiscovered planets. But was he hired to do it, or is he simply doing it for his own amusement? And how could he possibly eat/sleep/entertain himself in that tiny one-man spaceship?
From what I used to think as a kid: Spiff is a hired scout that his employers don't have to care about too much.
One: As such a thing is never mentioned, he probably wasn't hired, and two: Its probably something like a TARDIS.
The Spiff strips seem to be a combination parody of Flash Gordon and Star Trek. Make of that what you will.
Spiff's rocket is more of a car in space than a rocket; it's probably not meant for long journeys, only short missions that last a few hours.
Exactly. It doesn't even have an onboard toilet, unless Spiff's pilot seat has some rather interesting arrangements.
Why is it that when Hobbes is in plushie form, the fur around his eyes is orange, but when he's sentient, the fur around his eyes is white and makes a sort of mask shape?
Same reason he's twice as tall, with completely different facial features? The two forms look nothing like one another to begin with, probably to make it easier for the reader to visually distinguish them from each other.
A running gag in the strip is that the "real" world looks fairly cartoony but the bizarre world Calvin sees is more realistically drawn.
When Calvin decided that he wanted Hobbes to teach him how to be a Tiger, why didn't he just use his Transmogrifier to become a Tiger again (like when he first used it) instead of bulding a costume?
Because that would be the same story all over again. The humor from the transmogification story came from Calvin suddenly acting like a tiger and nobody else seeming to care. The humor in the dress-up story comes from Calvin failing to act like a tiger.
This complaint might pale in comparison to the "big questions" raised above, but for the past few days I've been on an Archive Binge and I noticed something strange. In one strip, Calvin's mom buys some jelly donuts and Calvin goes into graphic detail about how he doesn't like them because it's like eating a bug and having the guts squirt out. Whenever he eats a packed lunch though, it's always a jelly sandwich (sometimes with peanut butter, sometimes without). It's small, I know, but this sort of random discontinuity just sort of irked me out.
Also see the strip in which Calvin's "great idea in motion" involves drinking half of his milk, then cramming his sandwich and fruit in, and shaking the whole thing up to make a smoothie and choking it down. Calvin doesn't usually have a problem with gross things.
Calvin just doesn't like jelly donuts. But, since he's Calvin, he's not just going to say "I don't like jelly donuts", he's going to invent a creative reason why. Also, little incongruities like that are the sign of a 3-dimensional character. Real people aren't perfectly non-contradictory.
That, and jelly spread upon a slice of bread is less likely to squirt out like bug guts than jelly used to fill a doughnut.
Can be that Calvin went on in a disgusting way to get his mom from eating the jelly donut, so he could have it himself. This troper frequently grossed out his mom as a kid when she brought home something he wanted to eat.
What exactly was supposed to be the deal with Calvin's bike? Several strips indicate that the bike has a mind of its own and it's trying to kill Calvin. One memorable strip even had the bike chase Calvin through the house until he was on the roof, causing his parents to Freak Out when they saw the mess the bike made, with the implication being that if Calvin's bike doesn't kill him, his parents will. Does anyone have any idea what Watterson was trying to go for here?
Wheeled vehicles are terrifying and have a mind of their own. As someone learning to drive a car, I can relate. And it's something that Calvin finds terrifying that no one else understands at all — unlike the fear of being pounced by Hobbes, Calvin doesn't shrug it off, and his parents aren't deliberately using his fear like when they hire Rosalyn.
It's also an exaggeration of learning how to drive a bike, which for a kid is scary and often painful. That fear then gets reflected by the bike being directly out to get him.
This probably falls under Rule of Funny, but what's with Calvin's class' homework and test assignments? When I was six I couldn't even spell Byzantine Empire much less write an essay on it. No wonder he had trouble in school.
Sometimes the tests are as easy as addition, other times he's being asked to describe complex history about the discovery of the Americas, the former capital of Poland, and Newtonian physics. It all varies depending on the strip, and I assume it's just on which suits the story. If Calvin's being depicted as lazy, then the problem is usually pathetically easy. If he's being depicted as confused and overwhelmed, then the problem is often something even those who passed college may have trouble remembering.
Did the meetings with Galaxoid and Nebular actually happen or not?
At the bare minimum, Calvin brings their leaf samples to school after being shown not doing a lick of work to get any by himself. Who says aliens have to be hyperintelligent, nigh-invincible beings?
The Binocular Arc: Calvin accidentally breaks his Dads's Binoculars by "Dropping them" (By tossing them to himself, as he was running). Yet when he shows Hobbes the damage, It's in a powdered state in a box! What did he do to those Binoculars?
Maybe he was on a hill, and after he dropped them they continued to bounce down and keep breaking.
I figured he buried it with dirt, so he was dumping it out and warning Hobbes to not sneeze, as it was going to fall out on the dirt pile.
Why is Calvin blond when both of his parents are dark haired?
Recessive genes from both of them. Or it's proof for their suspicion that Calvin is accidentally not their child...
AKA "Out of Universe"
There's a bit in the 10th Anniversary collection when Watterson's commentary states that you can call comic books "graphic novels", you can make your hero a sociopath, and you can draw ridiculous amounts of violence, but comic books are still stupid. It starts off as a Take That against Nineties Anti-Heroes, but turns into a shot at comic books, period. Considering that Watterson writes a comic strip, he's not too far removed from comics himself. I'm still not sure if he was joking. Was he?
I think it was meant to be more of a Take That at Superhero comics not comics in general. He takes several less than light hearted jabs at the genre over the course of the series.
It does irritate this troper a little bit that there's the implicit assumption that comic books=super heroes. Watterson didn't invent that assumption by any means but it's bothersome to read it perpetuated.
Besides, comic books pretty much DO mean superheroes these days, besides Archie. That and Watterson seemed to be writing in the height of the Dark Age, which probably soured his impression given that he probably doesn't follow them closely.
Say that to the millions of comic book readers outside of the US and UK...
Well, in the 80s and 90s, yes. Nowadays they can be Superheroes with a twist, Alice in Wonderland with a twist, Zombies with a twist, or just every day life with a twist. (The twist being it's dark.)
Bill Watterson lived in the US and wrote for an American audience, and was talking about the American Dark Age. The comics of, say, Europe were kind of irrelevant to his subject.
As a major comic book geek, this Troper was annoyed by such a mean-spirited Take That, but some of the depictions of comics he has over the course of the strip are rather chillingly accurate.
Maybe Watterson has a personal vendetta with Alan Moore? Because that definitely seems like a shot at Watchmen
If Watchmen was the target, that it's a case of Bill Completely Missing the Point, since Watchmen was a deconstruction of the same genre Watterson is an outspoken critic of.
This troper was just pointing this out in the "New Media Are Evil" section of the main page just then. IF it was, as another troper claimed, "meant to be more of a Take That at Superhero comics not comics in general" then Watterson sure could have picked a better way to communicate it. He could have specified "Superhero comics" or he could have said "for the most part" but what he said was "comic books are still incredibly stupid." Since Calvin and Hobbes collections are technically comic books, he was, by extension, calling Calvin and Hobbes collections "incredibly stupid" whether he meant to or not.
It's especially weird that, 30 pages into the future, he says, "...It's not the medium, but the quality of perception and expression, that determines the significance of art."
It bugs me a bit too...I love Calvin and Hobbes, but sitting next to the C&H books on my bookshelves are Flight, PS238, Sandman, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Fullmetal Alchemist, Bleach, Hunterx Hunter, etc, collections that would like to argue the point. Not to mention the very large stack of Marvel comics that are almost all dated right around the period of time that Calvin and Hobbes was being published, all of which display much more intricate and thoughtful storylines than what Watterson portrayed them as. I don't entirely agree with his views on marketing, but I respect them, because I can see where he's coming from. But I can't really respect his views on comics (or, for that matter, TV and some of the other things he raged about) because they seem to be rooted in total ignorance of the genre he's ridiculing. Sure, one could argue that comics have advanced a fair bit since he was writing C&H, but all the same...it bugs me.
I'm pretty sure he just misused the terminology of Graphic Novel and meant to do a Take That with superhero comics. I've never seen his opinion on the subject, but it seems almost impossible that he'd think that Maus or any of Will Eisner's works were stupid. Gvein that, I'd disagree with his assessment that superhero comics in general are stupid, but I can understand where he's coming from, as it was the 90's after all the the Dark Age Of Comics was in full swing. In that time period, unless you were willing to spend quite a bit of time and/or know where/what to look for, you'd be hard pressed to find true quality in mainstream comics.
I never found the sentiment particularly off-putting. Keep in mind that he wrote that statement at the height of Rob Liefield's popularity (shudder), when most comic books were indeed, mindlessly violent and very stupid. He says later in the same book that it's not the medium, but the quality of expression that matters. He was not alone in hating what was going on in comic books at the time. While we can point to Sandman or Watchmen or any of the other counterexamples we always point to, the fact remains that in the early to mid 90s, a huge fraction of mainstream books had very few redeeming features. Calvin would love Liefield's stuff.
Alternatively: Watterson is saying that adding cursing, sex and blood won't make comics less stupid, not that comics can't possibly be intelligent.
The sociopath descriptor was probably more an allusion to the likes of The Punisher than Moore's more honestly examined (and eventually imprisoned, even if temporarily) Rorschach. During the time Watterson wrote the words, it was only comparatively recently that a large number of comics had begun having compilations of individual issues be presented as "graphic novels", as opposed to the actual graphic novels that stories like Watchmen (and V for Vendetta) were. Thus, for all the validity of the rare exceptions, Watterson firmly felt that the vast majority were and are written to appeal to the lowest common denominator, so as to in turn seek the broadest possible commercial appeal; and rather than calling out superhero comics in contrast to comic strips, Watterson famously blasted his own strip's publishing company, Universal Press Syndicate, for just such behavior, nevermind both fictional and non-fictional television and movies. As such, Watterson's words are really more tantamount to the famous "lipstick on a pig" line being applied to a materialistic culture that he neigh-unquestionably hates.
Watterson's point may have been that at the end of the day, most superhero comics are still about characters in silly costumes running around bizarre settings doing ridiculous and implausible things, and that no amount of graphic violence, self-important narration, or pseudophilosphical musings can make them less inherently ludicrous and nonsensical. However unfair it may be to apply such a description to all superhero comics everywhere, Watterson just plain doesn't seem to be a fan of the genre. It's just his opinion.
Bill Watterson frequently criticized other cartoonists (Jim Davis in particular) for excessively marketing and merchandising their characters. But he also said that Charles Schulz was one of his biggest idols - and Schulz's characters may have been the most merchandised of all!
I was just about to write the same thing! Peanuts not only has tons of merchandise of the characters, but those characters have also been doing commercials for other companies for decades. And let's not even think about how kids today might only know Snoopy as the mascot for MetLife (probably only if they have really dumb parents, but anyway...).
I don't think the parents have to be dumb, considering newspapers in the United States are now struggling to keep readership, and Peanuts doesn't have much visibility elsewhere outside of merchandising. (This may change with the CGI movie though.) Fred Flintstone has already become more associated with Pebbles cereal than his own show now that The Flintstones has become scarce on TV. If you don't subscribe to a newspaper, and I think most people nowadays don't, you have to go looking for the Peanuts comic strip to find it as the books aren't really being advertised, nor are the websites that officially host the comic strip, and the TV specials are now only rarely aired. Well, between MetLife and Knott's Berry Farm.
Heroes can have flaws. Watterson probably respected Shulz's attitude towards creating the comic itself, while quietly disagreeing with all the merchandising. Same as how I respect Watterson's attitude towards his comic but disagree with his attitude towards merchandising.
Two things- One, Jim Davis's merchandising with Garfield is in a whole different league then Schulz's marketing with Peanuts. Davis invented Garfield for the sole purpose of having a sellable icon to make money off of, Schulz's Peanuts comics just got sold off by the company he worked for. Two, I don't know how much profit Schulz made from all the items that bore the face of his characters, or how much approval he had. I know for a fact he didn't think very fondly of all the animated specials Peanuts had, he complained his drawing style translated horribly to animation and further declared all animated works to not be in "real" continuity with his comic strips. He just didn't fight against it all the way Watterson did.
One of Watterson's closest friends in the cartooning business was Berke Breathed, and we all know he never met a merchandising deal he didn't like. Bill may not have liked merchandising in general, but he saved his venom in that regard for bad comics with lots of merchandising. (Or bad in his opinion, anyway— hard to believe someone with such a love for art and style would have so much hate for U.S. Acres, the closest thing to a Tex Avery cartoon on the funnies page.)
Jim Davis is in a class by himself in many ways. He's barely picked up a pencil in decades; the mountains of Garfield stuff is turned out by legions of cartoon drudges. JD is an executive cartoonist... and respect should be saved for those who pick up the pen every day to turn out their work.
Precisely. The big difference between Davis and Schulz is that all that merchandising never interfered with the actual creation of Peanuts. Schulz still found time to sit down and draw every line of every strip for 50 years, even after his hands got kind of shaky.
Well, no, but that's a different situation. With those types of comics, the workload is usually much greater than 6 daily newspaper strips and 1 Sunday per week. You have more detailed art, backgrounds, higher pages-per-week expectations, etc. Assistants are generally used to help with the sheer amount of drawing that needs to be done, rather than to allow the main artist to simply sign their name to someone else's stuff after a relaxing day of whatever the hell Jim Davis does. Working with assistants doesn't mean the artist isn't "picking up the pen every day" and drawing his butt off. As for Watterson, he worked hard to fill those little boxes with more visual zing than most newspaper strips ever, and still did it all himself.
One could argue that a guy that built an empire out of an orange cartoon cat also deserves respect. At least in a business sense.
Back to the original point; Schulz donated a lot of the money he made from licensing out his characters to various charities.
Jim Davis made his comic to make money. Charles Shultz made his comic, and made some money in the progress.
I always interpreted those statements to mean that Watterson admired Schulz for merchandising Peanuts like there's no tomorrow without ever changing the spirit of the source material.
In the Tenth Anniversary Book, Watterson claims that he could have gotten more artistic freedom and more money by ditching newspapers altogether and publishing elsewhere, like in book form. He also sarcastically (?) remarks that sometimes he resents being in newspapers. If that's the case, why didn't he actually go through with it and abandon newspapers for books or other media? He could have gotten all the freedom he wanted, but instead he simply whines about how newspapers devalue the comics and the artistic restrictions he suffered. What gives?
This is exactly why that the more I re-read C&H, the less and less I enjoy it. As a kid, I simply saw the comic itself. As a (sort of) adult, I see the thinly-veiled attacks on the syndicate and the very forces that brought C&H to people around the globe in the first place. This is a pure Fan Wank, but I think that Watterson knew that if he got out of newspapers, 90% of his audience wouldn't follow him.
Without establishing a fandom in the first place, due to the time necessarily through the newspapers, Calvin and Hobbes wouldn't have 90% of its audience in the first place, and he'd likewise not likely found the Protection from Editors he did when he eventually moved to books. Working with the newspapers is, for most short print comic authors, an evil, but a necessary one nevertheless. By the time authors are aware, truly aware that they could really move to another form of media and that the other form of media would be more accepting of their vision, they are often limited and restrained by far too many contracts to easily escape. I disagree with his overly anti-merchandise viewpoints, but they're not illogical or hypocritical to hold.
Sure it's hypocritical. It's not like he just gives the books away. And there are tons of books containing different strip collections, some doubling up strips from other collections. And then there's the "complete" collection, which is gigantic and monstrously expensive. And it's not like Watterson lives in a teepee in the midst of nature, using only what he needs to survive. He slams merchandising and consumerism mercilessly, and bolsters it by taking the easy stands where he got to argue with someone and feel righteous for doing so, but he still engages in both, with his dozens of books for sale and his sprawling woodland estate. If it was purely about the artistic freedom, if it was purely about showing others his work, he'd be offering C&H and whatever other comics he wanted to do online for free, or offering print-on-demand services to give people print versions for the printing costs and shipping. Working with the syndicates and publishers might have been a necessary "evil" back in the day, but he's had other alternatives for at least a decade, and taken advantage of none of them. Face it, he might have had a talent for imagination and art, but whenever it came to expressing a personal opinion, he was both a hack and a hypocrite.
There's a difference between wanting to get paid for your work and releasing a bunch of cheap merchandized crap. Just because you never pay for anything doesn't mean its hypocritical for someone to want you to pay for it. You're obviously convinced that the internet represents a glorious future of no copyright and artistic integrity, but just like everyone else who talks about this, you never think about the creator themselves, just the consumer (yourself) and how much of an injustice it is that they should ever have to pay for something. Just because someone isn't poor doesn't mean that they don't need or deserve money.
You're missing the above Troper's point. He/she isn't arguing that Watterson should work for free, just that he seems to only care about the evils of merchandising when it gives him a chance to feel self-righteous about doing so. Cut him/her some slack.
The real irony for me (and this wouldn't surprise me in the least for many other fans) is that I never actually read the strip in the newspaper to begin with. When I was a kid, the newspaper my family subscribed to didn't carry the strip, and I was only introduced to the series when I got the first collected book in 1990 as a birthday present and the strip was already half over. I've only ever read the comics one after another in the book collections-the idea of reading them in a newspaper is actually kind of hard for me to imagine. Hence why the notion of Watterson ditching newspapers and publishing elsewhere is so easy for me to conceive in the first place.
Regarding the above statement, I should chime in saying that I started reading it in a local newspaper but removed it late into its run.
The problem is that you're fighting with a strawman and not Watterson's actual views on merchandising comic strips. He thinks they're bad because they devalue the characters, not because all merchandising is doubleplusungood. Waterson considered offers for an animated C&H until he realized that he'd have to cast voices for the characters which would - in his opinion - rob the reader from the ability to find their own version. So he publishes the books because they can contain his complete conceptions of the characters and not just caricatures of them (re: the peeing Calvin, the Garfield doll with the suction cups, etc.). He probably does like the Peanuts cartoon because it portrayed the charachters so beautifully and faithfully. You're right about not putting them online though, I can only guess the reason he hasn't done so is because he's an old man and doesn't realize the potential (or dismisses it as hype).
In the recent interview he was actually asked about webcomics. He said he didn't know much about them, but was scarily spot-on in his guess. (it's difficult to find an audience, and rise above the sea of crap)
Problem with that statement is that it's even worse to get an audience in the Funny Pages. Watterson himself admitted that.
Watterson's views on merchandising can be summed up by his conviction, stated in the Tenth Anniversary Book, that the moment that "trainloads of money [are] at stake", vested interests start trying to censor what you can say, print, draw, etc.; and willingly going along with such is what he describes as selling out. It was never about money as such; it was about money changing people, and art being intentionally changed, and suffering, for profit's sake. If you still think that's hypocritical, then simply know that if he (still) chose to do so, he really could make tens of times more money than he gets off of book royalties.
Sort of building on the IJBM a few entries up: Calvin and Hobbes is a great strip, there's no denying that. It bothers me, though, how far its fans are willing to go to put it (and by extension, Bill Watterson) on a pedestal when he's done very little to deserve it. For instance, Watterson, for all his talent as a cartoonist, is an idiot when it comes to business acumen. Think about it: He fought tooth and nail to keep his characters from being licensed for merchandising purposes. That's all well and good, and very idealistic and all that, but it's also ridiculously naive; rather than preventing C&H merchandise from existing, all he did was prevent himself from having any artistic control over it. I'm not convinced that those stupid "Calvin pissing on logos" decals would exist at all had Watterson just agreed to let the syndicate market his characters, but insisted on maintaining final veto on whatever they came up with to sell, much like George Lucas did with Star Wars. (I'm aware that the situations were slightly different, but the precedent was there nonetheless.) Frankly, if he didn't want to deal with the issue of licensing his characters, he got into the wrong business. But what really bugs me is that, time and again, Watterson has shown next to no respect for his fans; in addition to the abovementioned refusal to market his characters—which is, incidentally, what his fans wanted in the first place—he's refused most interviews even to this day. This Troper once sent him a fan letter as a kid, and the response was something along the lines of "I can't answer you because I'm busy with all these awesome projects that you're absolutely gonna love." That was something like twenty years ago, and This Troper is still wondering what happened to those "projects." Bill Watterson may be talented, but he's not as great as everyone seems to think he is.
"How far its fans are willing to go to put it (and by extension, Bill Watterson) on a pedestal when he's done very little to deserve it.". No one ever said he was a great business man. People love him for his drawing talent and his way with words and wit. And he only drew one of the most beloved comic strips for ten years. Yeah, totally did very little to deserve it.
Bill Watterson liked doing everything himself, and to him, that was control, illegal T-shirts be damned. The fans weren't really important to him. Maybe he was an idealist in that he wanted a world where everyone would be satisfied with a single newspaper strip each day, but as the artist, it's his choice what to do with his work. Maybe it's not what our consumerist society wants, but if you read Calvin and Hobbes, you'll know his opinions on consumerism all too well.
I do read it, and I still think he's an idiot. Again, he didn't prevent anyone from having their merchandise; all he did was prevent himself from being able to control any of it. And that corrupted his vision WAY worse than any legal merchandising ever could.
To be fair, even if he did approve merchandising, there would still be a healthy market in bootleg/blackmarket Calvin goods that he would have no control over. You don't have to agree with his reasons, but you do have to accept that it's his right to limit the media his creations appear in.
Yes, but by failing to make any official merchandise, it makes it much, much harder to successfully bring legal action to anyone making un-official merchandise, since one of the four main tenants used to figure out if something is free-speech, or copyright infringement is how it affects the revenue of the accuser, so if, like Waterston, you don't have any official merchandise that is being passed up in favor of the unofficial stuff, it's a lot harder to prove your being harmed by it.
I don't doubt it. It's his creation to do with as he pleases. That doesn't change the fact that he was incredibly naive in the way he handled it, though. Also, consider: When's the last time you saw bootleg Garfield merchandise? I'm sure it must exist, but for the most part people don't bother because they can get perfectly legal stuff for the same price, and it's higher quality.
And yet we all know that every last one of them is fake, which actually means he has total control over what he cares about to this day.
Wow. It's the principle of the matter, guys. How hypocritical would it look if Watterson allowed *some* merchandising but not *all* of it because he disagrees with it on principle but just a bit is okay because then he can sue the bajeesus out of anyone who dares make bootleg stuff? Sure, now there's a lot of bootleg crap out there because he can't claim copyright. But the point is Watterson stuck to his guns despite huge amounts of pressure from both syndicates and fans, resisted the temptation to license a bunch of cheap crap that would make him a ton of money, in short refused to do something that was against his principles. When every artist and their mother are whoring out their creations to make the slightest bit more money, or are creating things solely to make cheap merchandise (XKCD) I think its admirable that Watterson decided to make money solely on things like the collections of comics that he worked extremely hard on. I think some of you are confusing his stance against money whoring and materialism and out of control consumerism with a stance against making any money at all.
Some of us regard "business acumen" as idiocy and worse. I consider it the sign of a hack who is only in it for the money. Compare to Beethoven and Rousseau, who refused lucrative patronage so that they could create what they wanted, not what some prince (or corporation) wanted.
In other words, it sounds like you have a black-and-white issue on this—that is, either someone is not in it for the money at all or is completely in it for the money and equates the skill of making money as stupidity. As mentioned above, Charles Schulz merchandised Peanuts left and right and maintained his integrity completely.
Look at it this way: Likely Calvin and Hobbes, the comic strip, is all that Calvin and Hobbes will ever be. What if maybe that's all it needs to be?
And concerning the other criticism, that Watterson gives out so few interviews (or interacts with the public world in general), well the point is that it's well within his rights to do so, even though it's tremendously frustrating for the fans (such as myself, I'd love to know more about the man and his opinions!); however, Watterson is notorious shy and has never actively sought out to be famous, quite the opposite, he's actively worked to keep himself out the spotlight, mainly because he seems to [[Understatement intensely dislike it]]. Again, this can be frustrating and may even seem like an insult to the fans, but if you really do like his work, you'd try to understand his motives for this (not every person wants to be personally famous!) and respect them, even if you disagree with them.
Loss of creative control. It's easy to see how, if it made loads of money, what it would if allowed, a lot of creatively dead executives would attach themselves like parasites to the strip and Watterson would slowly but surely lose control of his own work and C&H would be still published today as a zombie franchise with drawings outsourced to some third world country.
United Press Syndicate could have done that already but didn't. They were very patient and accomodating with Watterson and respected his viewpoints. Whether Calvin and Hobbes merchandised or not would be unrelated to the quality of the comic strip. He would be able to continue doing his own thing while the merchandise people interpret the strip in their own way. If the base franchise was substantially affected by the merchandise, Tony Tony Chopper would have already taken over One Piece entirely, and Princess Celestia would have been pink in the show. Merchandise people work within the boundaries of the artists, not the other way around. In addition, you'll see examples of Running the Asylum in franchises with very little merchandising. It happens because the franchise is popular; that they often have lots of merchandise is because they're popular and not cause-and-effect between merchandising and Running the Asylum.
I think the original point of this line of discussion was that if Watterson attempted to merchandise Calvin and Hobbes even a little bit, he could have legal power over the currently rampant pirated Calvin and Hobbes merchandise. In other words, as he's not going to exert control over merchandising because of his blanket refusal, someone else will (and has). The statement about him having bad "business acumen" is because he is so na´ve that the pirates are mercilessly taking advantage of him. Instead of learning how not to get bullied, he instead becomes a hermit, essentially running away from the issue and is, to the pirates and bootleggers, a sign of surrender. His lack of understanding of how merchandising laws work, and his refusal to understand, has pretty much put in the driver's seat the very people he dislikes the most.
What was the overall point to Calvin and Hobbes? Something to do with childhood? Is growing up not as important? Why did Watterson end the strip so open-ended?
The point is whatever you want it to be. Want it to be a deep philosophical comic? Fine. Want it to be a lighthearted comic about being a kid? Cool. Want it to be a good story and nothing more? Awesome. Personally, I'm a combo of all three.
At one point Watterson wrote that he thinks a comic strip about Susie Derkins, written by a woman, would be a pretty good idea. Given that he doesn't care about becoming rich, surely licensing the idea to a female cartoonist would be a simple matter. Why hasn't anyone taken him up on this idea? It would mean more Calvin and Hobbes, as they'd be background characters to Susie's adventures with Mr. Bun.
Actually he said a strip about a little girl drawn by a woman would be great, not Susie specifically.