- Accidental Innuendo:
- Calvin talking to the TV: "Shock and titillate me! I've got money!" Hell, knowing what he's tried to watch in other strips, it's barely accidental.
- In one arc, Calvin gets Susie sent to the principal's office. She tells on him, and when Calvin finds out, one of the phrases he uses is "You fingered me!".
- Alternative Character Interpretation: There is a lot of this to be had, especially where the two title characters are concerned.
- Calvin's general obliviousness to the world around him, intricate and vivid fantasies, and general inability to comprehend the motivations of other people are all consistent with descriptions of autism (or schizophrenia). He also has a short attention span and doesn't hold focus well, which is fairly consistent with ADHD at the very least. Another possible thing to draw that supports at least one diagnosis is that Calvin is Book Dumb but is also very knowledgeable about subjects that truly interest him, like dinosaurs and gross things. Many real life autistics are known to be highly skilled in at least one specialized area that can spark their interest.
- Who or what exactly Hobbes is tends to be a subject of debate. Many fans still believe that he's a figment of Calvin's (possibly demented) imagination, in spite of Watterson outright saying that wasn't it (backed up by things Calvin couldn't have done himself, such as getting tied to a chair.) It probably doesn't help that by Watterson's own admission, the comic goes out of its way to not explain it while at the same time raising more questions.
- Calvin's mother can come off as harshly authoritarian at times. She rarely smiles at him, and has a knee-jerk reaction of trying to suppress whatever he's engaged in (whether she turns out to be right to do so or not), while his father tends to be more lenient. And when you consider that Calvin displays many symptoms of ADHD and/or Asperger's syndrome, and he never seems to get any help to cope with either condition, this will have overtones of neglect and abuse. There even was one strip where his mother puts Calvin (who yet again is only six years old and probably has undiagnosed ADHD and/or Asperger's syndrome) out to wait for the school bus for two and a half hours before it arrived, only to give herself a morning free from having to take care of him! Watterson himself lamented in one commentary that he regrets that the strips mostly showed her in a bad mood, since most of her appearances had her around to react to Calvin's latest misbehavior.
- Alternately, Calvin may be seen as Unintentionally Unsympathetic due to his being a selfish, arrogant Small Name, Big Ego Spoiled Brat who quite frankly deserves pretty much everything that happens to him except for being beaten up by Moe. If anything, his parents are too lenient with him, and he could probably benefit from a few more spankings. We're not the ones who have to try and cope with the fallout of Calvin's antics and selfishness, so it's easy for us to judge his parents as somehow unloving-when in fact Mom's Mama Bear tendencies show that it's quite the opposite.
- Calvin, in his exuberant sled or wagon rides, frequently flies off what seem to be massive cliffs, falling heights likely to cause death or serious injury. Either Cartoon Physics are in charge, or the strip is an Unreliable Narrator and the cliffs shown are only his perception of smaller and less lethal cliffs. Similarly, his backyard may be less than the vast national park it seems to be, which would explain why his father treks the family hundreds of miles to go camping rather than do it out back. In the story arc where he accidentally pushes his mom's car into a ditch, he reacts as if it was a cliff, indicating that he does exaggerate greatly, and his stunts are showing what he imagines around him, not what is actually there.
- A few fan interpretations of the infamous Noodle Incident are to be found floating around the internet. One of the most popular is that in this case, Calvin was actually innocent for once, and really was framed, as he claims.
- Alternate Aesop Interpretation: One strip was clearly meant to criticize the idea of Mutually Assured Destruction by having Calvin claim that Hobbes wouldn't dare throw a water balloon at him because Calvin had even more. The problem is that Hobbes won by tossing his balloon at Calvin, making Calvin drop all his balloons on himself, leaving one with the impression that the best move is to strike first.
- Anvilicious: Watterson's frequent broadsides against TV, advertising, comic books, deforestation, commercial culture and humanity can get ham-fisted at times. He himself admitted to being too heavy-handed in an arc in which Calvin and Hobbes go to Mars to escape pollution, only to encounter a Martian who immediately flees (Hobbes:"Would you welcome in a dog that wasn't housebroken?") and realize that they have to take care of their own planet before going on to others.
- Americans Hate Tingle: More like Everyone Outside the English-speaking World Does Not Understand Calvin and Hobbes: While still beloved in its native U.S. as well as in Canada, and the UK, outside those countries it never reached the same popularity. Calvin is most often remembered abroad as that (American) kid who pisses in the tyres. The fact it doesn't have an animated adaptation due to his creator's strict policy about marketing doesn't help.
- In Brazil, at least, Calvin and Hobbes' books are regularly sold, translated into Brazilian Portuguese, in bookstores and newspaper stands. While the strip is not super famous, it is well known here. Unfortunately, so are the stupid stickers of Calvin pissing on things.
- In Portugal, it is also well known and cherished, especially for those who were young adults, teenagers and kids in the '90s (to the point that the newspaper, which was still in its infant years, was bought solely for the comic strip.) And most people don't know about the stickers, which is a good thing.
- It's quite known in France, getting some fanarts from renowned comic writers and is regularly republished. Pissing stickers are completely unknown.
- Sweden is yet another country, where the strip got a huge fanbase.
- Norway as well; Calvin & Hobbes was the flagship series of the monthly comic anthology Tommy & Tigern ("Tommy and the Tiger", Calvin and Hobbes's Norwegian names), which started up as early and 1989 and kept going for over a decade past the strip's cancellation — even if the later years the C&H part of the anthology purely consisted of reprints.
- Broken Base:
- The baseball story arc is probably the most divisive arc in the whole strip. Some find it a very emotional and realistic story that shows what happens when a non-athletic person tries to do sports. Others find it a mean-spirited Kick the Dog moment for Calvin, especially with the cruel kids and equally cruel coach who get off scot-free in the end.
- Bill's decision not to license the strip. Many agree with his choice, pointing to other strips that were cheapened by excessive merchandising, and saying that anyone who wants merch isn't a true C&H fan. Others lament over how great it would be to see an Animated Adaptation, especially since the characters would've had a chance to become more popular in other countries. (See Americans Hate Tingle above.)
- Common Knowledge: It's a well-known fact that Hobbes is Calvin's sane man who keeps him in check. In fact, anyone who's read most of the strips knows that Hobbes can often be just as immature as Calvin, and likes to torment him by teasing him. This is what starts a lot of their fights.
- Designated Villains: Calvin's parents, Miss Wormwood, Susie, and Rosalyn all fall into this trope at different times, since they only react to Calvin's own shenanigans. Even Bill Watterson himself feels sympathy for Miss Wormwood, whose staid, boring teaching style is just about the least effective way to get through to a kid like Calvin. She's also implied to smoke and drink heavily, while looking forward to retirement.
Watterson: I think she (Miss Wormwood) genuinely believes in the value of a good education, so needless to say, she's an unhappy person.
- Ensemble Darkhorse: Calvin's Tracer Bullet alter-ego. Because of how long it took Watterson to draw the Film Noir-style art, he only appears in two arcs comprised of six strips each in addition to his brief appearance in the haircut story, but he's as fondly remembered as Spaceman Spiff and Stupendous Man.
- Fandom Berserk Button: The bootlegged "peeing-Calvin" decals.
- Fandom-Specific Plot: There are a lot of stories concerning what Calvin will be like as a teenager or adult. Either he has to deal with not having Hobbes around, or Hobbes is still around but his relationship with Calvin has changed due to Calvin's growing up. Occasionally, there are stories in which Hobbes ends up being passed down to one of Calvin's own eventual children.
- Franchise Zombie: Averted. Watterson ended the comic to prevent this from happening.
- "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
- In one strip, Calvin pretends he's flying a fighter plane and ends up blowing up his school. Watterson apparently got a few angry letters when it was first published, but defended it by saying that any kid Calvin's age has probably dreamed about blowing up their school at least once. Now that school shootings have shown themselves to be all too real (not that they are anything new, but awareness and outcry have grown greatly since then), there's little chance it would be published at all today.
- In a similar vein, one story arc in 1990 had Calvin (in the midst of yet another Spaceman Spiff fantasy) running away from school after threatening the class with a rubber band. Woe betide any kid who attempts this nowadays.
- In another strip, Calvin draws a squadron of B-1's nuking New York in class. Since 9/11, there's little chance a strip like that would get the green light.
- In one strip, Watterson takes a jab at comic book collectors of the early 90's. Just a year after the comic ended, his disdain of the shortsighted comic collectors of the time became vindicated by the comic industry crash of 1996, which was in part caused by the oversaturation of the market with worthless "collectors" comics.
- Somewhat minor example — one story arc has Calvin using his "Stupendous Man" costume and persona in an attempt to ace a history test ( he flunks). His mom, as punishment, takes away his costume. While she's done this before, given that this story arc is Stupendous Man's last appearance in the comics, it makes you wonder if said costume wasn't confiscated permanently.
- In an early strip, Calvin tells his mom he wants to be a radical terrorist when he grows up. Not so funny to some after 9/11 and the rise of radical terrorist groups both at home and abroad.
- The arc where Calvin is carried away by a balloon isn't so light-hearted ever since the Balloon Boy hoax.
- Calvin's calls to the library about books on making bombs or graffiti would have been dismissed as a joke in the 90s, but would result in a visit from the police or SWAT team nowadays. Same with his calls to the hardware store asking for demolition materials.
- Gateway Series: If you can find any comic after the '70s besides Peanuts or Garfield that has left more of a mark and gotten more people into newspaper comics, chances are it will be Calvin and Hobbes.
- Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The strip quickly became popular in the UK and is still reprinted in some newspapers there to this day. The collections are also still sold in bookshops. Go in any branch of Waterstones' and you'll still find people buying them.
- Not only that, but when the 25th anniversary of the strip came round (in 2010), BBC Radio 4 made a documentary celebrating the strip, hosted by Never Mind The Buzzcocks' Phill Jupitus. In said documentary, people were interviewed buying the books in Waterstones and other bookshops, showing how beloved it is in the country.
- The strip remains enormously popular in Scandinavia to this day. In Norway, it had a monthly comic book lasting from 1989 to several years after the strip ended. The reprints are still selling well.
- Genius Bonus: From one strip where Calvin asks his mom if hamburgers are made from people in Hamburg. While that is obviously (hopefully) not the case, hamburgers DID get their name from Hamburg, Germany.
- Lead characters named after John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes also fits into this trope. Same with Miss Wormwood.
- In one strip, Hobbes claims "If you don't get a goodnight kiss, you get Kafka dreams." The rest of the strip is about the duo fighting off an enormous bedbug.
- "The Yukon Song" is written In the Style of... Robert Service, who's best remembered today for his poems about the Yukon during the gold rush.
- Growing the Beard: According to the author, the strip's world opened up after he wrote the "dying raccoon" storyline and found that Calvin and Hobbes had more potential than he thought.
- Heartwarming in Hindsight: In The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book, in his blurb explaining Susie's character, Watterson mentions that after so many comic strips about boys written by men, he thinks a comic strip about a little girl written by a woman, "would be great." Nowadays, we have Phoebe and Her Unicorn, which many consider to be a Spiritual Successor to Calvin and Hobbes.
- Hilarious in Hindsight:
- In this strip, Calvin is trying on sunglasses in a supermarket. The pair he likes best looks like Kamina's... Except green. With a little bit of photoshop...◊
- In this strip, Calvin writes a message in the snow requesting pilots to do a barrel roll.
- The script styling of Calvin and Hobbes: The Series makes one strip, which chronicled Calvin discussing how they could become cultural icons on television, much more amusing.
- It's also amusing because they are cultural icons now, albeit not on television.
- Likewise, a series involving Calvin using a piece of cardboard to pretend he's on TV ends up even more amusing — particularly the one where Calvin plugs his beloved Chocolate-Frosted Sugar Bombs, in light of the fic's tendency for Product Place.
- What's more, a throwaway gag from one New Year's strip has Hobbes asking Calvin if his parents celebrate the new year. Calvin notes that their idea of a party is "mixing regular coffee in with the decaf." Then there's "New Year, New Disasters", which has Calvin invited to a New Year's party, while Calvin's parents drown their sorrows in cider.
- This strip following the controversy surrounding James Frey's A Million Little Pieces.
- 12 May 1991: Calvin, disillusioned that the same generation that protested "The Man" has become "The Man" themselves, starts listening to easy-listening muzak to start his own protest. And start it, he very well may have: published nineteen years before Daniel Lopatin's 2010 release Chuck Person's Eccojams Vol. 1, the strip seems to be the very first example, at least as concept, of Vaporwave.
- In this strip, Calvin imagines himself as a crocodile in the Amazon stalking a hippopotamus. Since the raid of Pablo Escobar's private zoo, a population of escaped hippos lives in Colombia.
- 20 years after Tyrannosaurs in F-14s, the first trailer for Jurassic World ends on Chris Pratt riding a motorcycle with a raptor pack in tow; fan reaction was divided between a Calvin reaction ("This is so cool!") and a Hobbes reaction ("This is so stupid!")
- This strip◊ has the "Calvinosaurus", a monstrous giant carnosaur who eats sauropods... Which happens to bear resemblance to a certain sauropod-hunting carnosaur discovered a few years later who is famous for usurping T. rex in size. note
- This strip comes across as somewhat prescient following the rise of the Hipster archetype.
- This strip uses Calvin's "Chewing" magazine subscription to poke fun at the concept of targeted marketing, with Hobbes dryly noting "as if advertising wasn't intrusive enough before." Two decades later, social media algorithms have made Internet ads more specialized and intrusive than ever.
- Calvin notes that his watch doesn't tell what month it is in this strip. Nowadays, most mobile phones (which have largely replaced watches as the go-to device to check the time on) do in fact tell the month.
- Jerkass Woobie: Let's not sugar coat it. If Calvin weren't lazy, self-centered and a mild example of Small Name, Big Ego, he'd be a very sympathetic character. He gets beaten up constantly by Moe, Susie, and Hobbes, is a Butt Monkey overall, and is ignored by his parents. It's made very clear that Hobbes is his only friend. It's really easy to see why he's prone to Jerkass moments. It makes the tender moments he and Hobbes have together all the more touching.
- Misaimed Fandom: Fans often debate whether Hobbes is "real" or "fake" (see the Headscratchers tab for examples.) Watterson carefully avoided making such a distinction and held that it defied the point of the strip.
[Calvin & Hobbes] is more about the subjective nature of reality than it is about dolls coming to life...
- Memetic Mutation: THIS THREAD IS NOW INCREDIBLY AWESOME◊.
- The infamous Peeing Calvin decal that has appeared on the backs of pick up trucks in some variant since the mid 1990s onward. The design never actually appeared in the comic strips (it may have been copied and altered from a 1988 strip however), nor did creator Bill Watterson make it. It has it's origins in the mid-90s bootleg market, and has been a popular tasteless car decal ever since, though there have been many attempts to stop it from spreading. There are even religious and female versions of the decal.
- Narm: In the binoculars storyline, the part where Calvin's dad yells at him is an appropriately intense scene... save for the second panel, where his eyes are drawn in a "derped" fashion that can come across as unintentionally hilarious.
- Older Than They Think: Watterson revealed in the 10th anniversary book that Spaceman Spiff is actually the first comic he tried to sell to newspapers, which had its origins in a very silly comic he wrote for a college German class. He quickly realized that Calvin's fantasies gave him the opportunity to actually use some of his ideas for Spiff, and occasionally give himself a break from writing Calvin and Hobbes.
- Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped:
With nothing to breathe, we started to die.
- Few would argue that there were some Anvilicious strips, but some of those strips were speaking out for very worthy causes, such as improvements in education and (most often) environmental consciousness...
'Help us! Please stop!' was the public outcry.
A hatch opened up and the aliens said:
'We're sorry to hear that you soon will be dead:
But though you may find this slightly macabre,
We prefer your extinction to the loss of our job.'
Mom: Calvin, listen closely. Locking Rosalyn out of the house wasn't just mean, it was dangerous. If you'd hurt yourself or if there was a fire, she wouldn't have been able to help you.
- The entire trip to Mars was an environmental analogue.
- Calvin's mom drops a serious anvil upon finding out that he locked Rosalyn out of the house.
- They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Galaxoid and Nebular (the two aliens Calvin sells the planet to) would have been fun recurring characters... unfortunately, they had to be introduced two months before the strip ended.
- Tough Act to Follow: For comic strips in general. It's been over twenty years since C&H ended, and not a single newspaper comic (or even web comic) has managed to make as much of a mark on the medium as it.
- Toy Ship: Calvin and Susie. It's not really central to the strip — primarily because Calvin's still at the Girls Have Cooties stage of childhood — but it is hinted at, for example in an early Valentines Day strip. A popular bit of Fanon is that Calvin and Susie end up getting married when they're older and having kids of their own with Hobbes befriending the next generation.
- Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Rosalyn. While a few of Calvin's pranks at her expense are unjustified, she is a terrible babysitter, going as far as threatening to kill Calvin when he steals her science notes. She sends Calvin off to bed way too early just so she can talk to her boyfriend on the phone. It's almost as if she's baiting Calvin to misbehave. However, his parents make it quite clear that she is the only one who can put up with Calvin long enough for his parents to go on a date. (On the other hand, what's "too early" for a six-year-old's bedtime?)
- Calvin himself is arguably a better example. In between his selfishness, his arrogance, and laziness and utter refusal to apply himself, not to mention the grief he constantly causes Susie and the adults in his life, the reactions of Susie, Calvin's parents, Miss Wormwood and Rosalyn and the punishments they give Calvin are all quite justified. Watterson himself, when criticized about Calvin's cruel parents, answered that they did better than he would have.
- Values Dissonance:
- In one comic, Calvin draws a squadron of B-1s nuking New York. In light of the 9/11 attacks, there's no way they'd run that nowadays.
- In the arc where Calvin plays baseball at recess, Calvin considers dropping out and the coach tells him "Ok, quitter! Goodbye." These days, the coach would be catching a lot of heat and would likely lose his job for talking to a six-year old that way (assuming Calvin told anyone, of course).
- The Woobie:
Mom: Didn't you ever have an imaginary friend?
- Despite being capable of great Jerkassery, Calvin can come across as quite sympathetic when he's getting picked on by Moe or when things are going badly for him.
- Susie tried to make friends with Calvin before she realized the futility of it, and was genuinely hurt by Calvin cruelly rejecting her time and again. This side of her is shown in a few cases, such as when her feelings are hurt by Calvin insulting her.
- The entire family were Woobies after their house was burgled, particularly how Calvin's father ponders that he always thought he would know what to do in a situation like this when he grew up, but nothing could have prepared him for this.
- Before he got Put on a Bus, Uncle Max had this Woobie-worthy exchange:
- Even Rosalyn has these moments whenever she puts up with Calvin's antics. For instance, it's hard not to sympathize with her in the arc where Calvin threatens to flush her science notes.
- One Polish translation of the strip renamed it Kelvin & Celsjusz * , while the Finnish one renamed it Lassi ja Leevi after Lars Levi Læstadius. The Norwegian name of the strip is Tommy og Tigern.*
- In one strip, Calvin complains about "the lack of sex education" because the English language doesn't have grammatical genders. When it was translated into Norwegian, which has grammatical genders, Calvin complained about grammatical genders being politically incorrect.