YMMV / Calvin and Hobbes

  • 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: Calvin's general obliviousness to the world around him, intricate, vivid fantasies and general inability to comprehend the motivations of other people are all consistent with descriptions of autism (or schizophrenia.)
    • 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 has symptoms of ADHD and/or Asperger's syndrom, and he never seems to get any help to cope with either condition, this will have overtones of neglect and abuse. Watterson himself lamented in one commentary that he regrets that the strip mostly shows her in a bad mood, since most of her appearances show her reacting to Calvin's latest misbehavior.
      • There even was one strip, when his mother puts Calvin (who yet again is only six years old and probably has undiagnosed ADHD and/or Asperger's syndrom) out to wait for the school bus two and a half hours before it arrived, only to give herself a morning free from having to take care of him!
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Designated Villains: Calvin's parents, Miss Wormwood, Susie, 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 toward 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.
  • Fun for Some: Calvin's father enjoys doing many things that Calvin (and certain other characters) find very strange. For example, Calvin thinks his dad is boring because he genuinely enjoys eating plain oatmeal. There are also plenty of activities that the dad willingly participates in that border on the masochistic: bicycling over rough terrain while being chased by dogs, going outside in the middle of a blizzard in the dead of winter just to get a rush from the "brisk" cold weather, and - much to the chagrin of the other members of the family - going camping in the pouring rain. ("At least it's not snowing, right?") At one point Calvin finds his father so bizarre that he has to wonder if his dad is even human. (Of course, given that the father is a Former Teen Rebel as noted elsewhere, he could have embraced a Spartan lifestyle simply for a change of pace, or as an extreme attempt to reform.)
  • "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, there's little chance it would be published at all today.
    • 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 short sighted 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 three girls left Britain to join ISIS but disappeared.
    • The arc where Calvin is carried away by a balloon isn't so light-hearted ever since the Balloon Boy hoax.
  • 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.
  • Growing the Beard: According to the author, the strip's world opened up after he wrote the "dying raccoon" story line 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 pretty much 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.
  • 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...
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Scrappy: Moe, an obnoxious and one-dimensional bully whose only purpose is to make Calvin's school life miserable. Calvin's creepy revenge fantasies against Susie and the other kids aren't justified. Against Moe, however...
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped:
    • 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...
    With nothing to breathe, we started to die.
    '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.'
    • 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.
    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.
  • 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.
  • Toy Ship: Calvin and Susie. It's not really central to the ship — primarily because Calvin's still at the 'girls are icky' stage of childhood — but it is hinted at. A popular bit of Fanon is that Calvin and Susie end up getting married when they're older and having kids of their own.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Rosalyn. While Calvin's pranks at her expense are unjustified, she is a terrible babysitter, sending 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 begging 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?)
  • Values Dissonance:
    • In one comic, Calvin draws a squadron of B-1s nuking New York. 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 calling a six-year old a quitter.
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: Despite being made mainly for kids in its early years, the strip now has just as much of a following with adults. Particularly in the later years, there were a ton of jokes that just wouldn't make sense to kids, and even a couple that implied jokes about sex and drugs. Even before this, Calvin used big words or made references that most kids wouldn't know (let alone adults in many cases).
  • The Woobie:
    • 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:
    Mom: Didn't you ever have an imaginary friend?
    Uncle Max: Sometimes I think all my friends have been imaginary.
    • 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.
  • Woolseyism:
    • 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.