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. He's relieved at first, but quickly realizes that she's probably going to tell on him. The exact phrase he uses is "Suppose she fingers 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 and 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. 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. There appears to be an in-universe disparity in how people see Hobbes too, with Calvin viewing him as a real being and other people viewing him as Calvin's Imaginary Friend.
    • 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's tendency to be an incredibly selfish, arrogant Small Name, Big Ego Spoiled Brat can make everything that happens to him well deserved (except for being beaten up by Moe). If anything, his parents may be 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, war and human nature 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.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Rosalyn. On one hand, she's a Jerkass Woobie who goes through hell controlling an Enfant Terrible while trying to make some extra money for college. On the other, she's a Child Hater who pushes Calvin aside for the smallest infractions just so she can extort from his parents and talk to her boyfriend.
    • Calvin's parents can verge into this at times. On one hand, Calvin is really hyperactive and tends to get into trouble a lot which can justify his parents having little patience for his antics yet, on the other hand, they also tend to overreact at times at Calvin just being a normal kid.
  • 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.
      • In regards, there's three divisions in regards to merchandise: Either A) You're not a true fan for wanting merch, B) You don't want merch for respecting Bill's choice, or C) Take The Third Option and while respect Bill's decision against official merch, since fan merch is a whole different story.
  • Counterpart Comparison: Hobbes is compared a lot to Tigger, due to being a living stuffed tiger with a playful personality who likes to pounce on people, even saying "Hoo hoo hoo!" in some strips.
  • 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 and 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.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Calvin and Susie, for obvious reasons. They actually seem to have and recuperate feelings for each other, but it was in a single strip were Calvin gave Susie a crummy Valentine, and creams him with a snowball. The thought bubbles reveal they are secretly pleased that the other "noticed."
  • "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.
    • 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.
    • The whole concept of Calvin being thrown out of the house on weekends/during the summer. This is something that kids growing up in the 80's and 90's were used to, often hearing things like "don't come back until dark/dinner." Modern kids simply aren't treated this way. Having a "playdate" is something an 80's kid assumes is something between two consenting adults...
    • In one Sunday strip, after Calvin is teased by Hobbes about being in love with Susie, he grumbles, "I'd say we're about due for another St. Valentine's Day massacre." Not so funny anymore after the 2018 Parkland school shooting, which happened on February 14.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • One of Calvin's tiger poems has the verse "A sambar who'll be dismembered". A sambar is a type of Asian deer that is a popular prey item for tigers.
  • 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.
  • 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 comic arc 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 a 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.
    • Twenty years after the "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 feels 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.
    • This strip might be one of the reasons why Edna Mode firmly believes that capes are bad and bad for you.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Let's not sugar coat it. If Calvin weren't so lazy, self-centered and egotistical, he'd be an almost completely sympathetic character. He's constantly picked on at school, either aggressively by Moe or verbally by Susie, roughed up a lot by Hobbes, is a Butt-Monkey overall, and is ignored or sarcastically responded to by his own parents. It's made very clear that Hobbes is his only friend (while Susie is more of a "frenemy"). 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:
    • 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 its 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.
    • The fake "final" strip of Calvin taking meds and ignoring Hobbes who becomes a stuffed plush again. Goes into this territory again if commentators mention Ritalin.
    • Calvin and Hobbes being replaced by two similar characters in a Homage comic is almost a trope in and of itself.
  • 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:
    • 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.'
    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.
    • In one Sunday strip, Calvin and Hobbes play a war game and shoot each other at the same time with dart guns. Calvin then remarks that it's a "pretty stupid game".
  • 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.
    • Some fans felt this way about Uncle Max, despite Watterson's regret at having introduced him. Some disagree with him and think that Max did bring something new to Calvin: an adult who regularly interacted with him at his level. (see this Cracked article for an example.)
    • Calvin's doctor is considered by many to be a very funny and sarcastic character (like when he tells Calvin his ear light is a cattle prod and that "it hurts a little less than a branding iron"). Sadly, he disappeared after the chicken pox storyline, and never became as major as Rosalyn or Miss Wormwood.
  • 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, especially in an early Valentine's Day strip as well as Word of God confirming Calvin does have a mild crush on her but doesn't know how to process that. 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: Calvin's parents can sometimes have moments of this. While Calvin is undeniably a handful and would certainly test anyone's patience, strips like this one and the way they're almost always seen interacting with Calvin in a negative way, even when he's not up to something, and don't seem to care much for trying to understand him certainly doesn't help their cases. Calvin's mom is at least a hair better in that regard, as she at least wanted to have a kid and puts forth some effort. Calvin's dad repeatedly insisted he would rather have raised a dog and is more direct in his criticisms for Calvin, best exemplified by his "I don't give a crap" reaction to when Hobbes was left in the woods during Calvin's failed attempt to move to the Yukon. The aforementioned strip has gained responses such as "with parents like that, no wonder Calvin's such a brat!" Bill Watterson himself has also expressed regret in a commentary about how he often had Calvin's parents always seem to be in a bad mood and have most of their appearances center around them reacting to Calvin's latest shenanigan (though he has also said that "they did better than [he] would've" with regards to the kid).
  • 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:
    • Despite being capable of great Jerkassery, Calvin can be very 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?
    • 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, "Tommy" complained about grammatical genders being politically incorrect.