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YMMV / Calvin and Hobbes

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  • Accidental Aesop: While Calvin loathes having to learn lessons, the reader can glean some stuff:
    • Kids know more than you think they do. Calvin is a smartass but remarkably observant about human behavior, double standards, and cultural oddities. He knows that Mrs. Wormwood is a chain smoker and likes Maalox when stressed and that his dad is a G-rated masochist about exercise while finding excuses to make Calvin do chores so as to "build character" and make him miserable.
    • Know when to compromise. No one likes an overly stubborn Determinator who won't give an inch of ground no matter what. Calvin and his Dad have one thing in common: they absolutely refuse to be flexible. Dad insists on taking the family on camping trips for vacations no matter how much they dislike them, and won't consider Calvin's requests of wanting to go to a casino (which is actually not a bad idea for families) or a regular hotel. Calvin, in the meantime, always thinks that he knows best and won't listen to others, and this often messes him up. Case in point, when Hobbes tells him he should do his homework on a day when school is canceled due to snow, Calvin refuses and procrastinates until it's too late.
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    • Sometimes a kid who is acting out will do it just for the sake of it; in one strip, Calvin hammers nails into the coffee table just because. The best way of handling an uncooperative kid is calming them down by empathizing with them and talking on their wavelength. Uncle Max becomes the Cool Uncle in Calvin's eyes by pretending that Hobbes is real and that he's a killer, while also not scolding him. Meanwhile, Rosalyn against all odds gets Calvin to cooperate by offering to play his favorite game and letting him stay up half an hour past his bedtime. Not only do she and Calvin have a lot of fun playing Calvinball, it's the only time he did his homework early and showed kindness in her presence.
    • One strip in particular had Calvin request the last piece of dessert, only for his mom to admonish him for being greedy. He then asks "So you're saying I should be dishonest?" She reluctantly gives him the last piece instead.
  • Accidental Innuendo:
  • 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.
      • Additionally, some have posited that Calvin's Bratty Half-Pint behavior could be seen as a case of The Dog Bites Back mixed with Then Let Me Be Evil when you consider what he has to put up with. His parents never once work with him and attempt to meet terms agreeable to the both of them, often yelling at him or assuming the worst of him. His peers at school regard him with disdain. His babysitter is a jerk who threatens him with physical harm if he doesn't comply with her demands. Really, no one (except Hobbes and Susie sometimes) talks to him like he's actually a human being. Thus, it's hard to see how Calvin isn't supposed to be a Bratty Half-Pint to the people who treat him like garbage on a regular basis.
      • Hobbes abuses and bullies Calvin on a regular basis, even when Calvin doesn't provoke him. If Hobbes truly is imaginary, then this means that Calvin has a huge Inferiority Superiority Complex, which makes his interactions with other characters a lot worse in retrospect. Consider the moments where Calvin acts like a Small Name, Big Ego and Hobbes all but demeans and insults him to put him in his place.
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    • 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). And when you consider that Calvin displays many symptoms of ADHD, autism, and/or Asperger's syndrome and he doesn't appear to be getting any help with managing either condition, this could 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 untreated ADHD, autism, and/or Asperger's syndrome) out to wait for the school bus for two and a half hours before it arrived, just 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. Other ones, however, do show she does love Calvin; he's just hard to deal with at times (plus, in the 1980s/90s, conditions like ADHD, autism and Asperger's were far less known and recognized by much of the mainstream than nowadays).
    • 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 (which thankfully wasn't damaged in the incident), 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 blamed for something he didn't do (sometimes saying he was framed), as he claims.
    • Hobbes seems a bit complicated. On one hand, he's usually portrayed as the Straight Man, voice of reason when Calvin is about to do something foolish or selfish, a pal who improves his day when he needs it and so forth. On the other hand, he's not above antagonizing Calvin either as Laser-Guided Karma or at little to no provocation, teasing or childishly squabbling with him at best and physically bullying/roughing him up at worst, all this despite occasionally possessing maturity and moral scruples. With all that in mind, is he comparable to a cat or an older sibling who alternates between affection and aggression at the drop of a hat? On top of that, is he a humanoid tiger who struggles to control his animal impulses or just no better than Calvin except more inclined to moralize despite often neglecting to act upon those beliefs himself?
  • Alternative Joke Interpretation: One strip showed a montage of Calvin's gruesome snowmen followed by Calvin's mom saying "You have to admit it's slowed down the traffic on our road." Does she mean that the road now gets less traffic so that people don't have to look at the snowmen, or that the traffic drives by more slowly so that people can get a closer look at them?
  • 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.
  • Angst? What Angst?: Parodied in the break-in arc. At first, Calvin is frantically searching for Hobbes , fearing the burglars may have hurt his tiger. Once Mom finds Hobbes safe and sound, however, they stay up late talking about how exciting it will be to tell the kids at school. Calvin's more sullen that with the television stolen, he can't watch his favorite show while his parents are lying in bed worried and shaken.
  • 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.
  • Awesome Ego: Calvin's ego could blot out the sun, and the strip rarely pulls any punches in bringing him back down to Earth, but he is brilliant in his own way, and comic fans of all ages look up to him as childhood personified. Hobbes is only slightly less narcissistic, if that, but his suave, feline elegance and wit make him just as lovable.
  • 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 dough for college. On the other, she's a Child Hater who punishes Calvin for the smallest infractions just so she can talk to her boyfriend, and then demands exorbitant amounts of money from his parents. She became much more unanimously loved after her last appearance when she and Calvin find some common ground.
    • 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.
    • It seems as though Calvin himself has become this, with some considering him an unsympathetic brat in need of some more discipline and others thinking of him as a hilarious and Unintentionally Sympathetic character.
    • Hobbes is also this. Some consider him a funny character who has a great friendship with Calvin, and comes off as a good Straight Man to give him and Calvin a good dynamic. Others consider Hobbes a bully who acts like a Jerkass to Calvin out of amusement even when Calvin doesn't do anything bad to Hobbes, and his Karma Houdini status that involves getting Calvin in trouble with no consequences really makes his treatment of Calvin less funny and more needlessly mean-spirited.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: In an early strip, Calvin and Hobbes are puzzled by Calvin's study material for school. In the next panel, the TV answers Calvin's question (albeit in a thought bubble). This never happened again; presumably Waterson was trying something he decided didn't work. note 
  • 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 to this, there's three divisions about 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 respecting Bill's decision against official merch, but feel fan merch is a whole different story.
  • Catharsis Factor:
    • The strip where Calvin filches his father's glasses, dresses as him, and says, "Calvin, go do something you hate! Being miserable builds character!" Considering that the dad basically uses "building character" as an excuse for Horrible Camping Trips, something that no one else wants. Even Mom breaks into hysterical laughter, falling out of her chair, and Dad sullenly mutters Calvin is being super-sarcastic.
    • The arc where Calvin brings Hobbes to school to intimidate Moe. Suffice to say, it works; Moe suspects it's a trick when Calvin offers to let him play with the tiger and backs away as Calvin taunts him. The final panel has Hobbes shouting, "Come back and call me a bear again! Yeah, YOU, Bub!" while shaking his paw-fist.
    • Downplayed In-Universe. While Calvin fantasizing about Moe and some of his other classmates dying in horrible ways is disturbing and sadistic, it's hard to blame him when you reread certain arcs, particularly the Baseball one, where they spend every second treating him like shit for things that aren't his fault and generally being horrible, sadistic bullies who mock and ostracize him for being different. It's generally not hard to imagine Calvin would love seeing these little assholes pay, even if you think he takes it too far.
  • Critical Research Failure:
    • Bill Watterson admits his early dinosaur drawings for Calvin and Hobbes are quite inaccurate, because he was basing them on half-recalled work from the 1960s. By the time he started it in the 1980s, science had advanced significantly and thus their depictions. He started reading up about how they really must have looked and his drawings improved accordingly. Of course, new facts have been discovered as well since the 1990s when the strip ended, and even his improved drawings are out of date now (for instance, many were shown to have had proto-feathers, among other things).
    • Calvin has to do a report on bats, but being the typical lazy six-year-old that he is, he does absolutely no research on them. He assumes bats are bugs because "they fly, right? They're ugly and hairy, right?" Despite literally everyone who hears this telling Calvin that bats aren't bugs, he refuses to listen ("Look, who’s giving the report, you chowderheads… or me?"). Predictably, he fails the assignment. Bill Watterson said in a commentary that one of the nice things about writing this strip is that he didn't need to know more than a lazy six-year-old, and after writing the story got sent more information on bats than he ever wanted to know.
    • Calvin and Susie are assigned to be partners on a project about the planet Mercury. The following is Calvin's only contribution, which he wrote the morning before class despite having a week to work on his report:
      Calvin: The planet Mercury was named after a Roman god with winged feet. Mercury was the god of flowers and bouquets, which is why today he is a registered trademark of FTD florists. Why they named a planet after this guy, I can't imagine. *sees Susie ready to pound him* ...Um, back to you, Susie.
  • Delusion Conclusion: Some readers theorize the main character may be suffering from schizophrenia or a related mental illness, seeing as Hobbes appears as real to him but everyone else sees him as a stuffed tiger. It's never made clear if Hobbes is real or simply Calvin's fantasy, since some aspects are difficult to explain, while series author Bill Watterson has famously refused to clarify one way or another.
  • Designated Hero: Hobbes can come off like this at times. He's generally portrayed as a smarter conscience to Calvin when the latter is about to misbehave or do something foolish but often doesn't live up to his moral standards, is just as prone to foolish activities as he is and doesn't hesitate to make Calvin suffer. While his aggression towards Calvin can sometimes be mitigated by the fact that he's acting on tiger instinct and it's more often than not a justified reaction whenever Calvin starts the fight, he occasionally bullies him at next to no provocation as well. In addition to physical attacks, he purposefully inconveniences and takes advantage of Calvin despite the latter doing little to deserve it in those situations (e.g. when Calvin was tied to a chair and in another arc where a bee landed on his back) and remorselessly delighting in his misery. Unlike Calvin, who almost always pays for his mischief and selfishness, Hobbes faces virtually no comeuppance and yet you're expected to side against Calvin in the instances where it was uncalled for.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: 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 Rivalry: With Garfield. Fans who appreciate the sophisticated humor of Calvin and Hobbes see Garfield as being too repetitive and overly reliant on slapstick. This even extends to the creators with Bill Watterson highly critical of Jim Davis marketing Garfield for the purpose of more money.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Calvin and Susie, for obvious reasons. They actually seem to have and reciprocate feelings for each other, but it was in a single strip where Calvin gave Susie a crummy Valentine, and creams him with a snowball. The thought bubbles reveal each of them is secretly pleased that the other "noticed."
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    • In one 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 90s by having Calvin gushing about a comic series whose issues are all #1 so they are all "collector items". Just a year after the comic ended, the comic industry crash of 1996 happened, 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.
    • 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.
    • When Calvin asks his mother if he can buy a "Satan-worshiping, suicide advocating heavy metal album", she replies that "the fact that these bands haven't killed themselves in ritual self-sacrifice shows that they're in it for the money like everyone else." In 2006, Satan-worshiping, suicide-advocating black metal musician Jon Noetveidt, who was previously convicted for being an accessory to the murder of a 36-year-old gay man, indeed committed suicide in ritual self-sacrifice.
    • In a 1990 strip, Susie breaks the fourth wall and tells us her and Calvin's class voted Calvin "most likely to be seen on the news someday." Given the kind of people who made the news throughout the 1990s, and who were often loners or acted strange as children, this joke becomes a whole lot more disturbing, as does the Fridge Horror of what it implies Calvin's peers think about him.
  • 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 fit 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.
    • One Sunday strip has Calvin having a nightmare about being trapped in a laboratory with a pair of alien scientists using a puppet version of his mom to try and feed him oatmeal. This is a reference to scientists in bird rehabilitation centers using bird puppets to feed chicks to prevent them from imprinting on the scientists.
  • 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. And as of April 2018, Nancy is being written by a woman for the first time since it began 85 years prior
  • 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, where Calvin writes a "fictional autobiography", has become this 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 where Calvin tries to start a "secretly ironic" art movement 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.
    • In one strip, Calvin comes up with a new game called "Gross Out": "You come up with the grossest thing you can imagine, and I try to come up with something grosser. Whoever comes up with the grossest thing gets a point." The basic idea is not dissimilar to the card game Cards Against Humanity.
    • One strip has the titular characters playing Monopoly where a losing Calvin cheats by taking money from the bank, to which Hobbes protests that Calvin cannot rob the bank. In 2018, Monopoly released a special version of the game which allowed its players to rob the bank (among other crimes).
    • A punchline in one strip has Hobbes joking about Batman having a “bat-fax”. Guess what one of Batman's gadgets is in The LEGO Batman Movie.
    • One strip has Calvin declare it's Miller Time after asking his dad what time it is. It takes a completely different meaning if you're a fan of Linkaranote .
    • Calvin received a "barfing face sticker" on a test 24 years before the vomiting emoji.
    • One strip has Calvin's dad joking that babies are made from kits purchased at Sears, but that Calvin was a cheaper kit purchased from Kmart. In 2005, Kmart purchased Sears for eleven billion dollars (and both store branches later filed for bankruptcy).
  • 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. Also he has many Everyone Has Standards moments, like when he tries to save a baby raccoon, and when he and Hobbes mournfully think about a dead bird they find. It's made very clear that Hobbes isn't just Calvin's Imaginary Friend; he's 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.
  • Moe: Susie can be quite adorable, especially when she dresses up with a bow in her hair.
  • 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.
    • In an earlier strip, Calvin's dad makes a similar expression while scolding him for destroying his pillows.
  • 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.'
    • 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. The fact that it made Calvin fully realize the impact of what he had done hammers it in even more.
      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 game where they play the opposing sides in a war and shoot each other at the same time with dart guns. Calvin then remarks that it's a "pretty stupid game". It's an obvious allegory for mutually assured destruction, as Watterson spells out in the Tenth Anniversary Book.
  • Strawman Has a Point:
    • While sometimes Calvin's animosity towards Rosalyn is unfounded, his fear of her is rational; she locked him in the garage for something he did on her first night with him, for several hours. Then, she spends the night talking with her boyfriend about her success. The next time she babysits, she threatens to lock him in the basement after sending him to bed early.
    • Some of Calvin's harsh feelings towards his parents aren't exactly unfounded either. As much of a Bratty Half-Pint as he is, they can be needlessly hard on him even when he's not doing anything wrong and almost always responding to whatever he's up to by snapping at him. When, among other things, your father leaves you outside in the snow because you were complaining about how cold it was inside (his justification being that when Calvin comes inside the house will seem warmer by comparison), and both have threatened to hurt or even kill him on more than one occasion, it's easy to see why Calvin has such a low opinion of his parents.
    • Calvin's griping at his school assignment in one arc (having to build a leaf collection) was framed as completely absurd by the narrative and the characters, and the clear intent throughout is that Calvin could have finished the collection easily if he'd just applied himself. However, a lot of readers thought that while Calvin's approach of literally waiting until the last hour was indeed reckless, the assignment itself seemed far more difficult than anything that should be given to a first grader (collect fifty leaves, each one from a different tree, and label them with both proper and scientific names), making them think that Calvin was entirely right to declare the whole thing impossible.
  • 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 the series: an adult who regularly interacted with Calvin 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", making Calvin faint). Sadly, he disappeared after the chicken pox storyline, and never became as major as Rosalyn or Miss Wormwood.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Susie's Friendless Background and worries about her academic future could've made for an interesting character arc wherein Susie's insistence upon perfection, short fuse and problems relating to other children (including Calvin) might potentially be traced back to her parents prioritizing a successful education above all else. On top of that, this might even have character parallels with Calvin in that both are remarkably intelligent for their age yet socially inept, possibly creating opportunities for Character Development as well. Unfortunately, her struggles aren't given more than a few hints during the strip's decade-long run and Calvin and Susie's relationship doesn't really grow beyond being largely antagonistic either.
  • 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 Sympathetic: Calvin can fall into this.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Pretty much any character who gets into conflicts with Calvin.
    • Calvin's parents, mainly when the strip was still running. Unlike many other parents in fiction at the time, Parents as People is in full effect here (perhaps a bit too much so). And yes, Calvin is a Bratty Half-Pint who would be a handful for most people to raise as their kid. But even still, his parents will hardly ever interact with him in a loving way, even if he's not up to doing something wrong, and the fact that they don't seem to even try to understand him really doesn't help their cases. They will snap at him even for small things like that he "bothers" them while they're reading a book. The mother has done things like throwing Calvin (who is just six years old) out two and a half hours before the school bus arrives, so she could get herself a morning free from spending any time with him. The father on his part has said things like that he would rather have gotten a dog, and had an apathetic reaction to Hobbes getting lost in the woods. There are some tender moments between the parents and their young son, but they are few and far between (like only twice a year or so). It became so bad that Bill Watterson himself had to address the issue in a commentary, where he expressed some regret that Calvin's parents mostly had been seen when they were in a bad mood (because they would often only appear in a story arc to react with anger to their son's latest shenanigans). Though he also said "they did better than [he] would've" with regards to the kid, so take it with a grain of salt.
    • Susie, to a lesser extent. Sure, Calvin does torment her without provocation much of the time, but she tends to give as good as she gets (if not more). Her Hair-Trigger Temper doesn't add much sympathy for her either. Also, several strips have her throwing a snowball at Calvin when he didn't do anything to provoke her. To twist the knife further, some earlier strips had Susie complain about how badly Calvin hurt her feelings but she never seems to think about how her retaliatory outbursts might make him feel.
    • The "Yukon Ho!" arc expects the reader to be concerned for Hobbes' well-being when Calvin is distraught that he had gone missing and his parents look for him even though Hobbes behaves like a jerk towards Calvin before the latter ditches him in the woods, particularly usurping his position as leader of the expedition and deliberately insulting him by claiming his mother sold him off to a circus due to a disease affecting his height right to his face. Furthermore, we never get to see how Hobbes feels about being stranded in the woods afterwards. Once all is said is done, when the two are happily reunited, he doesn't apologize for his behavior and instead states he returned home out of boredom.
  • Values Dissonance: Enough to earn its own page.
  • Values Resonance: One strip has Calvin comment on how the rock stars are just a bunch of rich, middle-aged sell outs who only pretend to be rebels for their music videos. This strip has become increasingly popular as more and more "rebellious" music stars from the 80s and 90s openly embrace the conservative and conformist beliefs that they used to claim to be against.
  • The Woobie: Just about everyone in the strip can count as this, except for Moe.
    • 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?
      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.
    • Even Bill Watterson himself feels a lot of sympathy for Miss Wormwood. The stress she suffers dealing with Calvin on a daily basis is implied to be the reason she's a heavy smoker who takes multiple medications.
    • Calvin puts his parents through a lot of grief. Even Bill Watterson thinks they do a better job raising Calvin than he would.
  • Woolseyism:
    • One Polish translation of the strip renamed it Kelvin & Celsjusz (Kelvin and Celsius), while the Finnish one renamed it Lassi ja Leevi after Lars Levi Læstadius. The Norwegian name of the strip is Tommy og Tigern (Tommy and the Tiger).
    • 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 does have grammatical genders, "Tommy" complained about grammatical genders being politically incorrect.


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