Christopher's Reviews > The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
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Need I really explain to you why I gave Calvin & Hobbes a five-star rating? If you grew up during the eighties and nineties or were sentient during that time period, or if you are sentient now and have access to the Internet or if you have ever had a friend who knows what good stuff is, then you know that Calvin & Hobbes is a wonderful, beautiful, hilarious, perfect thing.

I grew up on this. In the early nineties, I woke up every morning and stomped to the front door to retrieve the newspaper and spend some quality time with the comics section while eating my Lucky Charms or Count Chocula (the closest thing to Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs I could lay my hands upon). I delighted in the exploits of Calvin and his pet tiger, Hobbes, who was obviously a real and ferocious but lovable beast, but appeared as a stuffed animal to Calvin's parents, peers and superiors.

When I opened my front door after walking home from the bus stop, I always wished I would be greeted with a tiger attack.

When I got a snow day off from school, I strove for the creative and technical brilliance of Calvin's snow sculptures.

Like Calvin and Hobbes, all of my games and sports eventually morphed transmogrified into Calvinball.

Spaceman Spiff was my favorite astronaut hero.


What's interested me in my rereading of the complete collection of Calvin & Hobbes is that it's not written for kids. I mean, it is. It's completely appropriate for children. But there is so much depth and subtlety to the comic that I missed as a kid. Spaceman Spiff was my favorite as a young reader, but what I find appreciating even more as an adult is the culture criticism and commentary. There's a lot of focus on the media and the environment. It speaks for itself:

But my absolute favorite part of reading through the canon of Calvin & Hobbes is trying to figure this precocious kid out. The most obvious characterization for him would be that he is a sweet but mischievous kid with an imaginary best friend. But there's a darker element to Calvin and his tiger. At times, the strip makes you wonder: is there something wrong with Calvin? Should he be receiving some intense therapy?

There is one particular story arc that felt very unsettling to me. Calvin begins receiving letters from an unknown writer; they come marked with a skull and crossbones and they must be decoded.

And what happens, of course, is that the letters are actually coming from Calvin's own house! Which means that Hobbes wrote and sent them! Which, if you recall, is impossible, because Hobbes is an imaginary tiger! And Calvin honestly does not remember writing and sending these messages to himself, which means that he probably has a serious case of Dissociative Identity Disorder (a.k.a. multiple personalities).

So the question becomes: what sort of tragedy has Calvin suffered that has fractured his personality thusly? It's a troubling question, for me, at least.

One final word of praise for Mr. Watterson. He knew when to quit. After ten years of writing about a funny kid and his imaginary tiger, he was able to realize that he was running out of steam. As much as I hate to admit it, the last year of Calvin & Hobbes displayed a downward spiral in creativity and cleverness. Like so many others find themselves unable to do, Watterson retired his strip before it soured. And another congrats to him for not licensing his images to be plastered all over lunchboxes and t-shirts and bastardized in endless movie adaptations. (Yes, this means that if you have a sticker on your Chevy of Calvin pissing on a Ford logo, you are in breach of copyright; also, don't be stupid.)

Calvin will always be my favorite megalomaniacal and possibly schizophrenia-plagued child.
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Reading Progress

January 9, 2013 – Started Reading
January 9, 2013 – Shelved
January 9, 2013 – Shelved as: 20th-century
January 9, 2013 – Shelved as: american
January 9, 2013 – Shelved as: 500-pages-or-more
January 9, 2013 – Shelved as: comics-graphic-novels
January 9, 2013 – Shelved as: favorites
April 2, 2013 –
page 500
34.34% "Finished the first massive book."
July 14, 2013 –
page 1000
68.68% "Finished the second massive book."
October 16, 2013 –
page 1040
71.43% ""
October 28, 2013 – Finished Reading
September 29, 2016 – Shelved as: 1000-pages-or-more

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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message 1: by Richard (new)

Richard You're a lucky man, Christopher.

Christopher Yeah, and I was expecting to get the paperback version for Christmas, which I would have been happy with, but instead I got these clothbound beauts, and now I am happiest. Jealous yet?

message 3: by Richard (new)

Richard Christopher wrote: "Yeah, and I was expecting to get the paperback version for Christmas, which I would have been happy with, but instead I got these clothbound beauts, and now I am happiest. Jealous yet?"

You know it! :)

Oriana I too have been in love with C&H since I was a child, and don't want to think about the actual evidence of emotional disturbance he sometimes shows. But on that schizophrenia topic, I have read a couple of brilliant / disconcerting essays comparing Calvin to Tyler Durden from Fight Club...

message 5: by Christopher (last edited Oct 30, 2013 12:05PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Christopher You mean THIS?!?!?!?!

WOW... Tyler Durden's actions really are the extreme logical endpoint of Calvin's philosophy. They even have a similar hairstyle.

Oriana Yep, that's one of 'em. I also edited this book, which includes another one.

Christopher That's super cool!

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