Calvin and Hobbes

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Admit it. Your childhood was like this at some point.
"It's a magical world, Hobbes ol' buddy... Let's go exploring!"
The final strip

What happens when you take the unpredictable panel layouts and surreal nature of George Herriman's Krazy Kat and Winsor McCay's Little Nemo; the lush art, distinct characterizations and biting satire of Walt Kelly's Pogo; and the comedic but hard truths of life from Peanuts, throw in a dash of classic cartoon slapstick, and fuse them all together into one comic?

You get one of the most (maybe the most) beloved Newspaper Comics of all time, that influenced, changed and thrilled an entire generation, all drawn and written by one man—Bill Watterson. It came at a time when the comics medium needed it the most; almost everyone before Watterson attempted to copy the success of Peanuts by imitating the deceptively simple style and focusing on the Funny Animals like Snoopy that would bring in the money. Unfortunately, comic creators missed the mark on the aspects of Peanuts that actually should have been followed, mainly the philosophical themes and the down-to-earthiness. As a result, comics once again became gag-a-day strips rather than an artistic medium, and there was a shift from children characters to teenagers and adults.

But Watterson reminded us that newspaper comics don't have to be bland, crude drawings, Funny Animals can have deeper personalities and insights in life, and that it was still possible for a strip to successfully explore philosophical themes without feeling tacked on. And yes, comics about children can still be great. It was so successful that even Charles Schulz gave his approval in a foreword to one of the book collections.

Calvin is a bratty, precocious six-year-old who lives in a slightly different, more exciting reality than everybody around him, full of alien visitors, dinosaurs, and parental cooking that's so bad that occasionally it tries to eat him. Hobbes is his best friend: to Calvin, he's a walking, talking tiger, but to everyone else he's just an inanimate plush toy.

As if Calvin's life wasn't exciting enough, he also often imagines himself to be someone more glamorous, like sci-fi adventurer Spaceman Spiff, world-weary private eye Tracer Bullet, Superhero Stupendous Man, or a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Calvin's non-dinosaur-and-alien-related moments are often much more philosophical than a six-year-old generally appears, and Watterson directly acknowledges this in several anthologies and interviews. To Watterson, Calvin is a tool to subtly mock the modern age in its myriad forms—Calvin creates snowmen that resemble pretentious postmodern art sculptures, rails against the modern world's hyper-commercialized state while indulging in it like the worst six-year-old, and occasionally questions the justification for humanity's continuing existence while gazing at a piece of trash carelessly discarded in the woods.

The strip was known for being fun to look at, due to Watterson's sheer artistic skill; for its ability to tell stories without dialogue; and for its varied and creative Sunday Strip layout. This in itself was a major controversy, as Watterson requested a fixed amount of square footage for his Sundays (as opposed to funny-page standards, which requires the cartoonist to fit the story into six or eight pre-sized panels that can be cut apart, reassembled or discarded as each individual newspaper sees fit). Watterson argued that, since comic strips are a visual medium, it would be in everyone's best interests for him to have complete visual control over his work, regardless of resulting upheavals in comics-page layouts. He won, and similar fixed-layout concessions have gone out to comics such as FoxTrot and Over the Hedge in following years.

Watterson consistently denied licensing his characters for products or media other than the various compilations of the strip and even had a brutal fight with his syndicate over it. Though he won, this led to a booming market in unofficial merchandise, one of the more ubiquitous being window stickers of Calvin urinating on the logos of various American car manufacturers. At one point in time, he considered an animated series, expressing fondness for the medium, though no series ever came into existence.

The strip ran from 1985 to the end of 1995, at which point Watterson retired for fear of the strip going stale. No new material has been released since then and Watterson, who changed careers from cartooning to oil painting, has become a notorious media recluse in the intervening years. In early 2011, he mailed an oil painting of a character from Cul De Sac to his syndicate as a donation for the Team Cul de Sac Parkinson's Research charity. This was the first piece of new art his syndicate had received from him in 16 years. Then, in June 2014, Watterson drew several panels of Pearls Before Swine as part of a five day story arc with lead artist Stephan Pastis; the original artwork will be auctioned off for the aforementioned Team Cul de Sac Parkinson's Research charity... as long as Pastis revealed his involvement after his artwork ran. Pastis honored his request, and likened the experience to 'getting a glimpse of Bigfoot.'


Calvin and Hobbes is the Trope Namer for:
  • Calvin Ball
  • Chocolate-Frosted Sugar Bombs: Calvin's favorite breakfast cereal, of which he proudly eats multiple bowls a day (occasionally with cola instead of milk), even though it makes him hyperactive as a result.
  • Cool but Stupid: Indirectly, from the line "This is so cool!" "This is so stupid!"
  • Misery Builds Character: Often invoked by Calvin's Dad whenever he forces Calvin (or the family) to do something unpleasant.

"Calvin, go do something you hate! Being miserable builds character!"

    • The above is actually said by Calvin himself, parodying his own Dad. His mom finds it hilarious. Dad admits that's pretty good, though notes that he's raising one sarcastic kid.
  • Most Common Superpower: The world of the strip itself does not contain examples; it's derived from Calvin and Hobbes discussing comic books:

Hobbes: Is Amazon Girl's super power the ability to squeeze that figure into that suit?
Calvin: Nah, they can all do that.

  • Noodle Incident:
    • The mysterious "Noodle Incident" itself. The story is just as fragmented and impenetrable in-universe; not even Santa Claus can piece it together. Calvin himself claims he was framed (on the few occasions he can even think about the event without having a panic attack).
      • One early strip mentioned the equally-ambiguous "Salamander Incident". Whether or not this was the Noodle Incident's working title or another incident entirely was never elaborated on. Again, Calvin claims all evidence against him is purely circumstantial.
    • Calvin's favorite bedtime story, Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie, is another example. Watterson is on record as saying that he will never define what the story is actually like, because inevitably it would be funnier in the reader's head. There's also the sequel, Commander Coriander Salamander and 'Er Singlehander Bellylander.
Tropes used in Calvin and Hobbes include:
  • Aborted Arc: Watterson once wanted to run a whole month's worth of strips involving Calvin growing larger and larger (to the point of the universe being the size of a hula-hoop, when proportionately compared) to see how the fans would react. Watterson feared the backlash and quickly pulled out, however.
    • Unlike some aborted arcs though, this one actually got a conclusion. He just didn't let it run as long as he originally planned.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Once Calvin combed his hair, put on Dad's glasses and said "Calvin, go do something you hate. Being miserable builds character". Dad was not amused, but Mom burst into laughter.
  • Adjacent to This Complete Breakfast: Calvin's favorite cereal qualifies as this. With a name like Chocolate-Frosted Sugar Bombs it'd have to be.
    • Lampshaded in the strip:

Calvin: Look, it says right here "Part of a wholesome, nutritious, balanced breakfast."
Hobbes: Yeah, and they show a guy eating five grapefruits, a dozen bran muffins....

  • Adult Fear: One arc had the family return home after a trip to find that their house had been broken into. Calvin, being six years old, is concerned only about Hobbes, and rushes into the house to find him. His parents, however, are notably shaken, and remain so for the rest of the arc. Calvin's dad in particular has to come to terms with the fact that being a parent doesn't automatically make you some invincible figure as he imagined his father was when he grew up. It's a question of hiding all those fears behind a brave face for the sake of one's family, which he learns to do.
  • Aerial Canyon Chase: One strip parodies this concept as Calvin imagining his mother as the alien battleship.
  • Aesop Ju Jitsu: Understandable, since Calvin's imagination doesn't really work in such a way as to promote obvious, learnable lessons.

Calvin: Well, Hobbes, I guess there's a moral to all this.
Hobbes: What's that?
Calvin: 'Snow Goons are Bad News'.
Hobbes: That lesson certainly ought to be inapplicable later in life.
Calvin: I like maxims that don't encourage behavior modification.

  • Against My Religion: Calvin tries this when asked to add two to seven.
  • Aliens and Monsters: Calvin's vivid imagination and Bill Watterson's skills combine to create some really weird creatures, sometimes getting rather scary.
  • Alien Sky: Frequently seen in Calvin's imaginary worlds. Watterson would eventually claim that, ultimately, print was an insufficient medium to capture the sheer scope of Calvin's imagination. Alas.
  • Alt Text: Odd for a printed comic but the anthologies usually contain alt text from Watterson.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Calvin—he's wise beyond his years and incredibly imaginative despite getting terrible grades, has no (human) friends and prefers animals to people, has many strange Cloudcuckoolander quirks, can be a stickler for his own personal schedules, and doesn't understand why people behave the way they do.
  • Amusing Injuries: Whenever he's tackled by Hobbes, Calvin typically ends up scratched and bruised, but never seriously hurt.
  • And the Adventure Continues...: "It's a magical world, Hobbes ol' buddy... Let's go exploring!"
  • Angrish: "Slippin'-rippin'-dang-fang-rotten-zarg-barg-a-ding-dong!" The eloquent phrase screamed by Calvin's dad when he drops a huge Christmas present onto his foot.
  • Anime Hair: Calvin is a rare Western, non-Animesque example.
    • A literal example happens when Calvin styles his hair with Crisco and ends up looking like Astro Boy.
    • Lampshaded on another occasion when Hobbes asks how Calvin gets his hair to look like that, assuming it to be static electricity. He doesn't get an answer.
  • Animorphism: Using the transmogrifier, Calvin has turned himself into a variety of things, including a tiger and a pterodactyl.
    • "I'll just point it at myself and transmogrify! I'm safe!" *ZAP!* (He's a safe.)
  • The Annotated Edition: The tenth anniversary best-of book has notes from Watterson, many of which go into more detail on his assorted Author Tracts or give artistic insight.
  • Annoying Patient: Calvin, playing Spaceman Spiff in the doctor's office.
  • Anthropomorphic Food: Calvin occasionally fights with his parents' cooking. To be fair, a lot of their cooking is piles of greenish goo.
  • Anvilicious: Even Watterson felt that the Green Aesop of the "Weirdos From Another Planet!" arc had descended to this level. His denunciation of television as violent and thoughtless is perhaps more prevalent but less objected to.
    • In-universe, Calvin's story "The Dad who Lived to Regret Being Mean to His Kid", which he makes his father read to him.
  • Arch Enemy: Rosalyn the babysitter, who Word of God says is the only person on Earth Calvin fears.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:

Calvin: Mom, can I set fire to my bed mattress?
Mom: No, Calvin.
Calvin: Can I ride my tricycle on the roof?
Mom: No, Calvin.
Calvin: Then can I have a cookie?
Mom: No, Calvin.
Calvin: (thinking) She's on to me.

Calvin: Mom, what time is it?
Mom: Go check the clock and see.
Calvin: Mom, what's the temperature outside?
Mom: Go read the thermometer and see.
Calvin: Mom, how fast can the car go?
Mom: Go.. ...nice try.

  • Art Evolution: Acknowledged by Watterson in the 10th anniversary book, where he claims that sometime into the strip's second or third year, he intentionally made the art a little more cartoony and removed the pads from Hobbes' paws because they were "distracting."
  • Art Shift: The usual simplistic style was occasionally replaced by a more detailed and realistic style for comedic effect. For example, this was used to create a Soap Opera strip atmosphere (imitating comics like Mary Worth or Apartment 3 G).
    • Literal-Minded: One Sunday strip was inked only in black and white with no in-between, one drawn with a lack of perspective. Both were lampshaded.
    • Watterson even comments that the real world is drawn cartoony while Calvin's fantasies are realistic, highlighting his perspective.
  • Aside Glance: Used frequently, mostly from Calvin. Other characters, such as Susie and Miss Wormwood, occasionally give them in response to Calvin's latest shenanigans.
    • Aside Comment: It's more rare for them to address the audience, but this is seen for example in one instance where Calvin and Hobbes begin a G.R.O.S.S. meeting with a recitation; Calvin then turns to the fourth wall and says, "You can tell this is a great club by the way we start our meetings!"
  • Assimilation Academy: Calvin sees his school as one.
  • Attack Backfire: When Calvin and Hobbes fought the Snow Goons, they tried throwing snowballs at them, but that just allowed them to grow bigger.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: One strip has Calvin imagining he drinks a magic elixir and grows to over 300 feet. He proceeds to rampage through an imaginary town. His mum is not amused when Calvin asks for replacements for the toy cars that were lost in the rampage.
  • Author Avatar: Calvin, Hobbes and Calvin's father (who is physically based partly on Watterson himself) all serve as Watterson's voice on different issues. More rarely, Susie, Miss Wormwood and Calvin's mother occasionally highlighted other issues, often in the context of a larger story.
  • Author Filibuster: Shows up in quite a few strips, usually dealing with some issue Watterson had with corporate policy getting in the way of art, or how modern society couldn't appreciate nature or the power of the imagination.
  • Bad Mood As an Excuse: Calvin sometimes uses this attitude.

Calvin: Boy, I'm in a bad mood today! Everyone had better steer clear of me! I hate everybody! As far as I'm concerned, everyone on the planet can just drop dead. People are scum. (Beat) WELL-L-L-L? Doesn't anyone want to cheer me up?

  • Balloonacy: A story arc had Calvin be lifted into the stratosphere by a helium balloon.
    • Completely averted in an earlier strip, he jumps off a stepladder while holding a balloon, and promptly lands splat on his face causing the balloon to float away. The former example may have been Calvin imagining, however.
  • Bambification: Brutally parodied in a strip where a pack of rifle-toting deer shoot a cubicle worker.

Calvin [reading his creative writing assignment to the class]: Needless to say, Frank's family was upset when he didn't come home that night. But everybody understood that the human population had doubled in just two generations to almost six billion, so some thinning of the herds was necessary to prevent starvation.
[Next Panel, at home]
Mom: [Handing over a slip of paper] "Another parent-teacher conference."
Dad: "Your turn."

[Calvin walks around the house, loudly banging a wooden spoon against a pot.]
Mom: "WILL YOU STOP THAT AWFUL RACKET?! YOU'RE DRIVING ME CRAZY!"
Calvin: [marking off a calendar] "...and a check mark for Tuesday!"

  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Bill Watterson experienced this trope once he was allowed to design his own formats for the Sunday strips. It turned out to be rather difficult, especially since the strip had to provide a logical path for the reader's eye. Watterson noted that Sunday strips with the new format took two or three times longer to draw than strips with the old format.
  • Bedsheet Ladder: One strip had Calvin use one of these to sneak out of the house and phone his dad mentioning that it was three in the morning and if dad knew where Calvin was at the time.
  • Behind a Stick
  • Behind the Black: When Calvin cajoles Hobbes into helping him push the car out of the garage and onto the driveway, the car starts sliding backwards, even though according to every single panel, the ground is completely horizontal. Hobbes even says, "The driveway must be slanted downhill!"
    • This is Truth in Television—a subtle grade that people don't really notice can still be enough to cause an improperly braked car to roll.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Calvin and Susie, as much as their ages allow.
  • Berserk Button: Calvin may never live down the Noodle Incident (or possibly was innocent for a change and cannot prove it; even Santa isn't sure what exactly happened), and hates it when Hobbes teases him about it. He also doesn't like being reminded about his height (see The Napoleon below). He also explodes whenever Hobbes suggests that he likes Susie, and when his good duplicate starts sending Susie mash notes.
    • Hey Calvin? Why do you never wear shorts?
      • Short pants touch my feet, okay?!
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Susie Derkins. Don't hit her with a snowball or water balloon, or you'll be beaten up like Calvin.
  • Big Ball of Violence: Calvin and Hobbes' fights.
  • Black Bead Eyes: The normal state of the characters eyes, although they can turn into normal eyes when a particular expression calls for them.
  • Black Comedy: The infamous strip in which three deer hunt humans in an office building. Just think about it for a second: A man is shot to death for laughs in a comic that ran in the Sunday papers. Yes, it was gore-free and meant to be satirical, but still, Watterson was pushing the envelope as far as it could go with that one.
  • Blank Book: Invoked to avoid an assignment.
  • Body Horror: In one strip, Calvin has a vision of inflating to unbelievably massive proportions from eating too much dinner.
    • "Good heavens! I think I blew my face inside out!"
      • Above is from a different strip, when he was blowing a bubble with gum and it popped, covering his entire head.
  • Book Dumb: Calvin even uses the "Einstein had horrible grades" defense, bragging that his "are even worse!"
  • A Boy and His Tiger
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Calvin at first wanted to collect bugs. Then he wanted to collect stamps. He decides on stamped bugs.
  • Brilliant but Lazy: Calvin, who generally refuses to put effort in to school work, but displays a vocabulary and has thoughts of those who are much older than six.
    • He once explained himself to his father, however, when asked why he didn't do well in school despite being fantastically good at inhaling information about things he was interested in, such as dinosaurs. The answer? "We don't learn about dinosaurs."
      • Another strip had our heroes finding a garter snake and then asking questions about snakes. Hobbes suggests that they get Calvin's Mom to get them a book from the library, but Calvin protests that he doesn't want to learn anything because it's summertime. Hobbes replies that "if no one makes you do it, it counts as fun," and with that revelation Calvin genuinely enjoys himself.
    • "I'm not dumb. I just have a command of thoroughly useless information."
  • Broken Treasure: The broken binoculars arc.
  • Byronic Hero: Poor integrity? Check. Lack of respect for authority? Check? Self-exile? Inasmuch as one can do so in suburbia, check. Cynicism? Check. Unspecified past crime? Noodle Incident.
    • Unbuilt Trope: All of those do fit Lord Byron except for the first; whatever his faults may have been, Byron had a great deal of integrity. Calvin... does not.
  • Calvin Can Breathe in Space: If we take the "sneezed himself into the atmosphere" strip at face level. Ah well, what's another Memetic Badass?
    • As well as the strip where he kept growing and growing until he outgrew the entire galaxy.
    • In "Weirdos from Another Planet", Calvin and Hobbes use the wagon to travel to Mars, land, and then come back, and never even bat an eyelash at the inability to breathe in space.
      • Nor the inability to breathe Mars's atmosphere, for that matter.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: Calvin

Calvin: OK, this guy goes into a bar. No wait, he doesn't do that yet. Or maybe it's a grocery store. OK, it doesn't matter. Let's say it's a bar. He's somewhere in the vicinity of a bar, right? So anyway, there's this dog, and he says something odd, I don't remember, but this other guy says, um, well, I forget, but it was funny.
Hobbes: I'll try to imagine it.
Calvin: Yeah, you'll really laugh.

  • Cardboard Box Technology: Calvin used his box as the Transmogrifier, Duplicator and a time machine.
  • Cassandra Truth: One of the subtler Running Gags in the series is Hobbes trying to warn Calvin against whatever it is he's currently planning. Unfortunately, whether Calvin is trying to fix the leak in the bathroom faucet, pushing his parents' car out of the garage or duplicating himself to get out of cleaning his room, Calvin never listens and Hilarity Ensues.
  • Catch Phrase: "[Something that Calvin hates] builds character!" from Calvin's dad. Calvin copied this to mock his father, in combination with his glasses and hairstyle. The last panel is Calvin's Mom laughing uncontrollably in a chair and Dad trying to play it off.
    • Bill Watterson has said that Calvin's dad is based on his father, especially that phrase. Although visually he's based on Bill himself, minus the moustache.
  • Cats Are Mean: Inverted with Hobbes, who is overall much kinder and more moral than Calvin, and even calls Calvin out on various misdeeds.
  • Cats Are Snarkers: Hobbes the tiger (whom according to Watterson is based on a gray tabby cat Watterson owned) is arguably the snarkiest character in the comic. And that's saying a lot.
  • Caught in a Snare: Hobbes in the very first strip.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Lampshaded in a strip where Calvin finds his Transmogrifier gun during a mile-high plunge at the tail end of the Balloonacy arc.
  • The Chew Toy: Calvin. Moe, Susie, and Hobbes are always beating him up, even when he does nothing to deserve it.
    • Although, Susie hardly ever attacks Calvin unless provoked, so in Susie's case he almost always deserves it. In stark contrast, Moe beats up Calvin almost always when he has done nothing. Hobbes, of course, tackles him at the end of every school day when he walks through the door, and while he's usually the voice of reason he can sometimes be as big a Jerkass as Calvin to Calvin, and get away with it because he's bigger and has claws.
  • Colony Drop: Imaginary version during one of Calvin's daydreams. Spaceman Spiff uses his Flying Saucer's grappling hook to drag one uninhabited planet into another "For Science!!"
  • Comic Book Time: Despite the passage of summer holidays, Christmases, etc., Calvin and his classmates never age. Lampshaded by Calvin's father at one point:

"Yeah, I know, you think you're going to be six years old forever."

    • This might have actually been the creator trying to tell his readers that someday he would move on to other interests, as insane as it sounded at the time.
    • Or that this is what most 6-year-olds think at the time.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Openly lampshaded in Calvin actively resisting most Aesops being handed to him.

Hobbes: Live and don't learn, that's us.

  • Companion Cube: Hobbes, at least as seen by everyone other than Calvin.
  • Competition Coupon Madness: Calvin wins a propellor beanie this way.
  • Complaining About Shows You Don't Like: Calvin loves to indulge in this. It doesn't stop him to watch the show.
  • Composite Character: Calvin's father displays traits of both Bill Watterson's father (saying things "build character," taking his family on miserable camping trips, jogging in the snow, having a job as a patent attorney) and Watterson himself (the visual appearance, the love of bicycling, the love of the outdoors, the apprehension about consumerist culture and his role in it).
  • The Conscience: Hobbes will sometimes serve as one to Calvin. And maybe if Calvin listened a little more, he probably wouldn't get in as much trouble as he does.
  • Cool but Stupid: "Tyrannosaurs in F14's!"
  • Covered in Gunge: A more family-friendly example occurs whenever our heroes have a sledding accident and end up covered in snow.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Bill Watterson cites Charles Schulz as one of his main creative influences, and it shows in his art style. A few of the stylistic twists Schulz used in his strip, such as profile shots of characters that show only their eyes and nose but not their mouths, or the use of the word "AUGH" when uttering a cry of surprise or dismay, were adopted by Watterson and later used in Calvin and Hobbes.
  • Critical Research Failure (In-Universe): Calvin's report on bats, in which he claims that bats are bugs, because they fly and are ugly. Sadly, we never get to see the rest of the report.

Calvin: My report is on bats. –AHEM— Dusk! With a creepy, tingling sensation, you hear the fluttering of leathery wings! BATS! With glowing red eyes and glistening fangs, these unspeakable giant bugs drop onto...
Entire Class: BATS AREN’T BUGS!!!!
Calvin: Look, who’s giving this report? YOU chowderheads … or ME?!
Ms. Wormwood: Calvin, I’d like to see you a moment.

Calvin: I'm doing a crossword puzzle. Number three across says "bird."
Hobbes: Hmm...
Calvin: I've got it! "Yellow-bellied sapsucker!"
Hobbes: But there are only five boxes.
Calvin: I know. These idiots make you write real small.

Calvin's dad: At least it's not snowing! Right? Right? (Later, as they sit in the rain eating cold ravioli out of cans.) I mean, say it was snowing so hard we couldn't make a fire.

    • And it stops raining the exact moment they decide to leave.
  • Curious as a Monkey: Calvin, of course. He throws water on his dad to test his dad's reflexes and drops an expensive compass out of a tree to study gravity.
  • Cut and Paste Comic: This strip where Calvin talks about his grandfather complaining that all comics today are just xeroxed talking heads.[1]
    • Note however that in the strip proper, there are minor differences that indicate they were all drawn separately. Watterson was just that good.
  • Cut and Paste Note: One story arc played it straight by having Hobbes cut up Calvin's Mom's magazines and send Calvin insults in the mail. Another gloriously subverted it:

Susie: (reading) Susie, if you want to see your doll again, leave $100 in this envelope by the tree out front. Do not call the police. You cannot trace us. You cannot find us. Sincerely, Calvin.

  • A Day in the Limelight: Calvin's Dad occasionally got the spotlight and was often used to voice Watterson's concerns about consumerism and the rat race. Calvin's Mom didn't get these as much, although she sometimes went through the frustrations of everyday life, such as poor customer service and long lineups.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Calvin's dad and Hobbes, though virtually every character has their moments.
    • Hobbes especially. Calvin's dad doesn't seem to be sarcastic as frequently.

Calvin: Here's another ad with attitude. This guy didn't like his job, so he quit, and now he climbs rocks! See, he's his own man! He grabs life by the throat and lives on his own terms!
Hobbes: If he quit his job, I wonder how he affords those expensive athletic shoes he's advertising.
Calvin: Maybe his mom bought them for him.
Hobbes: I hope she'll pay his medical bills when he falls off that rock.

  • Death Is Cheap: Calvin and Hobbes drive over and run into trees all the time, yet are shown to be perfectly fine the very next time. (Though it's never shown how tall the cliffs are, but it's heavily implied that they're pretty high.
    • The height of the cliffs could be more to do with Calvin's imagination, and how everything is much bigger when you're small.
  • Declarative Finger: Used frequently by at least Calvin and his dad, and by Hobbes, who provides the page image.
  • Deface of the Moon: Calvin imagines himself doing this at one point.
  • DIY Disaster: Done in two strips: One where Calvin floods the kitchen, the other getting bad enough to where it floods the entire house. The next strip after even makes a Continuity Nod saying Calvin's dad didn't give dessert because he flooded the house.
  • Do a Barrel Roll: He's done it in fantasies involving airplanes. Another time, he walked through the snow to make the message "do a barrel roll" visible to airplanes.
  • Do It Yourself Plumbing Project: "Check the following list of handy expletives, and see that you know how to use them."
    • Beautifully done in one arc strip in which Calvin attempts to fix a leaky faucet, only to break it open. Hilarity Ensues.

Calvin: "La da dee dee da/I think I'll get a bucket... Dum de doo.../ Nothing's wrong... Da dee doo ba.../I just want a bucket to hold some...stuff./Ta tum ta tum/Let's see, how many buckets do we have? Dum de doo.../No cause for alarm... No need to panic.../I just want a few buckets. La la."
Calvin's parents: (simultaneously) "Your turn."

  • Dream Within a Dream: Calvin dreams that he walks out of the house and then finds his house is several miles in the air, only to wake up, get out of bed, and find that his bed is several miles in the air. He then wakes up for real, except by that point he's too scared to move.
    • There's also the Reality Within A Dream, where he's woken up by his mother and gets ready for school and actually GETS OUT THE DOOR before being woken up again. He lampshades this by saying "My dreams are getting too literal."
  • Easter Egg: Watterson occasionally slips some into the comics - for example, on at least two occasions he altered his signature to fit an Art Shift. This page lists a few of them.
  • Enemy Without / Evil Twin: Inverted. Calvin manages to duplicate only the good side of his personality, who then masquerades as Calvin while the real article gets to slack off. (Running Gag: "If you're Calvin's good side, you ought to be a lot smaller.")
    • That Calvin's good duplicate ends up evaporating for planning to do something bad says a lot about the character.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Some of those snowmen would be head trips if they weren't made of snow.
  • Eleventy-Zillion: When Calvin is having trouble with his homework, Hobbes tells him that the problem requires calculus and imaginary numbers, such as "eleventeen" and "thirty-twelve". (Imaginary numbers are a real mathematical concept, but this isn't how they work.)
  • Eye Shock: Usually with several extra pairs of eyes jumping out of shocked characters' heads.
  • Face Palm: A common reaction to Calvin's shenanigans.
  • Fake Rabies: Calvin made an attempt to fool his dad into thinking he was rabid using toothpaste foam.
  • Fantastic Aesop: "Snow goons are bad news."
  • Fanwork Ban: Legendary. And completely ignored.
  • Fashion Hurts: When Calvin complains about a choking necktie, his father reminds him that some people have to wear ties everyday.
  • Femme Fatale: A Puppy Love variant of this trope occurs when Susie "charms" Hobbes into betraying Calvin during their water balloon fight. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Film Noir: Tracer Bullet's adventures are parodies of stock noir plots.
  • Flowery Elizabethan English: Calvin begins imagining people talking like this after being forced to watch some Shakespeare on TV.
  • Forgot to Pay the Bill: At one point, Calvin claims he didn't do his homework because his parents forgot to pay the gravity bill.
  • Formally-Named Pet: Susie's stuffed rabbit Mr. Bun.
  • Former Teen Rebel: Calvin's dad. ("Is this you with the keg and the "Party Naked" T-shirt?")
  • Franchise Zombie: Averted hard. Watterson ended the comic to prevent this from happening.
    • Most sources will tell you that there isn't any Calvin and Hobbes official merchandise; it's not true. There were 2 wall calendars, done right after the strip started and before Watterson got concerned about merchandising, one t-shirt for the Museum of Modern Art, a very limited book for educators, and a small selection of artwork increased to be wall-sized. All of these are really rare. See pictures of the only (non-book) items of official merchandise here.
  • Freak-Out: Calvin had one of these in school when he realized he was trapped inside during a beautiful day. Miss Wormwood was surprisingly sympathetic, advising Calvin to "take a drink of water and a few deep breaths" as she took him back to his seat.
    • Unsurprisingly sympathetic, given that other strips state that she drinks Maalox straight from the bottle and probably smokes heavily just to get through the week. She might relate to him the most in this aspect, in an odd way.
    • As mentioned in Adult Fear above, When the family came home from vacation, Calvin was freaked out that Hobbes might have been taken from him.
  • Friendly War: Calvin and Hobbes are often at each other's throats, but it's usually only in good fun.
  • From the Mouths of Babes
  • Fun with Acronyms: the Get Rid Of Slimy girlS club.

Calvin: I know it's redundant, but otherwise it doesn't spell anything.

  • Fun with Flushing: Calvin has an elaborate strip where he flushes a toy boat down the toilet. In another one, he and Hobbes dip the dangling paper from the roll into the toilet and flush it. At one point, Calvin himself gets into the toilet bowl, flushes himself around in circles, and then informs his mother that he'd finished his "bath."
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: "I don't care. We're not having an anatomically correct snowman in the front yard."
    • When Calvin asks his father why he got house reign after Calvin was born, his dad remarks that his mom had something to do with it too.
    • During a Show and Tell, Calvin tells the class about his mom being a superhero-by-trade, complete with Wonder Woman-esque attire by his description. Cut to Calvin's mom handing Calvin's dad a letter from the principal about Calvin's report, to which the dad responds, "Wow, show me that outfit sometime."
    • After another incident, his mother rants to his father that Calvin wasn't all her decision. His father responds that he offered to buy a dachshund, but she said...
  • Goofy Print Underwear: Calvin has lucky rocketship briefs, which often do not improve his luck.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck: "Gosh, I've never been a vandal before!" Calvin once noted that he's "only civil because [he] doesn't know any swear words."
  • Gravity Master: Hobbes

Calvin walks past a sacked out Hobbes.
Calvin: Gravity must pull especially hard on tigers.
Hobbes: (thinking as he sails through the air) It's an impression we like to cultivate.

  • Green Aesop: Probably the most of any newspaper comic. Some are good, and actually quite funny, but others (mostly from the later run of the strip) descend to almost Fern Gully/Captain Planet and the Planeteers levels (see the Anvilicious entry on this page).
    • The best such story arc started with Calvin and Hobbes surprised and enraged to learn that part of the forest they love to play in is in the process of being razed to be the site of "Shady Acres Condos". It gave us the wonderful Hobbes quote, "The only shade I see is from that bulldozer." Another gem is when Calvin asks how humans would feel if animals bulldozed the condos to put in new trees -- cut to Hobbes in the bulldozer, angrily stating that the driver didn't leave the keys.
    • Another famous line; while looking at a pile of garbage in the outdoors, Calvin says "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us."
  • Grilling Pyrotechnics: Calvin once tried to talk his dad into invoking this. Natch, he concludes that he has the most boring dad in the world.
  • Guns Are Worthless: You can probably count the number of times that Spiff's "Death Ray Blaster" wasn't useless against an enemy on one hand.
  • Happily Married: Calvin's parents.
    • Most of the time, anyway...

Mom: It's your fault we don't have a sweet little girl! Your stupid chromosome! NOT MINE!
Dad: (thinking) ...I just live here...

  • He-Man Woman Hater: G.R.O.S.S.
  • Her Codename Was Mary Sue: Calvin's many alter-egos.
  • Hiccup Hijinks: Drinking from the far end of a glass and eating spoonfuls of sugar didn't help. After they finally went away, Hobbes pounced on him in an attempt to cure them... and ended up bringing them back even worse.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: As noted above, Watterson arguably torpedoed his own efforts to get rid of illegal merchandise by not allowing any legitimate products in the first place.
    • Also, Watterson revealed in one of the anthologies that after winning the right to lay out his Sunday strips however he wanted, he discovered that crafting the new, more artistic strips took several times longer than the old, formulaic ones.
  • Horrible Camping Trip: Calvin and his family have been on a number of these, the worst being the trip where it began raining the moment the trip began and cleared up the moment the trip ended.

Calvin: (whispering) Do you know what all of Dad's words meant?
Hobbes: (whispering) No, but I wrote 'em down so we can look them up later.

    • And then there's what Calvin's Mom had to say about the whole affair:

Calvin's Mom: Calvin, tell your dad that any judge would take this trip as grounds for divorce.
Calvin: Dad, Mom says...
Calvin's Dad: All right! All right!

  • Human Mail: Calvin sometimes attempts to run away by sitting in a box by the mailbox with a vague address written on it (for example, "To Australia"). It...doesn't work.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Often encountered by Spaceman Spiff, although they're never too humanoid.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Used repeatedly, and one arc has Calvin as so disgusted with humans that he resolves to become a tiger. It's driven home when he decides to go back to being a human only because he finds out tigers are endangered because of humans, and he doesn't want to be killed.
    • There's also a strip in this vein satirizing hunting, in which a trio of deer walk into an office with hunting rifles and kill an employee. Calvin claims that they do this to curb human overpopulation, a popular justification for deer hunting.
    • Though the Sunday strip where Calvin explains why he hangs out with Hobbes instead of human kids is a heartwarming moment.
  • Humble Goal: Hobbes's wish is to have a sandwich. He achieves it. This is contrasted with Calvin, whose more extravagant wish for "a trillion billion dollars, my own space shuttle, and a private continent goes unfulfilled.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Calvin complains about having to walk up hills before sledding down them and asks Hobbes to pull him up on the sled. Hobbes declines, prompting Calvin to remark that "[h]e's so lazy and selfish."
    • Perhaps best exemplified when Calvin ranted for three panels about people who complain too much. In the fourth panel, Hobbes says "Maybe they're not very self-aware," to which Calvin replies, "Boy, that's another thing that gets on my nerves!"
    • A similar comic had Calvin making an out-of-the-blue comment to Hobbes, "Do you ever wonder why birds don't write their memoirs? Because birds don't lead epic lives, that's why! Who wants to read about what a bird does? Nobody!" Two panels later, he complains about people who make bizarre comments out of nowhere and even suggests the solution of punching them right there, to which Hobbes says, "If you wait, he might top himself." Watterson said that this is an exaggeration of his wife's own abrupt subject changes.
    • Yet another one showed Calvin making a list called "One Million Things That Bug Me." After listing a half dozen random things, Hobbes pops his head in and says, "What about 'excessively negative people'?" to which Calvin responds, "Ooh, yeah! That's a good one...HEY!"
    • Combined with Leaning on the Fourth Wall - a series of four visually identical panels of Calvin and Hobbes talking while facing each other. The subject? How newspaper comics have degenerated into talking heads with little artistry.
    • Calvin announces to Hobbes that he has outgrown morality and "the ends justify the means." After Hobbes shoves him into the mud, he stipulates that the rule only applies to him.
  • I Can Explain: Calvin panics as he tries to explain to his mother what he thinks Miss Wormwood told her. He almost confesses to the Noodle Incident in doing so, which his mother didn't even know about.
    • Averted in a strip where Calvin is nailing a board to the living room table. His mother freaks and asks what he's doing, to which he simply retorts, "Is this a trick question?"
  • Identical Panel Gag: In one strip, Calvin tells Hobbes about his grandfather, who complains that modern comic strips are "nothing but a bunch of xeroxed talking heads". Every panel in the strip is the same two-shot of Calvin and Hobbes, with only the speech bubbles changing. (Although, on closer inspection, there are enough tiny differences to show that each "identical" panel was actually drawn separately.)
  • If I Wanted X, I Would Y: Calvin explains why he does not like organized sports:

Calvin: I hate all the rules and organization and teams and ranks in sports. Somebody's always yelling at you, telling you where to be, what to do, and when to do it. I figure when I want that, I'll join the Army and at least get paid.

  • Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance: Calvin constantly overestimates himself.
  • Ignoring by Singing: In this strip, Hobbes starts mocking Calvin's height, telling him he'll always be short and that his parents are planning to sell him to a sideshow. Calvin shouts "I'm not listening!" then puts his hands over his ears and starts singing "The Star-Spangled Banner".
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Calvin occasionally laments the fact that, as a human, he doesn't have any of the cool traits many animals do, like retractable claws, fangs, opposable toes, wings, the ability to light up his behind the way fireflies do, etc.
  • I Know You Know I Know: Calvin wanted to trick Susie so he could soak her with water balloons. So he left an easily decipherable "secret code" note for her to find (in backwards letters), hoping she would go behind his house. She caught on quickly and hid elsewhere to spray Calvin with the garden hose.
  • Imagine Spot: Happens quite often, but most notably the Spaceman Spiif and Stupendous Man sequences.
  • I Meant to Do That: Calvin says this after his attempt to launch a giant snowball (by placing it on the end of a plank balanced atop a log and jumping on the other end of said plank) ends with him getting splattered. Hobbes' response: "Then it worked very well."
    • Hobbes also invokes this when he's about to tackle Calvin, but then Calvin ducks down to pick up a penny, causing Hobbes to pass over him and crash-land on the floor. Hobbes then gets up and walks away with as much dignity as he can muster, leading Calvin to note that Hobbes wanted him to think he missed Calvin on purpose.
  • Impossible Shadow Puppets: Calvin makes a shadow puppet which looks like, as Hobbes calls it, "A bug-eyed tentacled thing." Turns out it's the real thing, to the duo's horror.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Calvin explains to Hobbes that he's taking a toy telephone into the woods to "try some bird calls". The next thing we know, the receiver's been wedged into his mouth and the cord is wrapped around his head and body.
  • Informed Ability: The narration of most of Calvin's fantasies includes these for his various alter-egos (for comedic effect). The sheer number of times Spaceman Spiff has been shot down and/or captured would kind of put a dent in the idea that he's the galaxy's greatest space explorer.
    • That said, he obviously escaped every time.
    • There aren't that many intergalactic explorers. He doesn't have to be particularly amazing at it to be the best in his field.
    • A mention should also be made of Stupendous Man, whom even Calvin himself admits has had only "moral victories" thus far.
  • Innocent Prodigy: Calvin, who goes from his imagined personae to deep insight at the drop of a hat.
  • Insignificant Blue Dot: Played with by Calvin, usually to get out of answering test problems in school.
  • Intellectual Animal: Hobbes. "There are times when it's a source of great personal pride to not be human."
  • Irony: The very first mention of "Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie", which becomes Calvin's favorite book.

Dad: You might like this story.
Calvin: Oh yeah? How good can it be if it hasn't been made into a TV show?

  • It's All About Calvin. Very much so. While he'll occasionally show concern for others, for animals (the little raccoon), or for the environment, the majority of strips show Calvin only thinking about himself.

Calvin: I don't want to pay any dues in life. I want to be a one-in-a-million, overnight success! I want the world handed to me on a silver platter!
Hobbes: Good luck.

  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Calvin's heart is well hidden, but Hobbes being damaged or an injured animal can bring it out. He can also get genuinely remorseful if one of his pranks goes too far.
  • Karma Houdini: Everyone but Calvin, but Moe is the most egregious example. he constantly tortures Calvin, despite being literally the only character to whom Calvin never does anything that would warrant it.
  • Kids Prefer Boxes: In addition to using cardboard boxes to make all sorts of devices, one time Calvin sent away for a motorized propeller beanie. When it finally arrives, he kicks it away after realizing that it doesn't let him fly around town as he had imagined and prefers to play with the cool cardboard box it came in instead.
  • Kids Shouldn't Watch Horror Films: Calvin, allowed to stay up one night without a babysitter, decides to rent a VCR and a bunch of scary movies. The aftermath:

Calvin's Dad: Well, the house is still standing. Calvin must have gone to bed.
Calvin's Mom: His light is still on. Calvin? Are you awake? (opens bedroom door, gets hit by Bucket Booby Trap) EEP! Did you watch a scary movie?!?
Calvin: No. Don't come in. The rug is rigged too.

  • Knight Templar: Calvin is arguably similar to this trope, to a fairly mild extent. He regards his disobedient approach to his parents, the school staff, etc... as "rebellion against tyranny" and he even puts on a superhero outfit before knocking his babysitter over during her conversation with her boyfriend.
  • Know Your Vines: After Calvin utterly fails a report on plants, he angrily asks what good it does to identify plants while holding a branch. Hobbes then replies "I believe that's poison sumac you're holding."
  • Laborious Laziness: Two examples:
    • In one series, Calvin built a time machine to travel two hours into the future and get a copy of his homework from himself after it was already finished. Predictably, it doesn't work.

6:30 Calvin: Well, since we're you from the past, I suppose you know why we're here. Did you do the homework?
8:30 Calvin: Me?? No.
6:30 Calvin: No?! Why not??
8:30 Calvin: Because two hours ago, I went to the future to get it.
6:30 Calvin: Yeah, and here I am! Where is it?!
8:30 Calvin: That's what I said two hours ago!

    • In another series, Calvin didn't want to make his bed, so he and Hobbes spent all afternoon trying to build a robot to do it for him. They couldn't get the robot to work, but since they spent so long on it, the bed never got made. Mission accomplished!

Hobbes: Wouldn't inventing a robot be more work than making the bed?
Calvin: It's only work if somebody makes you do it.

  • Lampshade Hanging: Done with Hobbes' tendency to get 'captured' during games with other people, since he can't move when anyone besides Calvin is around. "I've noticed that when we play games with girls, you get captured a lot."
    • There is also a strip where Hobbes asks Calvin why he wears "long pants" in the summer. His answer, and the punchline, is "short pants touch my feet".
  • Lethal Chef: Calvin's mom, in Calvin's mind. Though her cooking really is usually depicted as a formless mass of goo on a plate, it's Calvin who often imagines her dishes having literally lethal consequences or unspeakable ingredients. At one point, even Calvin's dad (after some comments by Calvin) demands to know what exactly it is he's eating, and that whatever it is, he's not eating it (it's supposed to be stuffed peppers). In this particular strip, Calvin refuses to eat his dinner, so his Mom mentions that it's monkey brains. Calvin, naturally, is eager to try it, but now Calvin's dad has apparently lost his appetite....
    • Another strip had virtually the same thing happening, this time with rice.
    • Yet another had a variation of the joke, in which it's dad who tries the Reverse Psychology by whispering to Calvin in a confiding tone that he's right not to want to eat the food since it's actually toxic waste that will turn him into a mutant. Calvin gobbles it all up greedily in a fantastic flash. Mom remarks that there simply has to be a better way to make him eat.
    • It also seems to run in the family. One story arc involves Mom getting sick and unable to cook dinner. Dad takes her place in one strip:

Dad: Since your Mom is sick, I'll be cooking dinner tonight.
Calvin: YOU can cook?
Dad: Of course I can cook. As you can see, I survived two years of my own cooking when I had an apartment after college.
Calvin: Mom says you ate canned soup and waffles three meals a day.
Dad: Your mom wasn't there, so she wouldn't know. Get the syrup out, will you?

    • And then there was the strip where Calvin tried to make breakfast in bed for his Mom:

Calvin: I made toast, orange juice and eggs for you all by myself!
Mom: Oh, that's wonderful, Calvin!
Calvin: The eggs got burned and kind of stuck to the pan, but you can probably chip them out with this chisel.
Mom: Um...where is the toast and orange juice?
Calvin: Dad said not to tell you about that until you're all better.

  • Limited Wardrobe: Calvin. Everyone else changes outfits regularly.
  • Literal Genie: Calvin likes to carefully interpret things people say, especially commands, so that they seem to encourage him to do what he wants.
  • Literal-Minded: Calvin exhibits this in one strip where Susie points out a cloud in the sky.

Susie: What does that cloud look like to you?
Calvin: A mass of suspended water and ice particles. Why do you ask?
Susie: (dashes off)
Calvin: (smiling to the reader) Everybody hates a literalist.

    • Similarly, after he saw a cloud take the form of his own head giving him a raspberry, he decided that it was an omen. Of "very peculiar high altitude winds... you know, some sort of cumulonimbal thing."
  • Little-Known Facts: Calvin occasionally asks his dad to explain some natural phenomenon, and his dad will draw on his vast knowledge of the real world as a patent attorney... and come up with something completely ludicrous instead. A typical example:

Calvin: Why does the sun set?
Calvin's Dad: Because hot air rises. The sun's hot in the middle of the day, so it rises high in the sky. In the evening then, it cools down and sets.
Calvin: Why does it go from east to west?
Calvin's Dad: Solar wind.
Calvin's Mom: (off-panel) Dear!

    • Most of the time he just does this to screw with Calvin's head. Watterson has never been a father, and he imagines fatherhood would be filled with this temptation.
    • ... or this is a characteristic of Watterson's own father, upon whom Calvin's Dad is partially based.
  • Little Miss Snarker: Susie Derkins.

Calvin: War is a manly art!
Susie: I suppose anything so idiotic would have to be. Can I play in your game or not?
Calvin: I don't know, it seems you'd rather be making smart remarks.

    • Calvin can be a male example of this from time to time.
  • Little Professor Dialog: One of the prime examples of this trope, to the point where it almost becomes a Running Gag. Watterson explained in one author's foreword that his favorite thing about Calvin was "his ability to precisely articulate stupid ideas."
  • Look Ma, No Plane: In one storyline, Calvin thinks a motorized propeller beanie will let him fly, complete with fantasy sequence where he waves at a plane. Another Sunday fantasy has his parents letting him drive the car, and he drives so fast he breaks the speedometer, goes airborne and passes a jet.
  • Loophole Abuse: When asked to explain Newton's First Law of Motion in his own words, he answers the question by literally using his own words:

Calvin: [writing] Yakka foob mog. Grug pubbawup zink wattoom gazork. Chumble spuzz.
Calvin: I love loopholes.

    • Another example:

Ms Wormwood: What state do you live in?
Calvin: Denial!
Ms Wormwood: * sigh* I suppose I can't argue with that.

"Either she had a psychotic decorator, or her place had been ransacked by someone in a big hurry."

    • Another earlier in the series:

"Either Mom's cooking dinner, or someone got stuck in the furnace duct."

Mom: I know somebody who's going to get a lot of coal in his stocking, buster.

  • Man-Made House Flood: One strip Calvin calling his dad at work, apparently to make small talk. The final panel reveals the real reason he's calling: He somehow managed to flood the house, and the waterline is high enough to reach the top of the ladder that Calvin is currently on. In another, Calvin manages to turn the stairs into a waterfall.
  • Marshmallow Dream: Hobbes and his 'weasel dreams.' Occasionally, it would be Calvin who got torn up and not the pillow.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The existence of Hobbes. Is he real, or an Imaginary Friend?
    • For that matter, some of the more surreal events of the strip. Was Calvin actually abducted by aliens and replaced by a robot double? Did he truly hijack the spaceship of a shape-shifting alien who took his place? How about the Snow Goons? They could all be credited to Calvin's imagination, but there's never any proof that they're not real.
    • The incident that most fans point to is the time that Calvin asks Hobbes to tie him to a chair so that he can break free. Calvin is tied so tight that his parents are stumped as to how he got himself into the situation, despite Calvin's insistence that Hobbes did it.
  • Meaningful Name: Subverted. The characters both share the names of philosophers, but a read through the early strips shows that any real significance once the strip itself got philosophical is a coincidence. (Calvin was, in fact, originally going to be named Marvin until a strip of the same name launched.)
    • Even so, later characterizations pretty much played this trope straight. John Calvin believed in predestination, similar to how Calvin often ponders destiny and blames his faults on other forces. Thomas Hobbes was a philosopher who after fighting in a British war, had a very dim outlook on humanity. Likewise, Calvin's tiger often finds problems with humanity's stupidity, saying that tigers are superior. Other parallels exist, as well.
    • "Sin boldly," anyone?
  • Mental Story: Even leaving aside the question of whether or not Hobbes is real, a lot of stories take place in Calvin's imagination.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Averted at the cost of such hostility that Watterson actually thought about quitting the strip. All those Calvin window stickers you see are infringement. According to this site, there were two calendars, a Museum of Modern Art t-shirt, and a book, "Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes."
  • Me's a Crowd: The duplicator machine arc.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: Calvin's fantasies often tend in this direction.

"I wish I was dead!... Wait, no I don't really. I wish everyone else was dead."

    • Considering numerous other factors cited here and elsewhere, this seems to apply to Watterson as well.
    • At one point, Calvin fantasized about being an ancient god who brings whole worlds into existence and torments those who don't appease him. "The doomed writhe in agony!" The only thing keeping the strip from being mega-creepy is the fact that it ends with the reveal he's playing with Tinker Toys.
      • Still creepy. He's a still a six year old boy imagining planetary genocide. The Tinker Toys could be viewed as a practice run or a scale-model 3-D plan.
    • Also, Calvin has no friends aside from Hobbes. He joined the boy scouts once and participated in one organized sport but quit both as soon as he could. His tendency to get lost in his imagination tends to weird out the other kids.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: An early strip has hippos in the Amazon.
  • Missing Episode: A strip from November 25, 1985, involving Calvin trying to bathe in a washing machine, only appeared in a few papers. It did not show up in any of the anthologies, which had an alternate strip (Calvin saying dinner tastes like bat barf, being told to go to his room, then ordering a pizza).
  • Morality Dial
  • Mr. Imagination: Calvin.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: Calvin.
  • Mundane Wish: In a Sunday strip, Calvin asks Hobbes what he'd wish for; Hobbes says he wants a sandwich. Calvin doesn't understand why and wishes for enormous wealth. Hobbes gets his wish, and Calvin obviously does not.
    • Another strip had Calvin ask a similar question, to which Hobbes replies that he'd wish for "a big sunny field to lie in." Calvin is aghast at how mundane this is, but then observes Hobbes sleeping in the grass. "Actually, it's hard to argue with someone who looks so happy."
  • My Brain Is Big: This happens to Calvin when he invents a "thinking cap" to make himself smarter.
  • My Future Self and Me: Calvin's third and last adventure with the time machine features three Calvins, from only an hour apart.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: There are times when Calvin realizes his shenanigans have gone too far and he genuinely feels bad about it.
  • Naked People Are Funny: The strip became notorious among some early on for showing Calvin completely in the nude (although usually just from the back).
  • Name and Name
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Doom Drop, Pallbearer's Peak, Dismemberment Gorge, Lookout Hill, Mount Maim and Suicide Slope. These are the names Calvin gives to the various cliffs and hills he and Hobbes go down in the sled or the wagon, depending on the time of year.
  • The Napoleon: In one summer strip, Hobbes asks Calvin why he's wearing long pants on a hot day and wonders why he doesn't wear short pants instead. Calvin immediately gets very angry. When Hobbes asks him what's wrong, a frustrated Calvin screams, "Short pants touch my feet, okay?!"
  • Never My Fault: Calvin will invent entirely new realities rather than admit he made a mistake in this one.
  • New Media Are Evil: Sometimes used, sometimes criticized. The combination almost seems hypocritical on Bill Watterson's part. Various remarks by Watterson in the C 10th Anniversary book include:

"I would suggest that it is not the medium, but the quality of perception and expression that determines the significance of art. But hey, what would a cartoonist know?"

    • Yet from the same book...
    • He refers to television as the '20th century drug of choice' in that book as well. And then in There's Treasure Everywhere, there's a strip where Calvin gets so shaken reading a violent comic book, he puts it down and turns on TV instead, and then in the last panel:

Calvin's Mom: No you don't. There's too much violence on TV. Why don't you go read something?

    • And for that matter, There's Treasure Everywhere is the same comic collection that brought us:

Calvin: I resent the quality of network programming! It is all fluff, violence, sensationalism and sleaze! I hunder for serious, tasteful entertainment that respects my intelligence!
Calvin's Dad: Then turn off the stupid TV and read a book.
Calvin: All right, I Lied. Sue me.

      • There's also a strip in which the TV appears to be broken, and Calvin and Hobbes are reading a book. Calvin reads Karl Marx's famous "religion is the opiate of the masses" quote and ponders the meaning; a thought bubble from the TV reads, "It means Marx hadn't seen anything yet."
    • See also this strip on "high" art vs. "low" art.
  • New Year's Resolution
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: Several times, he built scenes of snowmen who suffered a horrible death, causing his parents to question his sanity.
    • As if they didn't have enough cause already.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: "Tyrannosaurs in F-14s!!" What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?!
    • He once doodled in the margins of his new school textbook, creating an animated flip sequence in which "T-rex drives the Batmobile and explodes."
  • No Name Given: Calvin's last name, and the names of his parents. Susie Derkins is the only major character with both a first and a last name. Several minor characters who don't appear but are only mentioned, and then usually just the once, have full names: this includes three of Calvin's classmates and the author of his favorite book. Watterson commented that he invoked this on purpose with regards to Calvin's parents, because Calvin was the main character, and as such his parents were only important as Calvin's parents.
    • Part of the reason that Uncle Max never made a second appearance was that Watterson found it awkward that Max couldn't refer to Calvin's parents by their names.
  • Nose Nuggets: Calvin walks outside in the cold, then wrinkles his nose before making an Aside Glance and saying, "Don't you hate it when your boogers freeze?" Lampshaded in an anthology, where Bill Watterson wrote, "I hope some historian will confirm that I was the first cartoonist to use the word 'booger' in a newspaper comic strip."
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Interestingly, Calvin seems not to know or care that his parents don't "see" Hobbes as he does.
  • Oblivious to Love: Calvin and Susie Derkins. Word of God says that Calvin and Susie have a mutual crush on each other. Calvin, apparently, either doesn't know about it or doesn't know how to deal with it, so he does his best to gross out and anger Susie, who then always gets mad at him.
    • Strangely enough, in the strip it's Hobbes who is attracted to Susie and is always persuading Calvin to go play with her.

Calvin: ...So what happened to the mandibles of death, you sissy furball?!?
Hobbes: I was beguiled by her feminine charms. Yow. Go soak your head.

    • Evidently, this romantic channel seems to work both ways, seeing how Susie even sent a Valentine's card addressed to Hobbes.
      • Of course, in one of the strip's two versions of reality, Hobbes's independent personality is merely a figment of Calvin's own imagination. In which case, Hobbes flirting with Susie is really Calvin flirting with her by proxy.
      • Susie flirting with Hobbes is really her flirting with Calvin by proxy no matter how you slice it.
    • It's not like Calvin never gives any indication of liking Susie himself. In fact, before you ever see her, the first strip to mention her features him comically blatantly bringing her up for no apparent reason and loudly Protesting Too Much that he doesn't like her, with Hobbes teasing him about it.
      • Perhaps the most obvious example of their mutual crush is when Calvin sends Susie an offensive valentine, to which she replies by shouting and hitting him. As she's walking away, she smiles and thinks something to the effect of "He sent me a Valentine! He cares." while Calvin simultaneously has similar thoughts.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Possibly Calvin. His philosophical discussions imply that he's smarter than his grades indicate and even once told Susie that he found life easier the lower he kept everyone's expectations when she questioned why he was happy about getting a 'D' on a test.
    • Lampshaded in one strip where Calvin (keeping in mind that he's only six years old), explains to his mother the complicated notion that black holes create a depression in space so that other objects "roll" towards them...and then adds "Speaking of gravity, I dropped a pitcher of lemonade in the kitchen when my roller blades slipped." While grinding her teeth and cleaning up the mess, his mom wonders how he can be so smart and yet so dumb.
  • Odd-Shaped Panel: Arguably one of the Trope Maker for newspaper comics.
  • Off the Chart: Calvin gives his dad a talk about approval ratings that includes a chart like this.
  • Old Shame: Before adapting the character into one of Calvin's alter egos, Bill Watterson tried to produce a comic strip starring Spaceman Spiff. In this early version, Spiff was a cigar-smoking astronaut with a Chaplin moustache. He had a dimwitted assistant named Fargle, and they flew through space in a zeppelin. For obvious reasons, as Watterson notes in the Tenth Anniversary Book, the syndicates rejected it.
  • One-Two Punchline: Bill Watterson was fond of these, with Hobbes adding another punchline on the far right of the last panel, often a mockery or lampshade hanging on what Calvin was saying.
  • Onion Tears:

Calvin: Whatcha doin', Mom?
Mom (sobbing): I'm cutting up an onion.
Calvin: It must be hard to cook when you anthropomorphize your vegetables.

Calvin: Krakow! Krakow! Two direct hits!

  • Overly Long Scream: Calvin does one upon learning that he is going to have Rosalyn as his baby sitter.
  • Painting the Medium: The aforementioned black-and-white, un-outlined strip led to a punchline of Calvin's dad telling him "The problem is, you see everything in terms of black and white." Actually, that's more like not painting the medium.
    • Another example is Moe, who always spoke in mixed-case instead of all-caps.
  • Paper People: Deconstructed in one strip where Calvin imagines himself to have turned into one; he can't move unless he wriggles on the floor, is susceptible to the slighest gust of wind, but can hide by standing sideways.
  • Parental Bonus: Some of the things Calvin says would be completely incomprehensible to younger readers.

Calvin: "Why would it be worth four dollars a minute to talk on the phone to goofy ladies who wear their underwear on TV commercials?"

    • And not just limited to Calvin. After Calvin asks his mom for a little brother to beat up on, it cuts to Calvin's dad getting interrupted at work by a phone call:

Calvin's Dad: "Honey, can we discuss the operation some other time?..."

  • Pluralses: "Thanks, Hobbeses! You guys are life savers!"
  • Perp Sweating: Calvin's parents can do this without even trying.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Roughly two-thirds of all G.R.O.S.S. meetings consist of Calvin and Hobbes arguing over procedural matters, getting into fistfights and then declaring a truce, rather than actually doing anything to get rid of any girls, slimy or otherwise.
  • Poor Man's Porn: Parodied when Hobbes admits to checking out tigresses in National Geographic.
  • Private Eye Monologue: Tracer Bullet.
  • Puff of Logic: When a good-side-only duplicate of Calvin desires to "tear [him] limb from--", at which point he instantly evaporates for desiring the "evil" of violence. Thereafter, with no small degree of wry humor, Hobbes points out that of everyone he knows, Calvin's the only one whose good side is prone to badness.
  • Punny Name: Mable Syrup, author of "Hamster Huey".
  • Puppy Dog Eyes: Calvin tries to use these to get a flame thrower. Doesn't work.
  • Push Polling: Calvin tends to employ this when discussing his dad's "approval ratings."
  • Put Off Their Food: In one strip, Mom tells Calvin that the icky stuff on his plate is monkey brains in order to get him to eat it. But now Dad can't eat it because it Squicks him out.
  • Put on a Bus: One story arc features a visit by Calvin's Uncle Max, whom Watterson first intended to be a recurring character. But while writing the story he realized Max wasn't bringing out any new sides to Calvin, and also found it awkward to write around Max not addressing his brother and sister-in-law by name, so Uncle Max boarded a plane and went home, never to appear in the strip again.
  • Rain Dance: Calvin attempts a "snow dance" to get school cancelled. It doesn't work.
  • Readings Blew Up the Scale
  • Reality Subtext: Countless strips were based on exchanges between Watterson and his syndicate.
  • Reclusive Artist: Watterson rarely gave interviews or public statements while drawing the strip, and since it ended he's all but disappeared from the public eye.
    • During his political cartooning years, he did the same, as well as skipping award presentations in his honor and ignoring the demands of his superiors, no matter how minor. This reclusive nature seems to point to a personal issue with people rather than concern for the well-being of his craft.
    • There's only one (maybe two) known photographs of him as well. He did sometimes caricature himself outside the comic though.
  • Recursive Reality: Calvin once grew to the size of a galaxy and found a door that led back to his own room.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Several examples. Calvin himself would occasionally do this in-universe, often in an attempt to baffle Miss Wormwood and get out of doing actual schoolwork.

Calvin: Miss Wormwood, could we arrange our seats in a circle and have a little discussion? Specifically, I'd like to debate whether cannibalism ought to be grounds for leniency in murders, since it's less wasteful.

    • Also the various strips in which Calvin and Hobbes hold deep, thoughtful, philosophical discussions...all while riding downhill on a wagon (or sled) through a forest while catching air that would put a professional motocross rider to shame and often crashing in spectacular fashion.
    • Similar to South Park or The Simpsons, many of the early strips relied on the incongruity between Calvin's youth and "shock" humor for their impact.
      • "When I grow up, I'm going to be a radical terrorist...I'm going to inhale this can of pesticide..."
      • Calvin threatened to become a psychopath if his parents weren't permissive enough with him.
      • The various horror movies Calvin tried to sneak in to see, often with overt sexual themes.
  • Religious Russian Roulette: In a couple of strips.
  • Right-Hand-Cat: Hobbes.
  • Rogues Gallery: Calvin imagines many of the people he knows as Stupendous Man's enemies: Susie/Annoying Girl, Miss Wormwood/Crab Teacher, Rosalyn/Baby Sitter Girl, and Calvin's Mom/ Arch Enemy Mom-Lady.
  • Rule of Funny: There's no justification in-universe for Calvin's Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness or freakish intelligence in general, Hobbes' Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane nature is never explained, and his classroom curriculum spans the entire elementary school in difficulty. But so what?
    • Certain aspects of Calvin's personality are inconsistent. In particular, in some strips he only wants to play outside, while in others he can't imagine doing anything but watching TV, usually dependent on which one his parents least want him to do, or just for an opportunity to mock television.
  • Running Gag: Many. The Transmogrifier, the bicycle, the Noodle Incident, Calvin's "snow art," and the recurring bedtime story Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie, to name a few.
    • The Hamster Huey gag is played on when his dad snaps from being forced to read it every single night and instead gives them a new take on the story.

(Calvin and Hobbes lying in bed, eyes wide open)
Calvin: Wow, the story was different this time.
Hobbes: Do you think the townsfolk will ever find Hamster Huey's head?

    • Other notable running gags include Calvin's annual struggle to be "good" enough in December to avoid the wrath of Santa, Calvin being ambushed by Hobbes at moments when he least expects it, and of course Calvin's alter egos.
    • Does Calvin's fictitious flamethrower counts?
    • Actually, a good number of running gags revolve around Calvin's dad. To add a few more examples:
      • Calvin's political polls on his dad
      • Dad's camping trips, that always make Mom and Calvin miserable.
      • Calvin asking his dad a question, and Dad responding with an elaborate answer that is complete nonsense. For example, why do you close your eyes when you sneeze? Because otherwise the force of the explosion would blow your eyeballs out of their sockets, they'd dangle on your face by the optic nerve, and you'd have to aim them with your hands when you want to look at something.
  • Sadist Teacher: Calvin sees Miss Wormwood as being one of these.
    • In truth, Miss Wormwood is probably a decent teacher, she's just too boring for a hyperactive kid like Calvin, which of course is what makes her classes so hard for him to sit through. Kids like Susie who study hard have no problem with her. As Bill Watterson puts it, she seriously believes in the value of a good education, so needless to say, she's an unhappy person when she has to put up with the likes of Calvin.

Calvin: I want a high-paying job when I get out of here! I want opportunity!
Miss Wormwood: In that case, young man, I suggest you start working harder. What you get out of school depends on what you put into it.
Calvin: Oh... then forget it.

  • Sanity Ball: When Calvin and Hobbes are interacting, Hobbes has the ball. When Calvin's parents, Miss Wormwood, or Rosalyn enter the scene, overly imaginative Calvin usually has the ball. When it's just Calvin's mom and dad, Mom has the ball. When Susie shows up, Calvin's typical reaction is throwing the Sanity Ball at her and running away.
  • Saying Too Much: Calvin accidentally makes his mother aware of the Noodle Incident when he panics and tries to explain what Miss Wormwood told her at the parent-teacher meeting.
  • Scale-Model Destruction: Several times Calvin makes sand box communities and then devastates them.
    • Calvin gets frustrated trying to build a model airplane and smashes it to shrapnel with a hammer. Then he tells Hobbes that the plane "got hit by anti-aircraft guns."

Hobbes: Your planes do tend to run into those, don't they?

  • Scandalgate: In one strip, where Calvin pretends that his dad is an elected official, he mentions major scandals during his dad's administration, such as "Bedtimegate" and "Homeworkgate."
  • Scenery Porn: The Spaceman Spiff segues often include amazing arid alien landscapes. Bill Watterson admits that he didn't make them up on his own, but they're basically illustrations of the desert scenery of the United States, which he figures are as wonderfully alien a landscape as Mars.
    • Also subverted in a strip where Calvin is Watching the Sunset, there is a great panoramic drawing of the scene, and he's complaining about the shows he's missing.
  • Science Is Bad
  • Scrabble Babble:

Calvin: Ha! I've got a great word and it's on a "Double word score" box!
Hobbes: "ZQFMGB" isn't a word! It doesn't even have a vowel!
Calvin: It is so a word! It's a worm found in New Guinea! Everyone knows that!
Hobbes: I'm looking it up.
Calvin: You do, and I'll look up that 12-letter word you played with all the Xs and Js!
Hobbes: ...What's your score for ZQFMGB?
Calvin: 957.

Calvin (cracking an egg above the stove with only one eye open): The secret to making life fun is making little challenges for yourself.
Hobbes: Like the challenge of explaining the stove and floor to your mom?
Calvin: Rats. See if there's another carton in the fridge, willya?

Moe: Gimme a quarter, Twinky.
Calvin: Your simian countenance suggests a heritage unusually rich in species diversity.
Moe: What?
Calvin: Here you go. (tosses him a quarter) That was worth 25 cents.

    • Also (note that this is an earlier strip—from Moe's first appearance, in fact):

Calvin: Moe, I was wondering something. Are your maladjusted antisocial tendencies the product of your berserk pituitary gland?
(Beat Panel)
Moe: What?
Calvin: (looks out to the Fourth Wall) Isn't he great, folks? Let's give him a big hand!

  • Shapeshifter Showdown: Calvin and Hobbes using the Transmogrifying Gun on each other.
  • Shout-Out: In the tenth anniversary book, Watterson notes that Miss Wormwood is named after the apprentice devil in The Screwtape Letters.
    • In an early Sunday strip when Calvin and his parents went to an art museum, in one panel, his parents are admiring a Krazy Kat landscape.
    • Hobbes once does Calvin's hair for school picture day. Calvin keeps asking him how it looks and Hobbes finally tells him that he looks like Astro Boy. Upon hearing that, Calvin exclaims that he can't wait to get his picture taken.
    • In an arc in which Calvin gets turned into an owl with his transmogrifier gun, when he realizes that owls don't have to go to school, he starts singing the "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah" song from Song of the South.
      • Another Disney tribute: "When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true...I WISH I HAD A COOL MILLION DOLLARS, RIGHT NOW!...If Jiminy Cricket was here, I'd skoosh him."
    • One comic had Calvin wearing a cape and shouting "Up, up, and away!" in an attempt to fly. After he crashes he shouts "Ack! Kryptonite!"
    • In one strip calvin claimed he was attacked by space aliens that looked like "baked potatoes with ray guns."
    • John Calvin was a philosopher who believed humans had no free will. Thomas Hobbes was one who believed they had to much for their own good.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Susie attempts to enforce this when she and Calvin play house. Calvin's not having it.
  • Silence Is Golden: Watterson said that the change to his Sunday Strip format allowed him to further explore the ability to tell a story without dialogue.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: For a story about a boy and his tiger friend, which sounds like something that could be horribly saccharine, it's very close to the middle. The world is full of wonders, but it's also unfair and sometimes cruel.
  • Sneeze of Doom: Done in one strip, where Calvin sneezes so hard that he launches himself into space—and sends himself back with another sneeze.
    • There's also this one strip where Calvin's head explodes from a particularly violent sneeze. Turns out, he was pretending. It was still pretty damn funny, though...
  • Snowball Fight: A recurring trope, most often Calvin vs. Hobbes or Susie.
  • Snowlems: The Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons.
  • Solar-Powered Magnifying Glass: Stupendous Man uses a giant magnifying glass from an observatory telescope in order to fry Calvin's school off the map. Calvin's mom doesn't believe him when he says that the school got fried, and still makes him do his math homework.
  • Somewhere a Palaeontologist Is Crying: Readily apparent in early strips where dinosaurs are concerned, which Watterson admits to drawing based on information he remembered from the 60s. After getting caught up on modern palaeontology he was able to draw them much more accurately.
  • Sophisticated As Hell: Calvin is a soft-PG example.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": A rare non-translation example. It's Susie, not Suzie. There are pages on This Very Wiki where you can find this error.
  • Spiritual Successor: Some readers have remarked that the current comic Frazz features a main character that looks and talks like a grown up Calvin would. In online chats the creator admitted to the similarities, but said that they were unintentional, although Watterson was a huge influence on his work.
  • Spoof Aesop: All over the place. The lesson Calvin learned about the Snow goon incident was "Snow goons are bad news."
  • Squirrels in My Pants: Subverted: Calvin actually had a hole in his pocket that some pennies dropped through.
  • Stable Time Loop: Shamelessly subverted: Calvin goes two hours forward to try to get an essay that he should have written assuming that he got it done, only to discover that his future self did the same thing two hours ago to no avail. Rather than giving up, they then decide to go back in time with the intention of beating up Calvin's self from somewhere in the middle for the same reason. While all this is worked out, past and future Hobbes both write a story about the whole time travel debacle, and it gets an A+.
  • Starfish Aliens: With Calvin's imagination? You bet. A lot of his aliens end up having rather human personalities, though.
  • Stealth Insult: Hobbes gets in a lot of these. One example, from a strip where Calvin made wings for himself out of construction paper:

Hobbes: If paper feathers are all it takes to fly, don’t you think we’d have heard about it before?
Calvin: It takes an uncommon mind to think of these things, Hobbes.
Hobbes: I'd agree with that.

Calvin: I've lost my marbles.
Hobbes: [with a huge grin] Everyone suspected as much.
Calvin: Well, I hope somebody finds them then.
(Cut to nighttime, when both are in bed and the realization suddenly dawns on Calvin)
Calvin: [angrily] HEY!

    • The same joke, substituting an incomplete set of playing cards for marbles, is used in the next strip:

Calvin: "I'm not playing with a full deck!"

  • Stop Copying Me: A few examples. When Calvin does it to Hobbes, he is stopped by Hobbes quoting from an incomprehensible philosophy text. When Calvin does it to his dad, his dad stops him by saying, "I forfeit all my desserts for a week."
  • Suckiness Is Painful: At least in Calvin's mind, in which his parents' cooking is portrayed as inedible at best and as small-scale Eldritch Abominations at worst.
  • Sunday Strip: After doing normal Sunday strips for the first few years of the series -- "normal" meaning in this case that they were designed so that the first two or three panels could be left off at the discretion of individual page editors without changing too much—Watterson negotiated the right to lay out his Sunday strips however he wanted. This resulted in unique strips, such as some with only three panels (an inset in the top left, the joke itself as a panorama, and a small punchline in the bottom right, like the "Tyrannosaurs in F-14s" strip mentioned above) and some strips with dozens of panels.
  • Superheroes Wear Capes:
    • Calvin and Hobbes presents: "This is a job for..."
    • Outside of the above example, one of Calvin's alter-egos, Stupendous Man, also wears a cape.
  • Symbol Swearing
  • Take Our Word for It: Calvin's favorite bedtime story, "Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie", in Calvin and Hobbes. As Bill Watterson explains in the comic's 10th anniversary book, "Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie (like the Noodle Incident I've referred to in several strips) is left to the reader's imagination, where it's sure to be more outrageous."
    • And taken to another level where Calvin's father is frustrated with Calvin wanting to hear the story every night despite having heard it enough to have the whole thing memorized, so he changes it a bit. The only clue we get is a terrified Hobbes asking Calvin "Do you think the townspeople will ever find Hamster Huey's head?"
      • Maybe inspired by Emil, who's basically Calvin a hundred years earlier, and has been involved in one incident the narrator repeatedly informs us he or she "Has promised the parents not to talk about."
  • Take That: Bill Watterson has used Calvin and Hobbes to mock modern art, art criticism, and superhero comic books. Either Calvin uses phrases copied verbatim from art journals to describe his snow men, or his breathless praises of comic books as an art form are interrupted by comments like, "Oh no, Captain Steroid's getting his kidneys punched out with an I-beam!" Take note that Watterson's career peaked during the Dark Age of western comics, which likely influenced his opinions quite a bit, but as to why he didn't seek out fellow "comics can be art" proponents such as Dave Sim and Scott McCloud and join up with the Graphic Novel movement is a complete mystery.
    • Watterson directed a few Take Thats at Garfield creator Jim Davis over the years. In a rare 1987 interview, he harshly condemned Davis' comic strip U.S. Acres, calling it stupid and badly done. In The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book, Watterson extensively discusses why he hates merchandising, and how it robs a comic strip of its heart and soul. He even writes about how a cartoonist risks becoming a "factory foreman", remarking on how he went into cartooning "to draw cartoons, not to run a corporate empire." He disgustedly remarks on how he would have sold out his own creation if he'd done this. Given the context, it was pretty clear who he was talking about. Granted, since Jim Davis stated that he created Garfield for the purpose of making money, and probably didn't intend there to be much of that deeper significance in which Watterson puts so much stock, it's unlikely that Watterson would have liked it anyway.
    • Bill Watterson's foreword to Bill Amend's first FoxTrot book is basically an extended take that against Jim Davis. For example, Watterson champions Quincy the Iguana for not thinking "the cute thoughts that quickly get most comic strip animals in the greeting card business."
    • Watterson had Calvin reading from Chewing, a magazine that rated chewing gums in excruciating detail (e.g., "[T]he top five brands of chewing gum based on flavor retention, elasticity, bubble capacity, and chewing rebound"), offered advice for chewing it, and otherwise was a spot-on parody of every review mag.
      • In one strip, Calvin specifically states that the specified hobby magazines like Chewing are meant to make people feel special due to some interest they have so the salesmen can make them buy stupid stuff like Bubblegum-chewing equipment. It's not really a take that on review magazines, but rather hobby merchandising.
      • Specifically, Watterson based Chewing off a lot of bicycling magazines he'd read.
    • Watterson made several strips with subtle jabs at his editors and the syndication people.
    • There is a Take That related to Calvin and Hobbes, although not in the strip itself. For strips in Bloom County that parodied cartoon cats that featured characters such as Garfield and Hobbes, Bill Watterson retaliated hilariously with this comic. In response Berke Breathed said this:

"I have committed other thefts with a clean and unfettered conscience. Garfield was too calculated and too successful not to freely raid for illicit character cameos. Calvin and Hobbes was too good not to. Calvin creator Bill Watterson took these thefts in stride and retaliated in private with devastatingly effective illustrated salvos, hitting me in my most vulnerable places. Bill's sketch is an editorial comment on my addiction to the expensive sport of power boating and the moral compromises needed to fund it. That's me doing the kicking. The chap on the dock represents my cartoon syndicate boss, which says it all, methinks."

"What does my dad do? Mostly he gets on my nerves. The end."

  • Too Dumb to Live: Day after day, Calvin would announce his return from school at the front door with a loud "I'M HO-OME!" - only to realize too late (if he remembered at all) that this was always the signal for Hobbes to violently pounce on him. (The few times he tried to change the outcome, his plan would either not work or would backfire in a horribly unexpected way.)
  • Totem Pole Trench: They try this to sneak into a movie theater on their own. With Hobbes as the head, leading the ticket lady to say "This is a new one".
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Hobbes loves tuna,[2] Calvin likes Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs.
  • Transformation Ray: the various Transmogrifiers.
  • Tree Cover: Calvin does this a lot, mostly to Suzie.
  • Treehouse of Fun: Calvin and Hobbes hold their G.R.O.S.S. meetings in one.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible:
    • One strip about "high" art versus "low" art is a logic train that borders on insanity.
    • Watterson mentions that he once read an art book that was so packed with postmodern gibberish that he started underlining passages for later use.
    • In-universe, Calvin himself sometimes applies this approach to his snow sculptures.
  • Tsundere: Word of God attributes traits consistent with the two major subtypes to Calvin (tsun-tsun type) and Susie (dere-dere type).
  • Unnamed Parent: Calvin's parents are just Mom and Dad, or "dear" to each other. Word of God says they have no names, because "as far as the strip is concerned, they are important simply as Calvin's mom and dad." This results a near-total lack of "on-screen" relatives for Calvin (save one Uncle Max), since they could never address Calvin's parents by name.
    • It should be noted that as the strip went on Watterson broke his own rule, and fleshed Calvin's parents out more and more, sometimes writing strips where Calvin and Hobbes don't appear at all. See A Day in the Limelight.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Calvin usually portrays himself as being a victim when there are times he's not, Played for Laughs. It's posible that the Free-Range Children is a case of this - even though Calvin appears to live behind a forest, it looks practically like a national park.
  • Unsound Effect: Calvin's galoshes going "galosh galosh galosh", for one, which causes him to stop and look up in confusion.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Calvin's dad, after dropping a Christmas present on his foot: "Slippin'-rippin'-dang-fang-rotten-zarg-barg-a-ding-dong!"
    • Spaceman Spiff talks like a B-movie hero. "Zounds!"
    • It may be interesting to note that "Zounds" is actually a 16th century curse word, abbreviated from "God's wounds!" Much like saying "holy cow" instead of taking the Lord's name in vain, it was a curse that was changed to a less blasphemously offensive form.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Though there's quite enough childish humor to balance it out.
  • A Villain Named Zrg: Evil aliens encountered by Spaceman Spiff include Zorgs, Zargs, Zorkons, Zogwargs, and Zogs (close).
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Our heroes sometimes come across this way, particularly with the number of fights they get into, the times Hobbes tackles or outright tries to prey on Calvin, the insults they often exchange, and so forth.
  • Volleying Insults: Very frequently.
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: Invoked by Hobbes when Calvin sent away for a motorized propeller beanie. While he restlessly waits the six weeks for the beanie to arrive, Calvin keeps dreaming about how he'll be able to use it to fly around the neighborhood. When it arrives, it turns out to be an ordinary beanie with a propeller.
    • But it came in this great box!
    • Another has the pair on one of their dangerous wagon-riding adventures while Calvin argues that having is much better than wanting, and he can't think of anything he would rather have later than right away. Hobbes says, "Death comes to mind" as the wagon careens off a cliff.
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: In the story arc where Calvin pushes his mom's car out of the garage, Hobbes says, "I think you're mom's going to be bothered."
  • Warrior Poet: Parodied, as Calvin takes his snowball and water balloon fights very seriously. See quote above at Little Miss Snarker.
  • Wasteful Wishing: Calvin asks Hobbes what he'd wish for; Hobbes says he wants a sandwich. Calvin doesn't understand why and wishes for enormous wealth. Hobbes gets his wish, and Calvin obviously does not.
  • Watching the Sunset: And missing lots of great shows.
  • When It All Began: The very first strips show how Calvin 'caught' Hobbes in a tiger trap baited with tuna fish. Bill Watterson later wrote he thought it was important to develop how the characters actually met at the time, but later realized it was superfluous. The meeting now contains a bit of Fridge Logic in that Hobbes is seen by everyone else to be Calvin's stuffed tiger, but Calvin supposedly caught him in his backyard...
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: We're never told precisely where Calvin and co. reside, but it's presumably an outer suburb (with access to woods, fields, and other more rural areas) near some Midwestern city.
    • They live in a purple country and their house is right next to the letter "E" in "States."
    • And an hour and a half's drive away from the coast.
    • It's Chagrin Falls, Ohio:

In The Essential Calvin and Hobbes, which includes cartoons from the collections Calvin and Hobbes and Something Under the Bed Is Drooling, the back cover features a scene of a giant Calvin rampaging through a town. The scene is based on Watterson's home town of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and Calvin is holding the Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop, an iconic candy and ice cream shop overlooking the town's namesake falls.

      • One strip showed a news van from Cleveland's Channel 3 News, complete with logo.
  • William Telling
  • Wish Fulfillment: If looked at in a certain context (and taking note of the numerous clues sprinkled throughout), the strip is basically Bill Watterson wishing he was still a kid growing up in the Sixties.
  • Women Are Wiser: Susie includes this in her imaginings of what adult married life would be like. Then again, she imagines herself married to Calvin, so...
    • Calvin's mom is also this, especially when dealing with her husband's obsessions such as camping and biking.
      • The relationship between Calvin's parents is completely (and hilariously) inverted in one strip where Calvin leaves Hobbes in the woods:

Calvin's Mom: Any luck?
Calvin's Dad: Of course not! How am I going to find a stuffed tiger in the woods at night? Why can't Calvin keep track of his toys? I must be crazy to be out here...
Calvin's Mom: (calling out loud) HO-O-O-BBES!
(realizing what she just did, with an extremely embarrassed look on her face)
Calvin's Mom: Oops. Heh heh.
Calvin's Dad: I may be crazy, but I'm not as crazy as you.

Calvin: (Panel 1) Hey Dad. Know what I figured out? The meaning of words isn't a fixed thing! Any word can mean anything! (Panel 2) By giving words new meanings, ordinary English can become an exclusionary code! Two generations can be divided by the same language! (Panel 3) To that end, I'll be inventing new definitions for common words, so we'll be unable to communicate. (Panel 4) Don't you think that's totally Spam? It's lubricated! Well, I'm phasing.
Father: (Making the peace sign) Marvy. Fab. Far out.

Calvin: On today's agenda, we'll make a list of what girls are good for. Obliviously this will be a short meeting!

  1. the joke, of course, being that that particular strip is just two poses copied and pasted four times
  2. salmon in earlier strips