Calvin (Calvin and Hobbes)

Calvin (Calvin and Hobbes)

Infobox comic strip character
character= Calvin

caption= Calvin in a yelling mood.
comic= "Calvin and Hobbes"
creator= Bill Watterson
first= November 18, 1985

Calvin is a fictional character in the comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes" by Bill Watterson. He is one of the strip's primary characters, along with Hobbes. Calvin is most remembered for his "dastardly plots" (most of the time against girls), his humor, his wisdom (and misapplication thereof) and his extensive vocabulary uncharacteristic to a six year old. His first piece of dialogue was Calvin's line, "So long, Pop. I'm off to check my tiger trap". His last line of dialogue was also the strip's final line: "It's a magical world, Hobbes ol' buddy... Let's go exploring!" Calvin appeared in almost every "Calvin and Hobbes" strip printed and published.

Calvin's last name is never known to the reader, though a popular misconception has circulated that his last name is Wunderkind. This dates back to a strip in which Calvin fantasizes about winning a contest and having his name in the paper, and the word "wunderkind" (which means "child prodigy") appears next to his name.


Named after 16th Century theologian John Calvin, (founder of Calvinism and a strong believer in predestination), Calvin is an impulsive, insubordinate, imaginative, energetic, curious, bratty, obnoxious, mean and extremely intelligent six-year-old, and is often very selfish. He's usually lost in his own little world. Though Calvin is usually shown as caring only about himself, he has appeared otherwise on occasion to have a deep care for animals, such as the time he found an injured baby raccoon. He got his parents to try to help it, and then cried when it died. He also mourns the loss of a bird that died when it hit a window. He decries birds' inability to write memoirs and constantly tries to make Hobbes feel inferior for being a tiger, yet just as often the reader finds Calvin commenting on the pettiness of humans and envying the quiet dignity of animal life.

Despite his low grades, Calvin has a wide vocabulary and an advanced sense of irony that rivals that of an adult. His grapples with philosophical quandaries (explored - and illustrated - most elaborately during hazardous sled and wagon rides) are usually cut short by a crash, banal distraction, mischievous urge or, as seen here, a sarcastic retort from one of his parents:

::Calvin: "Dad, are you vicariously living through me in the hope that my accomplishments will validate your mediocre life and in some way compensate for all of the opportunities you botched?"

::Calvin's father: "If I were, you can bet I'd be re-evaluating my strategy."

::Calvin ("later, to his mother"): "Mom, Dad keeps insulting me."

Another example of Calvin's advanced vocabulary:

::Calvin: "I've been disempowered! My centering, self-actualizing anima has been impacted by toxic, co-dependent dysfunctionality!"

::Calvin's mother: "You've been temporarily inconvenienced. Take out the trash.


He has also said, "You know how Einstein got bad grades as a kid? Well, mine are even worse!" In school, he typically does almost no work; for a project on bats, he writes a brief poem that describes bats as "unspeakable giant bugs" (on the basis that "they fly" and "they're ugly and hairy"), and for his "scientific illustration", he "traced the Batman logo and added fangs". Calvin is guilty of a lot of groundless bragging, once asking everybody to introduce him as 'Calvin, Boy of Destiny,' even putting the name on tests beside an 'Official Notary Seals.'

His boastfulness is more amusing because of how poor a student he really is. For a report on the mythology of Mercury (with Susie), he writes a short statement (5 minutes before it's due) about how Mercury was the god of flowers and gardens, as evidenced by the registered trademark of Florists' Transworld Delivery. He concludes by saying, 'Why they named a planet after this guy, I can't imagine' (infuriating Susie and earning him another F).

Calvin's precocious vocabulary, imagination and curiosity are always struggling against his complete refusal to learn anything he doesn't want to - from teachers, parents or the lessons that emerge from his follies. When he reluctantly goes to the library to learn about snakes, he then realizes learning can be fun when not enforced. To this extent the Einstein comment might not be far off: Calvin, like young Einstein, seems to suffer from bad grades out of boredom. He drifts off in class, imagining it as a prison with Miss Wormwood as the warden, or himself as Spaceman Spiff, his teacher now a slobbering alien monster to be destroyed by lasers.

Miss Wormwood rightly observes that Calvin spends more energy evading work and thinking of creative excuses than he would actually working. In one instance, he writes: "I cannot answer this question as it is against my religious principles"; on another occasion he answers "I don't know" for every question in his homework. During another test Calvin writes, "I cannot release this information as it might compromise our agents in the field." Rather than seek real real help Calvin usually defers to the only one he really trusts - Hobbes, who despite all his regal feline wisdom shares Calvin's penchant for creative stupidity (he solves addition by invoking algebra, as in "let's begin with Y, as in "Why do we care?", once declared that "numerator" was Latin for "number eighter", and told Calvin during a test that seven plus three was seventy-three).Fact|date=October 2008

Despite their friendly fighting, Calvin considers Hobbes the most intelligent creature in his life and rarely perceives his 'help' as misguided. Once Calvin bet Susie Derkins 25 cents over a math test. Calvin of course fails and reluctantly pays up. Later he brags to Hobbes that he cheated Susie by only giving her three dimes, much to the amusement of Hobbes. Their buffoonish rapport as partners in mischief is the strip's most endearing qualities, but the lesson they take away from any situation is usually the wrong one.

Calvin loves Hobbes when they're best friends. Calvin occasionally hates Hobbes (during the storyline in one Sunday strip where Hobbes cheated Calvin on the checker game by winning) when he disagrees, gets him into trouble, took over his comic books, and cheated him on games.

He commonly wears his distinctive red-and-black striped shirt, black jeans, and magenta sneakers. Watterson has described Calvin thus:
*"Calvin is pretty easy to do because he is outgoing and rambunctious and there's not much of a filter between his brain and his mouth."cite book
last = Williams | first = Gene
year = 1987
title = Watterson: Calvin's other alter ego
work = Cleveland Plain Dealer
*"I guess he's a little too intelligent for his age. The thing that I really enjoy about him is that he has no sense of restraint, he doesn't have the experience yet to know the things that you shouldn't do."
*"The socialization that we all go through to become adults teaches you not to say certain things because you later suffer the consequences. Calvin doesn't know that rule of thumb yet."

The subject of Calvin's grades was addressed in another strip, where Calvin's father points out that he loves to learn, and "has read just about every dinosaur book ever written". He then asks, "So why aren't you doing better in school?" to which Calvin replies, "We don't read about dinosaurs".

Calvin certainly doesn't hesitate to speak his mind. In one of his various silly money-making schemes, Calvin is shown standing behind a box with “SCIENTIFIC NAMES: $1.00” written on it:

::Hobbes: "Scientific names?"

::Calvin: "Sure. Scientists think up all these cool, wacky theories, but then give them dull, unimaginative names. For instance, scientists think space is full of mysterious, invisible mass, so, what do they call it??? "Dark" matter! DUUHHHHHH!!! I tell you, there’s a fortune to be made here!"

::Hobbes: "I like to say ‘Quark!’ Quark, quark, quark, quark!"

::Calvin: "Instead of making a fool of yourself, how about you go and find me some scientists?"

Calvinistic predestination as a philosophical position basically entails the idea that the human action affecting a person's ultimate salvation or damnation is predestined beforehand. Calvin's consistent gripe is that the troublesome acts he commits are outside of his control: he is simply a product of his environment, a victim of circumstances. He does frequently escape from his environment into elaborate fantasy worlds; one of the strip's recurring devices is the humorous juxtaposition of Calvin's fantastic perception with the quotidian viewpoint of other characters. On many occasions, Calvin sees himself in an alternate guise; as the astronaut and explorer Spaceman Spiff, the superhero Stupendous Man, the private eye Tracer Bullet and many others ("see Calvin's alter-egos").

In addition, Calvin has a highly developed artistic streak for his age. This is evident during the winter when Calvin indulges in constructing highly creative, if typically grotesque, snowmen and related tableaux.

Both Calvin and Hobbes seem to be fans of Batman, which is the only "real" superhero Calvin likes, although he is never seen reading any of the comics. There have been a few references in some strips, one such is when Calvin begs his mom for dinosaur merchandise at the museum gift shop, and then he uses a trick, saying that the toys are educational for him.

After his mom buys the toys, Calvin says: "I wonder if we can get any Batman junk this way!", stating that his mom probably won't buy him any Batman merchandise, which could be a reference to the critical reaction toward the film "Batman Returns" for its dark nature, which was believed to be inappropriate for children at the time. Another reference is when Calvin and Hobbes are talking about why superheroes won't battle more realistic, subtle supervillains in comic books, not "evil maniacs with grandiose plots to destroy the world".

Hobbes agrees, and thinks that superheroes could send letters to the editor and pursue civic involvement rather than crime fighting. He then shouts: "Quick, to the Bat-Fax!", which is a parody of Adam West's famous catchphrase: "Quick, to the Batmobile!" from the 1960s "Batman" television series.

Calvin loves a cereal called "Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs" to the point of obsession. Hobbes, on the other hand, despises the cereal, describing it as "like eating a bowl of Milk Duds."

Calvin's alter-egos

Calvin's hyperactive imagination leads him to imagine himself as other characters with different powers and goals; he sometimes vanishes into a fantasy to escape a difficult situation (like a school quiz). It is important to note that Hobbes is not seen taking part in the fantasies involving Calvin's alter-egos, other than criticizing his choice of alternate personae. In many comics which involve Calvin in an alter ego, the strip is heavily stylized in such a manner as to portray Calvin's environment from his imaginative point of view.

On several occasions, Calvin has appeared as either a larger or a smaller version of himself, wreaking havoc like Godzilla or crawling across a book page as "Calvin, the human insect." More frequently, however, his imagination transforms him into a being of a different kind. He also daydreams at school as "Spaceman Spiff". He creates different water scenarios while taking a bath. He occasionally transforms into the super hero "Stupendous Man."

Sometimes, Calvin transforms into "Tracer Bullet", a private eye that shares Calvin's amazing vocabulary. Even though this is another recurrent transformation, Bill Watterson states that they are very time consuming and, hence, he does not make many of them. He also states that "the eye, being lazy, is attracted to white space, especially when the panels are so small." This presents a problem due to Watterson's excessive use of black to present the Tracer Bullet panels. This, as many other items in it, are "spoofs on the genre", as Watterson states. Tracer Bullet stories usually apply to Calvin breaking something, and his parents trying to blame him for it.


Calvin occasionally makes machines (usually made out of a cardboard box), which normally lead to disaster. Here is a list of his inventions:
*Transmogrifier: This is a cardboard box with the open side facing down. It has a dial on the side with various creatures labeled. When the button is pressed, it morphs the subject(s) under the box into whatever the dial is set to, usually to some sort of animal. For example, in a comic story in "The Authorative Calvin and Hobbes," Calvin morphs into an elephant in order to memorize his homework. If the object to be transmogrified to is not on the box, the subject can write new items on any blank space on the box at will and transmogrify into them. The problem is that only Calvin and Hobbes can see whatever Calvin morphed into because their imagination is probably being used. So all the other people still see him as a kid.

*Portable Transmogrifier, a.k.a. Transmogrifier Gun: This device is a squirt gun that transforms the target into whatever the shooter is thinking of, usually an animal of some sort. However, it often has unintended consequences; When Hobbes turns Calvin into a pterodactyl, he turns out much smaller than he expected, and is disappointed enough to shoot Hobbes back, turning him into a duck. This starts a shooting war that uses up the ammunition before Calvin can revert to a human but after Hobbes can return to his normal self. Somehow Calvin turns back on his own; Calvin presumes the effects simply "wore off" overnight. On another occasion, while free-falling after his balloon popped high up in the atmosphere, Calvin shoots himself with the gun with the idea of making himself "safe", and transforms into a hurtling safe.

*Duplicator: The same cardboard box, but with the opening laid sideways and with a button on it. It can clone whoever is inside it (making a 'boink' sound as it does so); Calvin clones himself in an attempt to get his chores done. However, the clone rebels, running off to play, and later creating four additional clones, all of whom get Calvin into trouble and leave him to take the blame. Calvin eventually turns all of the clones into worms while they are hiding under the cardboard box, which he turns into a Transmogrifier by writing on it with a marker.

*Upgraded Duplicator, with Ethicator: This is the original duplicator, but with an "ethicator" added (an arrow dial that points to either "Good" or "Bad"). Calvin creates a "good" version of himself to perform his chores and go to school. Initially, Calvin appears to have undergone a significant personality change; the "good" version has neatly combed hair, is extremely helpful and responsible. He is even-tempered, and, to Calvin's consternation, develops a heavy crush on Susie Derkins. When the "good" Calvin learns of Calvin's reputation through Susie, he becomes angry, and threatens to rip Calvin limb from limb. He is automatically destroyed for having an evil thought, which Calvin describes as a "built-in moral compromise spectral release phantasmatron". Hobbes points out how even Calvin's good side is "prone to badness".

*Time Machine: The same cardboard box with the open side facing up. Calvin initially plans to take himself and Hobbes into the future in order to take back a future invention to become rich, but they face the wrong way and end up in the jurrasic period, the past. On another trip, they realised their mistake, and take photographic proof. But his dad claims that they are photos of his toy dinosaurs out in their front yard. The dinosaurs that Calvin and Hobbes see are all from the Late Jurassic period (Diplodocus, Stegosaurus and Allosaurus). Calvin also attempts a smaller-scale time travel one night; He goes from 6:30 to 8:30 in order to pick up a completed school assignment. But learns from the 8:30 version of himself that he (himself) hadn't done the work and hence he (the 8:30 version) does not have it. While the original and 8:30 Calvins fruitlessly attempt to get hold of the 7:30 Calvin, whom both of them blame, to do the work, the 6:30 and 8:30 Hobbeses finish the work, an essay about Calvin fighting with the other 2 Calvins while time traveling.

*Box of Secrecy: In a strip, Susie has to stay at Calvin's house for a few hours. Horrified by this idea, Calvin calls an emergency meeting of G.R.O.S.S. to deal with the situation, but there isn't enough time to get to the regular HQ (Calvin's treehouse). Hence, he and Hobbes crawl underneath the cardboard box to hold an emergency meeting. The name 'Box of Secrecy' is a take on the 'Cone of Silence' in the television series "Get Smart". (In the same strip, Hobbes asks if they could punch holes in it to breathe through, but Calvin says that it is "Too Risky".)

*Cerebral Enhance-o-Tron: A colander, worn on one's head, attached by three strings (input, output, and ground) to a cardboard box. Calvin uses this to make himself super-intelligent so that he can think of a topic for a "persuasive argument"-style paper he has to do for homework. As a side-effect of its use, his forehead becomes much larger (apparently " [his] brain swelled"). Both the swelling and the super-intelligence are temporary, so when the intelegence wears off, his forehead returns to normal size. A very similar looking prop appeared in the 1984 motion picture Ghostbusters, as a brain scanning device.

*Concession Stand: This is not a machine, but often Calvin has been seen selling things by using his cardboard box as a desk, crudly writing the name of the "product," and the (sometimes) inexhorbent price on the side. Cavin has been shown to try and sell a large number of things like this, many are real products like crude lemonade, and random things such as, "A Swift Kick in the Butt."

The Noodle Incident

A running gag that was introduced slightly later on during the comic is the Noodle Incident. Whenever a character, usually Hobbes, mentions it to Calvin, he immediately gets very defensive about it. We never see the Noodle Incident itself, nor do any of the characters ever explain what events occurred. Watterson mentioned he kept it this way to leave it to the reader's imagination. These are the only facts we know about the Noodle Incident:

*Miss Wormwood knows of it, which suggests that the Incident took place at school.
*Calvin never told his parents about the incident. Once, when Calvin's mother returned home from meeting Calvin's teacher, Calvin immediately asked if she had been told about the noodles.
*It was a while ago, (as said by one of Santa's elves in an imagination sequence) and therefore, must have been a very serious incident for it to still be remembered now.
* One of Santa's elves also notes that they've had "trouble verifying the particulars; accounts seem to vary", which suggests that what exactly happened is in dispute. Alternately, this may just be Watterson's noting that different fans will have their own versions of the Noodle Incident.
*To try and prove innocence, Calvin apparently thought of a cover story, the creativity of which impressed Hobbes. Calvin, however, even now claims that it was the "unvarnished truth". Like the incident itself, we are never told exactly what Calvin's excuse was.
*It is not exactly stated one way or the other, but it seems to be implied that Calvin was caught, therefore his cover story was not believed.
*According to Calvin, although apparently caught, no one can prove he did it (which is also said by the elf mentioned above). However, considering Calvin may just be defensive about it makes such a statement questionable.
*The fact that Hobbes repeatedly brings it up (as did Santa Claus in Calvin's imagination once), seems to imply the memory still haunts Calvin to this day.
*Although it is not certain, it is believed that the Noodle Incident had to do with an occasion when Calvin was sent home early for having gotten in big trouble at school. "Did it have something to do with those sirens around noon?" Hobbes asks. Calvin immediately gets defensive and says he does not want to talk about it. The strip that those quotes are in is directly preceded by one in which Calvin states he will "go for the gusto" at school.
*This may have happened when Calvin brought noodles to school for his report on the brain.
*Calvin claims he was framed, though this could simply be Calvin trying to avoid trouble.
*A "Salamander Incident" is also mentioned once. Calvin claims the incident was a result of "temporary insanity".

Here are some facts that could or could not be related to the Noodle Incident;
*When Calvin and Hobbes had the Duplicator problem, the clones were running away from Calvin's mom because "she's on the warpath!" as a clone exclaims. Although the incident could have been Calvin's mom learning about the behavior the clones had at Calvin's school, Hobbes had implied "It seems your clones have perpetrated another crime."

*It has been once implied that the book "Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kabloie" could have somehow had the storyline for the Noodle incident, since it includes "The squeaky hamster voice, the gooshy sound effects, and the happy hamster hop."


Calvin also explains his poor grades to Susie Derkins, when Miss Wormwood gives everyone their test back:

::Calvin: What grade did you get ?::Susie: I got an A.::Calvin: Really? Boy, I'd hate to be you. I got a C.::Susie: Why on Earth would you rather get a C than an A?::Calvin: I find my life is a lot easier the lower I keep everyone's expectations.

It should also be noted that he received an 'A' on one of his tests, as the panels panned to a grand-scale image of a parade thrown in Calvin's honor. Much to his dismay, Miss Wormwood immediately returned to the lesson plan, completely disregarding the anomaly. Also, Calvin got an A+ on the assignment that Hobbes from one point in time, and the same Hobbes from two hours later in time, completed for him. Although it is commonly mentioned that he gets bad grades, he is only shown getting an "F" on only one test/homework paper (although on projects and reports, it is obvious he did horrible on them, despite twice he got a "D-"). This was in a Spaceman Spiff story. He also gets bad grading stickers (happy face, frowny face, etc.) in a strip when he has a conversation with Susie about his grades. She claims to have a happy face sticker and guesses out loud that Calvin got a frowny face sticker. He tells her that he did not get a frowny face, which is revealed in the next panel to be the truth when he thinks,"I never even knew they made barfing face stickers!".


Calvin is always full of holiday stress. Every year at the beginning of December Calvin forces himself to start being good. He seems to be convinced that no matter how bad he has been the other eleven months of the year, as long as he is good right before Christmas Santa will bring him presents. Every Christmas season Calvin endures major internal struggles as to whether the presents are worth being good. He once wrote a letter to Santa Claus, claiming to be his non-existent little brother, "Melville". One quote from a series of Christmas stories really exemplifies this struggle: "Throwing these snowballs will give me instant and assured gratification, while being good will give me delayed and unassured gratification." Calvin dreams that Santa tells him that the bullies and brats get presents (in Calvin's case, weapons of mass destruction) while the well-behaved kids get coal, if anything at all.


External links

* [ Official "Calvin and Hobbes" Publicity site] at Andrews McMeel Publishing

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