It seems superheroes and comics have always been a part of my life. From Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman to The Hulk, Captain America, and the X-Men, there is not a time I can remember when these characters weren’t known to me. However, my first experiences with these heroes did not come from comic books. Long before I found myself flipping through Detective Comics or The Avengers, I was attracted to a different story. Before there were superheroes, there were these funny pages detailing the life of a boy and his tiger.
I cannot remember the first time I ever read Calvin and Hobbes, nor can I boast to have followed the stories as they were first printed in the newspaper. But just like the superheroes, Calvin and Hobbes comic strips just seem to have always been a part of my life. I grew up reading about Spaceman Spiff, the Transmogrifier, surprise tiger attacks, Susie, Dad’s declining poll ratings, and the over dramatic soap-opera bits, and I loved them all. But Calvin and Hobbes was more to me than just a comic.
Growing up, I was taught how to be far from the high-energy, spastic trouble-maker Calvin was. I was treated like an adult from a very early age, and with that treatment came expectations. Plain and simple, I needed to act the grown-up. But isn’t that what children are always asking for? No kid ever wants to be treated his actual age. “Stop treating me like a kid,” we screamed. Wasn’t that what we wanted? Well, I got it. Running around and playing pretend was frowned upon. Why wasn’t I sitting up straight or working on my next merit badge? It got to the point where even when no adults were around, I still found it difficult to pretend. Even among friends I felt embarrassed by acting silly.
Don’t get me wrong, I was still a very imaginative kid. Just because I couldn’t act it out didn’t mean the creativity disappeared. In fact, I think my inability to physically act what was in my mind led to my passion for writing. I had all these ideas in my head, and the only way to express them, in my eyes, was to write them all down. The types of adventures Calvin was living in the world of the comic strip were the kind I wrote in a notebook the world never saw. But despite all my writing, there was still the yearning for more. And that more I found in reading Calvin and Hobbes. My childhood, in part, consisted of living vicariously through the wacky antics of a bunch of ink lines and watercolor marks reprinted in collections I found in used condition. I owe a great deal to this comic strip, and I know that I am not alone.
Recently, a documentary tribute to Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, appeared on Netflix. Dear Mr. Watterson pulls together comic creators, publishers, historians, and everyday people whom are all connected by one common thread: their love for Watterson’s work. It’s truly amazing. I can bring up Calvin and Hobbes to anyone and his or her immediate response is a smile and a story. As an example: While I was writing this piece, Patrick messaged me. I told him what I was working on, and his response was “Did I ever tell you my 7th grade hot chick Calvin & Hobbes story?” Point proven! Everyone’s got a memory.
Before I wrap up this article, I’d like to share some of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes moments. Feel free to leave your own memories or favorite moments in the comments below.
There were panels which made you look at the world in a different way.
But no matter how big the topic or zany the adventure, in the end it was always about a boy and his tiger.
Thank you, Mr. Watterson.