14 ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ Comics for the Comedy Hall of Fame
It's been 27 years since Calvin and Hobbes hopped on a toboggan, sledding into the snowy unknown and out of our lives.
Except they never truly did. Somehow, despite Bill Watterson’s resolute refusal to accept the avalanche of money that would come with licensing his creation, the precocious, sometimes borderline delinquent six-year-old boy and his real-to-him stuffed tiger have managed to remain in our hearts.
No matter how many bootleg Calvin decals try to pee on the strip’s legacy (and various car logos), the pure love of Watterson’s work endures beyond generational boundaries. It’s silly, it’s philosophical, it gets a little dark sometimes, but it’s all framed within the innocent wonder of childhood that many adult artists try to embrace but few seem to grasp. For kids, reading a Calvin and Hobbes strip feels like looking at their own reflection, while for adults, it provides an instant ticket back to childhood that’s usually only achievable via a hug from mom or biting into a perfectly mediocre peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
In some awful parallel world, there’s a multi-film animated Calvin and Hobbes cinematic universe with Chris Pratt doing every voice, but in this one, we thankfully just have the comics that Watterson’s pen, paper and imagination gave life to. And that’s what we want to share with you today — some of our favorite Calvin and Hobbes strips. Let’s go exploring!
Part of Calvin and Hobbes’ brilliance was how Watterson would break down complex concepts of how the world works — all via the perspective of a curious, hyperactive six-year-old with no sense of danger, whose only voice of reason comes from his stuffed tiger.
Most artists would make an entire career out of doing serious Spaceman Spiff comics. Instead, Watterson used the whole concept just to explore the creative depths a bored Calvin would dive into to escape a boring classroom.
Answers from Dad
One of the strips’ greatest recurring gags was Calvin going to his dad with a question and receiving the ultimate dad answer in return — something that’s completely wrong but with just enough sound logic that a child would wholeheartedly believe it until the day someone embarrassed them with the truth.
Thankfully, this was pre-social media because there’s no way Calvin survives the embarrassment unleashed by his dad’s @CalvinAnswers TikTok account.
Every creative with a looming deadline feels this comic in their bones. A Calvin moment that just rings truer the older you get.
More noise needs to be made about Watterson perfectly defining the Dunning-Kruger Effect nearly a decade before the concept was first proposed.
Another great recurring gag was Calvin’s school tests and the pure unbridled joy he takes in giving his teacher the most frustrating answers possible. A harsh reminder of how any grade schooler can turn into an emotional assassin in the span of just two sentences.
A perfect echo of the “Answers from Dad” strips, Calvin truly is his father’s son.
Calvin’s playtime imagination could take him to some dark places. No comic better displays that than Calvin’s four-headed disaster concept, which even Roland Emmerich would find excessive.
Snowball Fights with Susie
Snowball fights between Calvin and his neighbor/classmate/best friend/sometimes crush Susie were a staple of the strip, as well as Calvin blaming his piss-poor aim on the cross-breeze. However, this time he got an assist from less-than-divine intervention.
How this single strip has avoided becoming the go-to meme for any and all online political discussions is beyond comprehension.
The rules are simple:
- Everyone must wear a mask.
- You can never play by the same rules twice.
- We know Rule #2 contradicts Rule #1, just shut up and play.
Calvinball captures the chaotic genius brewing inside Calvin’s brain via continuous confusion.
Watterson gives us the perfect encapsulation of being a six-year-old and being the parent of one, all in four panels.
Snowman Chicken Executioner
Of the many strips where Calvin sculpted some sort of demented snowman diorama, it was really hard to pick a favorite. However, this one has just too many absolutely flawless details. The way the showman’s head rests on the ground. The chicken’s face. The worried yet frustratingly “par for the course” look on mom’s face. That single line of dialogue succinctly tells you everything about the rest of the conversation. It’s all so beautiful.
Tyrannosaurs in F-14s!
One thing about the series that doesn’t get brought up enough is how skilled Watterson was as an illustrator. He could effortlessly switch artistic styles mid-strip, and whenever he got a chance to draw dinosaurs, he never half-assed it or disappointed.
Perfect composition. The four panels across the top are framed in a way that it’s impossible to read without animating the scene in your head as you read it. The Twilight Zone plot twist. The pride on Calvin’s face as he reads this story. And finally, the pure, emotional exhaustion of mom and dad. Honestly, this strip deserves to be hanging in The Louvre.