15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Calvin and Hobbes’
It’s hard to overstate the cultural importance of Calvin and Hobbes, perhaps the greatest newspaper comic strip of all time, and hands-down the best story about a boy and his imaginary tiger friend (suck it, Life of Pi).
And what better to honor this timeless, monumental artistic achievement than by cobbling together some trivia, which, sadly, contains no new information on the specifics of the “Noodle Incident.” Starting with how…
It Was Initially Rejected Because of Focus Groups
Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson first pitched his strip to United Feature Syndicate, which carried major titles such as Peanuts and Garfield. The company eventually rejected Watterson’s project due to poor focus group ratings. According to editor Sarah Gillespie, “United didn’t take Calvin and Hobbes because a couple housewives in Connecticut said, ‘It’s okay, but we don’t get it.’”
Watterson Rejected Suggestions to Throw a Pop Star’s Robot Character into the Mix
A few months later, United offered Watterson an alternate deal: They had recently acquired the rights to Robotman, created by British pop musician Peter Shelley, and wanted Watterson to consider shoehorning the character into Calvin and Hobbes. To his credit, Watterson turned down the deal, although Robotman was eventually incorporated into a strip by artist Jim Meddick and a TV special that looks like a waking 1980s nightmare.
Calvin and Hobbes Were Named After Philosophers
Calvin was originally called “Marvin” but was ultimately “named after the Swiss Protestant Reformer, John Calvin,” while his tiger friend Hobbes was “named after the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes,” who Watterson claimed had “a dim view of human nature.”
Calvin’s Parents Have No Names, But His Teacher Is Named After a Literary Demon
While Calvin’s parents remained nameless throughout the strip’s run, his teacher, Miss Wormwood, was named after “the apprentice devil in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.”
Watterson’s Cat Was the Inspiration for Hobbes
In the Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book, Watterson revealed that Hobbes was inspired by one of his cats, a “gray tabby named Sprite,” who even gave him “the idea of Hobbes greeting Calvin at the door in midair at high velocity.” When Sprite died, Watterson penned a genuinely touching strip that readers couldn’t fully appreciate at the time.
The Rules for Calvinball Are ‘Simple’
Watterson once stated that fans continually asked him for the rules for Calvinball, which he claimed were “simple” — you just “make up the rules as you go.”
Watterson Resisted Pressure to Release Crappy Merchandise
Famously, Watterson was heavily pressured by his syndicate to license Calvin and Hobbes for lucrative merchandising tie-ins, Spaceballs-style. But he refused, believing that it would cheapen his work. Per Watterson, “I think to license Calvin and Hobbes would ruin the most precious qualities of my strip and, once that happens, you can’t buy those qualities back.” Which is why Calvin never hawked Coca-Cola at Christmas time, and no drunk teenagers have ever thrown up Hobbes-shaped pizza in a failing restaurant run by robots.
But There Are Still a Few Pieces of ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ Merch
Despite Watterson’s objections to Calvin and Hobbes merchandise, there were some officially-licensed Calvin and Hobbes products, including two wall calendars, a T-shirt for a Smithsonian exhibit about comic art, and, most notably, a children’s textbook, Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes, which now sells for thousands of dollars online.
Steven Spielberg Wanted to Make a ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ Movie
Watterson’s refusal to license his characters even extended to turning down offers made by some of history’s most famous filmmakers, including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Jim Henson.
The Strip Took a Six-Month Break from Dinosaurs After ‘Jurassic Park’ Came Out
Speaking of Spielberg, after Jurassic Park was released in 1993, Watterson paused exploring Calvin’s dinosaur-based fantasies for “about six months,” reasoning that “a few little drawings can’t create the visceral response of large-screen computer special effects.”
Despite Those Trucker Decals, There’s No Strip Where Calvin Is Seen Peeing
We’ve all seen those bootleg decals on trucks depicting Calvin mischievously taking a whiz. Watterson once joked that “long after the strip is forgotten, those decals are my ticket to immortality.” Weirdly, there is no Calvin and Hobbes comic where Calvin takes a revenge-piss, and the image was seemingly an altered version of an illustration in which Calvin is filling a water balloon.
A ‘Hand-Colored’ Strip Recently Sold for $480,000
A hand-colored strip that Watterson gifted to his longtime editor Lee Salem was auctioned off in 2022, selling for a record $480,000.
There Are a Lot of Unofficial Sequels
While the final strip was published on December 31, 1995, there are a number of fan-created continuations of Calvin and Hobbes, including Calvin and Company and Hobbes and Bacon, both of which are about an adult Calvin, now married to Susie — and also, whatever the hell this is:
It Was the Subject of a 2013 Documentary
Calvin and Hobbes fandom was the subject of the doc Dear Mr. Watterson, which wisely avoided attempts to interview the notoriously private Watterson, but sent him a DVD of the finished film.
Watterson is Releasing a New Comic Later This Year
It’s been a while, but Watterson is finally releasing a new comic, a graphic novel called The Mysteries, which is billed as a “fable for grown-ups” and presumably includes zero mutant snowmen or salivating bed monsters.
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