Innocence. Imagination. Ingenuity.
All three of these are captured in Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes. This marvelous comic work, of a young boy and his friend tiger, has gained due recognition among millions of readers since it was first published back in 1985. It ran for 10 years until Watterson ended this beloved comic strip in 1995–just a few years after I was born. Clearly enough, I wasn’t born into the Calvin and Hobbes generation. It ended years earlier before I could even pick up and enjoy reading the newspaper.
If not for a series of events during the past couple of days, I would not have eagerly browsed through Calvin and Hobbes online. For some unexplainable force, I became drawn into a number of comic strip panels which gradually made me more and more interested about this comic strip collection. One story led me to another. I smiled, giggled, sighed and wondered as I looked into each comic strip panel. Slowly, my heart was forming a soft spot for this inquisitive young boy and his sardonic friend tiger. I was beginning to fall in love with Calvin and Hobbes.
With Calvin and Hobbes, I find a connection that I rarely get to establish with other works of fiction. It is as if I can relate to this piece, even at this age of mine. I love the innocence that surrounds this work, as well as the biting political, social and even philosophical commentaries that go with it. It is as if I could live off my life with this type of simplicity–with this type of childlike idealization of the world–and yet bury myself still with a hefty dose of ongoing critical discourse. Calvin and Hobbes may appear like a shallow comical artwork at first but it actually is the complete opposite. This comics is full of contradiction. The drawings are simple yet the themes are deep. The characters are fictional yet their personalities feel ever so real.
In Calvin and Hobbes, Watterson is able to create beloved characters that could reach out to a variety of audiences across different ages and cultures. Through the characters, Calvin and Hobbes is able to touch upon universal principles that are so humanely touching and comprehensible. The young child and the tiger possess personalities, which as individuals and as friends, mesh in well together producing about a dynamic relationship that imparts humor, wit, and warm fuzzy feelings of happiness, lightness and love.
In terms of relationship, the friendship between Calvin and Hobbes is indeed admirable. Who would not want to form an endearing and a formidable relationship such as that, right?
Come to think of it, however, this friendship is only an imagined one. Hobbes comes to exist as only a figment of a child’s imagination. There is no real Hobbes–except for a stuffed toy tiger. If it were not for Calvin and his massive imagination, Hobbes would not exist. This friendship appears to be a hoax, after all.
–Or maybe not.
See, Calvin and Hobbes allows us to imagine possibilities. It allows us to dream of friendships as strong as these. So what if it’s all a figment of a child’s imagination (or shall we say, of an artist’s imagination)? That’s the beauty within fictions. They may not be real but they generate emotions from us that are very real. They make us think and feel, believe and connect making fictional characters like Calvin and Hobbes live in the hearts of many.
Shown below is a caption from one of the original comic strips in Calvin and Hobbes. This is, by far, one of the best. I myself love to stargaze, reflect and think while I lose myself staring into infinity.
Calvin: “If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live a lot differently.”
Hobbes: “How so?”
Calvin: “Well, when you look into infinity, you realize that there are more important things than what people do all day.”
PS: Mr. Bill Watterson, thank you for sharing C&H to the world.