Calvin and Hobbes. Artist: Bill Watterson.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: Universal Press Syndicate
First Appeared: 1985
Creator: Bill Watterson
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Bill Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes is the most successful kid strip since Peanuts. But whereas Peanuts is seen as toys, games, TV animation, comic books, and in many …

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… other forms, the only place Calvin & Hobbes is seen, other than the strip itself, is in a series of books collecting the strip. Watterson, a former editorial cartoonist, believes that merchandising his creation would rob him of artistic integrity.

His artistic integrity is apparently worth a great deal to him, because it's believed by many that a stuffed "Hobbes" doll would earn him millions. Nor is this his only financial sacrifice to that end. Believing he'd done all he could within the confines of newspaper comics, Watterson followed the lead of Gary Larson (The Far Side) and ended the strip in 1996, at the height of its popularity. And during its last few years, papers which would not agree to run the Sunday version in the exact format supplied by Watterson were not allowed to buy it.

Despite what many newspaper editors saw as his "high-handed" attitude, Watterson was in a good bargaining position, because from the moment it first appeared, on Nov. 18, 1985, Calvin & Hobbes was immensely popular with the public. The human component of the pair, Calvin, is a hyperactive 6-year-old with a fabulous imagination; and nowhere is his rich, vivid fantasy life seen to better effect than in his relationship with his tiger, Hobbes. When observed by others, Hobbes is only a plush toy, but when he and Calvin are alone, Hobbes comes to life.

Appealing as it is, this formula is far from the only thing the strip has going for it. Watterson's gorgeously rendered art (he lists Walt Kelly, of Pogo, and George Herriman, of Krazy Kat, as major influences) complements rare insight into the world of the very young; and both are tempered by a brilliant sense of humor. For these reasons, the strip was an instant success, having been picked up by over 400 newspapers during its first year alone. Critical acclaim also came immediately, in the form of the National Cartoonists' Society's Reuben Award, which Watterson won both in 1986 and '88 — making him only the second cartoonist (the first being Jeff MacNelly of Shoe) to win two Reubens within his strip's first three years.

Despite the fact that Calvin and Hobbes is no longer being produced, it still appears in newspapers, syndicated in reprint form (a distinction that once belonged to Little Orphan Annie, currently belongs to Peanuts, and has been given to few others). Tho every episode distributed by the syndicate has been seen before, the strip remains among America's most popular newspaper features.


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Text ©1999-2004 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Bill Watterson.