Much of Calvin’s origin is only implied. It is known that he has known Hobbes since he was a baby, as Hobbes recalls certain events of Calvin’s infancy. Beyond that, Calvin’s upbringing has been fairly simple. He has had a very usual childhood, despite being a very unusual little boy.
As of the beginning of the series, he is a single child raised by his parents in some unspecified suburb of an unspecified town in an unknown state. What is known about where he lives is that it is near both a large city and a coniferous forest. Besides that, his exact geographical whereabouts are kept a mystery.
Calvin’s creation began back when Bill Watterson was in college. He worked for the college newspaper by drawing cartoons that featured a nameless child character. Years after he graduated college, it was suggested to him that he try to make a professional comic strip that featured that little boy that he created.
At first, Calvin wasn’t exactly Calvin. His name was Marvin, and he sported a different look than what we recognize today. But there were several elements of this character that carried over into Calvin’s character. Marvin was a mischievous wise cracker who was accompanied in his everyday adventures by a stuffed tiger named Hobbes. Also carrying over from those early days were how Marvin and Hobbes were prone to take wild rides in their wagon, or simply walk through the woods and discuss whatever entered their minds.
Even several of the strips known to star Calvin originally starred Marvin. Known examples of this were strips where Calvin imagined his teacher was an alien who took him to the supreme alien potentate (actually the school principal), or where Calvin snuck out of his room at three o’ clock in the morning and called his dad from a payphone to ask if he knew where he was.
Watterson felt like he had something big on his hands and submitted Marvin and Hobbes to over twenty different newspapers, but was rejected every time. When he wised up and asked one editor what may have been wrong with his comic, it was answered that it would be a good idea to make the lead character’s eyes visible, as Marvin’s were hidden by his long hair. It was a lesson that Watterson took to heart, and he introduced a redesigned character with a new name.
The more he wrote the strip, the more Watterson realized that Marvin reminded him of the philosopher Johannes Calvin, who believed that God had already predetermined which people would be allowed into Heaven. This was partially inspired by how his tiger companion had been named after Thomas Hobbes, the philosopher who invented the concept of natural selection. The interplay of religious destiny and of survival of the fittest created an interesting dynamic for the two characters, and would allow their comic strip to become a platform for discussions about contemporary sociological and philosophical trends.
A lot of the character of Calvin was inspired by Watterson’s own childhood, where he described himself as living in his own little world. One of the most prominent things taken from Watterson’s childhood was how he would walk through the woods at the back of his house as a child. A trait that Calvin would adopt for the comics. Also taken from Watterson’s childhood was Calvin’s love of dinosaurs. Essentially, Calvin was created as the avatar of Bill Watterson’s childhood memories.
With a new name and a new look, Watterson continued to hunt for a distributor, and eventually found one at Universal Syndicates. And the rest is history.
From November 18, 1985 until December 31, 1995, Calvin and Hobbes was published through syndicated newspapers across the United States, and even foreign countries. But it still was not without its turmoil. Watterson fought for greater creative control of his strip, and eventually won near the end of the strip’s run. The last four years of Calvin and Hobbes Comics featured deeper topics that Calvin would cover, as well as a more creative panel composition, instead of a fixed format of individual panels.
Bill Watterson wrote Calvin & Hobbes and published his strip through the syndicated newspapers from November 18, 1985 until December 31, 1995. During this time, he fought with both newspapers and his syndicates to experience more creative control of his strip. He won a bigger space to display more creative scene layouts, instead of a fixed format of individual panels.
Calvin shares many traits in common with the average six-year-old. He believes that the world revolves around him, and the mere thought that he would have to change in order to be a functioning citizen is unfathomable to him. In his eyes, he does not have to change in order to improve himself. The world must change in order to suit his whims.
As petulant and impious as they come, Calvin believes that he knows everything about everything, even though he has only learned the most basic principles of a certain subject. A perfect example of this is how he once ‘deduced’ that bats are, in fact, bugs because they are ugly, hairy and they fly. Because of his propensity to declare himself a genius without actually being a genius, he often does poorly in school.
Despite his willful ignorance and willful identification as a victim of ‘the system,’ Calvin has shown at several times that he has a much deeper intelligence than he lets on. Just not a conventional kind of intelligence. He often discusses deep philosophical, ethical and social observations that he has made throughout the course of his young life, and tries his best to make sense of them. Due to his young age, it is difficult for him to properly grasp the concepts that he talks about, but it can be surmised that he’ll understand them in time.
One of Calvin’s most prominent personality traits is his unbounded imagination. In almost any circumstance, Calvin will be daydreaming instead of doing what he is supposed to be doing at the time. These daydreams often pertain to what he is doing at the time, and often hold significance to the punchline of the comic strip he appears in. Oftentimes, these daydreams work to his detriment, but they have benefited him once or twice.
In summary, Calvin can be described as the archetypal problem child. Gifted, but troubled.
Throughout the course of the series, Calvin’s design has remained very much the same. He always wore a red shirt with black horizontal stripes, along with pair of black pants and red sneakers. His most distinctive and recognizable feature has always been his spiky blonde hair. But there were minor changes in Calvin’s design as the comics went on over the years.
The most noticeable difference in Calvin’s appearance over the years has been his hair. At the beginning of the series, it’s a series of disconnected lines that would point upward to give the illusion of messy hair. By the end of the comic’s life, Calvin had a more refined design, where his hair had three distinct points at the top of his head. The other disconnected lines still existed, but were more consistently placed instead of being randomly drawn around his head. His eyes also changed, being perfect circles in the early comics, and changing to vertical ellipses later on.
However, his initial designs before his current appearance in comics was drastically different. Before starring in ‘Calvin and Hobbes,’ when Calvin’s name was Marvin, and he appeared quite different than he does now. His nose was much rounder; his head was much slimmer in it shape. Most of all, his hair did not feature his trademark spikey style. Instead, he sported a bowl cut with bangs that covered his eyes.
Hobbes is basically Calvin's constant companion. He is a stuffed tiger that everyone else sees as being inanimate, Hobbes and Calvin often talk with one another about things your average joe, let alone six year old, would know anything about. Another quirk about Hobbes is that whenever Calvin expects Hobbes to do something life-like around others, Hobbes will always have an excuse, such as when he's supposed to maul Susie, he instead does nothing because he has a thing for her.
Whether Hobbes is really alive or not is never fully explained but based upon many of the occurrences in the comic strip, it can be assumed he is. Another frequent thing about Calvin and Hobbes' relationship is that Hobbes will often scuff Calvin up, by doing such things as tackling him when he's about to enter the door or throwing snowballs at him when he's unaware or just showing off his tiger skills. Hobbes appeared, along with Calvin, in Bill Watterson's first strip in which Calvin "catches" Hobbes, by using a tuna sandwich, one of Hobbes' favorite foods.
Often, with his childish hyperactive imagination, Calvin pretend, or believe he is, other person, or animal, or thing. Those alter ego are almost every time personifications of the child's heroes, favorite animals and characters.
Almost every time he adopt a alter-ego, along with it, the world around him seems to change in a more appropriate scenario for the character he plays. This include other persons becoming beings that would fit the story of the character he is portraying.
Spaceman Spiff - Spiff explores the deepest places of the universe in a flying disk, which he usually crashes in a desert like planet. He carries a weapon most know as the Death Ray Blaster - which normally represents spitballs. Per usual, the Spaceman battles some evil alien who tortures him, seeking for human historical or mathematical "secrets" - the teacher. Also seen fighting an alien executor - the doctor. For example, finding himself in a class room, Calvin's imagination trends to transform the teacher in a horrendous alien, and the room around them in hot desert planet, as Calvin himself incarnate the extraterrestrial world explorer: Spaceman Spiff! Calvin actually meets Galaxoid & Nebular as a regular boy.
Or when confronted with a math problem he may at that moment decide to become Spaceman Spiff in an effort to figure out the problem and Spiff will be found trying to put together Planet 6 and 7 (math problem being 6 7) and he would come to the conclusion the answer is 7 as that was the bigger planet and it obliterated 6 when the two collided (as planets cannot merge).
Stupendous Man - Impossible? Why, nothing's impossible! Not for...Stupendous Man! Stupendous Man is the superhero version of Calvin. His powerset and morals are very similar to Superman's and his theme song also appears to be based on Spider-Man's. His arch nemeses are Rosalyn, his babysitter, the "Evil Mom-Lady," and Susie Derkins AKA "Annoying Girl." Stupendous Man has exhibited tremendous speed and strength, being able to stop the Earth from rotating and turned it in the opposite direction, going back in time.
Tracer Bullet - A very classic old school detective with the usual gun and hat. Drinks and smokes. He also says what he sees/thinks out loud, for example, "The Dame said she had a case. She sounded like a case herself, but I can't choose my clients."
Calvin's other alter egos include: Dinosaurs, A Lizard, A 2-dimensional Version, A Bird, An Owl, A Slug, A Tiger, A Safe, An Adult, A Light Particle, A Color Film Negative, A Whale, Godzilla, A Giant, A Bat, A Living X-Ray, A Pilot, An Elephant, The "C" Bomb, An Octopus, Captain Napalm, Safari Al, Calvin the Criminal, Calvin the God, Calvin "The Human Insect", A Dragon, A Doctor.
Major Story Arcs
After being forced to clean his room by his mom, Calvin decides to secede from his family. He takes his Toboggan, packs sandwiches and supplies (comic books, dart gun, space helmet), and then heads out to the Yukon with Hobbes. After walking for 20 minutes, they take a break. Calvin and Hobbes get into a fight over who gets to be the leader, Hobbes wins. Calvin, mad at Hobbes, decides to leave Hobbes and go home. Once Calvin gets home, he realizes he left Hobbes in the woods. Unable to find him, Calvin becomes really upset. Calvin’s mom gets his dad to find Hobbes in the woods. His dad finds Hobbes and Calvin sees him first thing in the morning.
Attack of The Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons
After making a snowman, Calvin uses the power invested in him by the mighty and awful snow demons to bring it to life. It comes to life and chases him inside. Calvin and Hobbes try to stop it, but the monster continues to make more snow goons. After making a fort and trying to come up with a plan to stop them, his mom calls in Calvin since it is his bedtime. He later sneaks out at 10 o’clock at night and uses the garden hose to freeze all of the snow goons. His dad goes out and tells him to come in, but slips on the ice and falls. Calvin is punished and sent to his room. The moral Calvin learned from all this was “snow goons are bad news”
Scientific Progress Goes “Boink”
In order to make duplicates of himself, Calvin combines the technologies of the transmogrifier and a photocopier, so instead of merely making a reproduction on paper, the machine actually creates a real duplicate (turned a cardboard box on it’s side.) After making one, Calvin’s duplicate runs off. Calvin goes outside looking for it, but the duplicate was sent to Calvin’s room by his mom. When Calvin comes back, he finds out that four more duplicates were made while he was gone. Calvin’s duplicates wreak havoc at home and school. Calvin eventually stops them by tricking them into hiding under his box and transmogrifying them into worms. The lesson Calvin learns is… He didn’t learn any lesson. The
Revenge of The Baby-Sat
When Calvin’s parents go out for the night, they hire Rosalyn as his baby sitter again. Calvin doesn’t like Rosalyn because she sends him to bed at 6:30 and doesn’t allow him to watch TV or horse around. In order to get revenge, Calvin steals Rosalyn’s notes she was studying for an exam. He runs into the bathroom and locks the door. After Calvin threatens to flush her notes down the toilet and blackmail her for a few hours, she tricks him into thinking she called the fire department to open the door. As soon as Calvin pops his head out, Rosalyn catches him and sends him to bed. As a result, Rosalyn charges Calvin’s parents extra for the night.
Weirdos From Another Planet!
Fed up with the way grown-ups have fouled up the world, Calvin refuses to inherit a spoiled planet so he decides to leave. Along with Hobbes, they decide to go to Mars to avoid Earth's pollution. They pack and leave using their wagon as means of transport. They clear orbit and head for Mars. Calvin realizes sees the Earth as a tiny blue speck in the infinite reaches of space and wonders about the mysteries of creation. He wonders if mankind is all part of some great design, no more or less important than anything else in the universe. He thinks surely everything must fit together and have a purpose, a reason for being. When they land on Mars, they see the old "Viking" spacecraft that landed in the '70s. They then unpack and set up camp. They decide Mars might be a little dull, but it's better than earth. They have the whole planet to themselves. Brand new and unspoiled. No people, no pollution. Nothing but rugged, natural beauty as far as the eye can see. But when Calvin and Hobbes see a rock move, they see some sort of creepy, tentacled, bug-eyed monster and scream. They later realize, the monster was scared of them. They decide to leave and fix up their own planet before they go around messing up other people's planets. After all, there is only one Earth, and it's got to last them a while.
In the end, Susie Derkins is ousted, Calvin despite making a Thinking cap to boost intelligence remains an oafish student of Miss Wormwood is friends with Susie Derkins, got along with Rosalyn, and always bullied by Moe. He refuses to eat his Mom's home-cooking and officially did at least one good-deed for Santa. In fiction, He is the 20th Century's most philosophical 6-year-old boy, and Hobbes is the most philosophical tiger.
Recurring Story Elements
While these are not major story elements with a continuous or serialized structure like the previously mentioned story arcs, they are certain events that happen or are repeated often enough to be considered major parts of the Calvin and Hobbes canon.
Wagon or Toboggan Rides with Hobbes
Rides through the forest would be by wagon in the summer, but on the sled or toboggan in the winter. During these trips, Calvin would espouse certain philosophical and ethical quandaries that had entered his mind on a whim. Usually, these rides would end with severe injury by way of a high velocity impact.
Walks in the Woods
Whenever Calvin would need to clear his head he would take a walk through the woods in his backyard and have calmer, more grounded philosophical discussions with Hobbes. Sometimes, he would end up thinking about something that he rather wouldn’t have.
One of Calvin’s favorite wintertime activities. He doesn’t just see building snowmen as a fun game. He believes his snowmen to be a work of high art that the average person isn’t able to comprehend. Even when they are grotesque, deranged monstrosities.
Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie
Calvin’s favorite book. Written by Mabel Syrup, the book features a plot not known to the audience, but has elements involving squeaky voices, gooshy sound effects and a dance known as the ‘happy hamster hop.’ Calvin demands that his dad read it to him, and will have intense verbal battles with him in order to have the book read.
The Killer Bicycle
For reasons unknown, Calvin’s bike has the disposition of a murderous animal. Much like how Hobbes will only come alive when Calvin is the only person present, Calvin’s bicycle will come alive and try to kill him whenever he tries to ride it. There have even been times where his bike would actively hunt and ambush Calvin.
The Noodle Incident
Very little is known about what happened during the noodle incident. The details are intentionally kept a mystery, but certain statements offer clues about its nature. When pressed about it one time, Calvin declares that nobody can prove that he was the culprit, meaning that nobody else saw him do it. Another time, he claims to have been framed, meaning that nobody saw him do it, but others assumed that it was Calvin who perpetrated it. Any concrete details will always remain ambiguous.
Water Balloon or Snowball Fights
Much like the rides through the woods, the nature of the fights would change depending on the season.
No matter how much Calvin hates these trips, his dad will always insist on taking them. Each camping trip is fraught with endless stretches of boredom, which are punctuated by bloodthirsty mosquitoes, terrible weather, diarrhea, poison ivy, and sleeping on the cold, rocky ground.
Calvin will often draw up charts about how his dad can be a better parent. His suggestions often come in the form of allowing more TV time, repealing mandatory school attendance, scheduling later bedtimes, to name a few. Naturally, Calvin’s dad is never amused.
Calvin and Hobbes’ favorite sport. Nothing about the game is organized, as the rules are made up while the game is played. As Calvin remarks at one point, this lends the game to certain abuses. Besides Calvin and Hobbes, the only other known Calvinball player has been Rosalyn.
Calvin has engaged in more conventional sports, such as baseball, football and volleyball. Even during these mundane activities, strange things happen, such as the baseball trying to eat him, or the football turning into a safe.
Meetings for the Get Rid Of Slimy girlS club, where paper hats are worn and arguments are had about the exact nuances and ethicality of girl-hating. Sometimes plots are organized to simply annoy Susie Derkins, only to backfire. Just as often, Hobbes will force Calvin to sing the club’s password to enter. A song which has at least eight verses, and extols the glory of tigers.
The bane of Calvin’s existence. The one place where he is not allowed to be himself and must face reality of being a poor student, as well as the wrath of Moe. However, it is also the place where Calvin does most of his daydreaming.
Calvin has a particular dislike of bathing. He will go to lengths in order to avoid taking a bath. Sometimes, he is shown to have fun there, such as imagining himself as Godzilla or dumping ink in the tub to play ‘oil tanker.’
There is no avoiding being pounced by Hobbes the moment he walks through his front door. No matter how he tries, Calvin always ends up on the receiving end of a savage pounce every time he comes home from school. Sometimes he is pounced for other reasons.
Whenever Calvin actually tries to ask his father for advice, he often doesn’t get the answer he wants. The facts he gets from his father are always either outlandish, untrue or sometimes traumatizing. Yet Calvin keeps going back for more.
Nights for Calvin are besot with the terror of the monsters under his bed. Though they try their best to eat him, they aren’t very smart. A weakness that Calvin regularly takes advantage of.
Television is the idol that Calvin worships. Calvin has mastered "television-watching" in order to make it a complete forfeiture of experience. In order to accomplish this, he keeps his jaw slack, so his mouth hangs open. He tries not to swallow either, so he drools. He keeps his eyes half-focused so he doesn't use any muscles at all. He takes a passive entertainment and extend and extends the passivity to his entire being. He becomes utterly inert.
Calvin is able to construct sophisticated devices out of cardboard boxes. In addition to his transmogrifier, duplicator and time machine, he has also used a cardboard box to make a brain enhancing machine, a robot costume, a series of small business stands, and several other things.
The meals that Calvin is most often served at his house is a pile of green glop. Surreal things often happen when he is presented with this strange meal. Many times it will come alive and try to fight with him. Sometimes it will sing. One time it even recited Shakespeare.
Powers and Abilities
Calvin has shown to be capable of doing absolutely anything he desires thanks to both his imagination and his intellect. It can be debated whether Calvin is truly doing these things but others are unable to see the truth because they do not have the mind of a child, or he is merely making things up as everyone tells him. He has created devices that have allowed his brain to increase in size, to change the species of beings, duplicate himself, create a version of himself that is purely good. He also has an imagination that allows him to see the world in many different perspectives usually involving him becoming his super personas such as Spaceman Spiff and Stupendous Man who have a variety of powers all their own. On other occasions he has gained powers that he did not desire, such as being immune to gravity, as he feared he would fly off the Earth and later he grew to such a massive size that he was larger than the Earth itself.
Calvin uses a cardboard box for the majority of his inventions. When upright it is a time machine, when upside down it is his "transmorgrifier", when on its side it is a "Duplicator". He also added a dial to the duplicator so he could choose to make a good or bad clone. He used another cardboard box to create a time machine.
His other inventions include a device that increases his intellect (a "thinking cap"), a flying carpet from a hallway rug, and a Transmorgrifier Gun from a water gun which does the same as the cardboard box "transmorgrifier" but its portable.
Besides a series of bumper stickers and window decals of Calvin urinating on various logos (the legality of which has been subject to several disputes), there has been no other existing Calvin and Hobbes media. Not a single other comic or story has been printed. No films have been made. And while there have been offers to have an animated series produced, they have all been declined.
The only known animated appearances that Calvin has made are a very brief cameo on Family Guy and a sketch that depicts Hobbes as a murderous second personality on Robot Chicken.