The Essential, Authoritative, and Indispensable Collection of Literary References in Calvin and Hobbes

3 weeks ago

This contented contains affiliate links. When you bargain done these links, we whitethorn gain an affiliate commission.

While immoderate beacons of puerility nostalgia are better near arsenic memories, I suspected Calvin & Hobbes mightiness warrant a revisit. Indeed, what I loved astir the comic arsenic a kid — some the gruesome snowmen and the axenic emotion of a stuffed carnal — has remained delightful. But my eyes, present bespectacled and opening to crease with wrinkles, tin observe much than they could backmost erstwhile they were successful mint condition. Namely, the comic’s extent of references — artistic, political, philosophical, and, yes, literary.

Perhaps the champion works created for children are the ones rife with layers discoverable aboriginal successful life. That prime encourages intergenerational sharing. It makes the works enduring. Maybe, similar me, you’ve work hundreds (or thousands!) of books and mostly soaked up a batch of civilization successful the clip since you past visited our spiky-haired lad and his tiger friend. If so, present are immoderate literate references you tin prime up connected a Calvin and Hobbes reread.

The Titular Characters

I deliberation for astir radical astir my property and younger, cognition of Hobbes the tiger came earlier cognition of Hobbes the governmental philosopher. Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson named Hobbes arsenic a wink to his inheritance successful governmental science. He’d chosen the large to augment his planned vocation successful editorial cartooning. I, for one, americium grateful helium opted for the comic pages implicit the op-eds. Watterson characterized Thomas Hobbes arsenic having “a dim presumption of quality nature.” How overmuch tiger Hobbes reflects philosopher Thomas Hobbes is debatable. While the tiger Hobbes laments quality ills similar biology destruction, helium besides intelligibly loves his quality companion.

Calvin, meanwhile, shares a sanction with theologian John Calvin, the namesake of a large subdivision of Protestantism. John Calvin’s assertion to fame is the conception of predestination, meaning that God has already chosen an unchangeable elect, and the remaining reprobates look eternal damnation. Comic Calvin does not person a peculiarly accordant philosophy; it’s portion of his charm. But helium does invoke his namesake successful 1 portion erstwhile helium says “All events are preordained and unalterable. Whatever volition beryllium volition be. That way, if thing atrocious happens, it’s not my fault.”

The Stack Newsletter

Sign up to The Stack to person Book Riot Comic's champion posts, picked for you.

Thank you for signing up! Keep an oculus connected your inbox.

By signing up you hold to our terms of use

Influence and Homage

Bill Watterson himself described 3 of his biggest influences successful comics, and references to their enactment permeate Calvin and Hobbes. The archetypal of these is Charles Schulz’s Peanuts. Both Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes revolve astir a lad and his narration to an carnal friend. Charlie Brown has Snoopy; Calvin has Hobbes. Stylistically, Watterson, similar Schulz, drew, lettered, and inked each portion helium created.

Both Charlie Brown and Calvin person misfit qualities. Neither excel astatine sports, though Calvin makes up for this by inventing his own, Calvinball. Charlie Brown and Calvin some person antagonistic relationships with girls successful their class. And ultimately, some comic strips halfway the satellite of children implicit the satellite of adults. Where they disagree is successful mood. Peanuts captures the melancholy of childhood, portion Calvin & Hobbes depicts much of the wonder. 

Krazy Kat coverA Krazy Kat postulation that shows the godforsaken scenery Bill Watterson would emulate.

If you’ve ne'er work the comic portion Krazy Kat, you’re missing retired connected immoderate genuine weirdness that besides influenced Bill Watterson. Krazy Kat, which archetypal ran successful 1913, showed however a comic could beryllium profoundly idiosyncratic and inactive look successful the papers. George Herriman, who created the strip, besides elevated the artwork of the medium. Whenever a Calvin and Hobbes comic depicts a Martian scenery for a Spaceman Spiff adventure, Krazy Kat was determination first. The comic’s mounting of Coconino County provided the stark godforsaken scenery Bill Watterson loved to replicate successful his ain work. Watterson adjacent gave it a circumstantial notation successful 1 portion wherever Calvin’s parents admire a coating successful a museum. That coating is really a reproduced Krazy Kat landscape.

For a agelong time, I ne'er knew what the woody was with the poesy successful Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin is often made to recite poetry, often penned by Hobbes and much often lauding tigers’ merits. Those occurrences successful Calvin and Hobbes are an homage to Walt Kelly’s Pogo, which often featured Kelly’s ain poetry. Pogo was a portion astir talking animals successful Okefenokee Swamp. And similar Calvin and Hobbes, the characters are richly developed and multifaceted.

Genre References

Aside from those 3 large influences, Calvin’s change egos wage homage to a emotion of comic books and pulp fiction. His Spaceman Spiff persona is simply a send-up of aboriginal subject fabrication pulp magazines similar Amazing Stories, which published stories of Buck Rogers. Tracer Bullet is Calvin’s noir change ego, reminiscent Dick Tracy. When we get to spot Calvin’s nemesis Susie’s imaginary life with her stuffie, Mr. Bun, it tin instrumentality the signifier of melodramatic comics similar Mary Worth and Dr Kildare. That emotion of pulp lit adjacent sneaks done erstwhile Calvin’s parent refers to her hubby arsenic Conan the Barbarian.

Calvin is acold much funny successful comic books than different literature. When helium describes his superhero quality Stupendous Man arsenic being “mild-mannered” and a “millionaire playboy” retired of costume, he’s referencing some Superman and Batman successful his paradoxical description.

Specific Literary References successful Calvin and Hobbes

Copious literate references successful Calvin and Hobbes travel successful the signifier of one-off occurrences. Calvin’s ideas outpouring from the rima of a child, but galore person roots successful different writers. When Calvin says “the ends warrant the means,” lone to instrumentality umbrage astatine Hobbes shoving him into a mud puddle to get Calvin retired of his path, he’s paraphrasing Machiavelli’s The Prince. His desire to unrecorded alone successful the woods distant from the nine is surely referencing Thoreau’s Walden, close down to the item wherever Calvin says he’ll request his ma to travel and navigator for him.

cover of Winnie the PoohCalvin, too, has gone connected a balloon adventure.

The adventures Calvin and Hobbes embark connected often lucifer adventurous stories from passim history. Calvin finds a magic carpet, immortalized successful the Thousand and One Nights. A cardboard container becomes a clip machine, an entity coined by H.G. Wells. When Calvin floats into the aerial with a azygous balloon, each I spot is “In Which We Are Introduced to Winnie the Pooh and Some Bees and the Stories Begin,” the precise archetypal communicative successful the Winnie the Pooh collection.

Calvin’s fanciful imaginativeness besides calls connected immoderate classics. When Calvin awakes successful the greeting arsenic a human-sized slug, Kafka’s Metamorphosis leaps to mind. Hobbes adjacent accuses Calvin of getting “Kafka dreams.” And sometimes it’s hard not to notation the Bible if you’re penning successful English. Biblical phrases are plentiful successful our lexicon. But Calvin goes for a full Gothic font and demands sacrifices similar Old Testament God erstwhile his imaginativeness narrates his tinker artifact play. Another spiritual undertone comes successful the signifier of Mrs. Wormwood. Calvin’s teacher’s sanction is that of the apprentice devil successful C.S. Lewis’s caller The Screwtape Letters.

What precisely does Calvin read?

Apart from Calvin’s bedtime favourite Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie and nonfiction books astir dinosaurs and wasps, helium doesn’t explicit overmuch involvement successful books that aren’t comics. Nevertheless, helium spouts immoderate beauteous erudite references. These musings often travel successful the strips that represent Calvin and Hobbes connected a trek done the woods. One specified trek depicted Calvin’s flight aft driving his mother’s car into a ditch, erstwhile helium quotes the title of Thomas Wolfe’s caller You Can’t Go Home Again

And erstwhile Calvin described a walk successful the winter arsenic reminiscent of Doctor Zhivago, had helium seen the movie oregon work the book? Calvin tried to bring his snowmen to life done a lightning strike, an allusion to cinematic adaptations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which suggests to maine helium picks a batch up from the movies. Still, however Calvin was capable to picture the mentation of wide relativity Einstein presented successful his nonfiction “On the Influence of Gravitation connected the Propagation of Light” erstwhile delaying telling his parent that he’d spilled a pitcher of lemonade is anyone’s guess. 

cover of Hamster Huey and the Gooey KablooieSomeone dared to people the imaginary publication from Calvin and Hobbes.

We cognize Calvin reads Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie, but that’s an imaginary book. Nevertheless, 1 enterprising writer did instrumentality vantage of copyright loopholes astir titles to constitute the publication themselves. I don’t judge anyone has yet published the sequel, Commander Coriander Salamander and ‘er Singlehander Bellylander.

Hobbes, often depicted reading, tin besides driblet a notation oregon two. Much of the poesy successful Calvin and Hobbes takes the signifier of odes Hobbes writes to himself, but helium volition paraphrase different poets, including Alfred Lord Tennyson’s celebrated enactment from “Locksley Hall,” “In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”

The Rich Text of Calvin and Hobbes

What bash each these references adhd up to? They underscore the adventurous quality of Calvin. He goes wherever tons of different heroic characters person gone before, but ever with a humorous and imaginative twist. Likewise, the contemplative moments item the richness of a beingness steeped successful literature, philosophy, and art. These references adhd contented and heft to Calvin’s childlike wonder. Ultimately 1 mightiness accidental there’s thing similar Calvin and Hobbes, but determination are immoderate comics that evoke the aforesaid feelings.

In the end, I judge I’ve lone scratched the aboveground of the literate references successful Calvin and Hobbes. While reading, I’d often find myself wondering, precisely which philosopher is this again? Or, doesn’t that dependable a small spot similar thing Pierre says successful War and Peace? But I couldn’t ever enactment a digit connected what felt similar an allusion. You, beloved reader, with your ain cognition and taste interaction points, are definite to find plentifulness more.

I called this effort “Essential, Authoritative and Indispensable” for the aforesaid crushed Bill Watterson utilized those adjectives to picture his Calvin and Hobbes collections. This nonfiction is thing but essential, authoritative oregon indispensable! So arsenic Calvin says successful the final strip, “It’s a magical world, Hobbes ol’ buddy, let’s spell exploring!”