Twenty-years after the release of its final issue, “Calvin & Hobbes” is still widely one of the most lauded and apotheosized comic strips of all time. It is easy to see why.
Although many a pundit have pinpointed its popularity and critical acclaim to its seemingly boundless humor, aesthetics, creativity as well as its capacity to speak to the inner child, of all generations of readers; Wall Street Journal staff writer, Christopher Caldwell, attributes the comic strip’s sweeping success, to its subtle, penetrating and deeply profound musings.
At its core, Calvin & Hobbes is a story of friendship between a 6 year old misfit and his plush tiger. Interestingly, when other people are around, the tiger is an inanimate toy, yet, when these are not, the tiger proves to be an ineffably witty and caring companion of Calvin. This small subtlety already serves as a parable, mirroring our yearning for more than our reality seems capable to offer us. Not only as children, but as adults as well.
The WSJ journalist writes that its Calvin’s dreams which have always been the cartoon’s key subject. In these dreams, Bill Watterson allows his readers to explore new realms. From the city of Stupidopolis which Calvin builds out of sandcastles, and then mercilessly destroys to the Transmogrifier, which will allow Calvin to morph himself into a tiger – like his pet Hobbes – to Spaceman Spiff’s endeavor to forestall eating his mother’s putrid meals.
It’s these whimsical worlds and adventures, explored and led by Calvin, that give rise to ingenious social and philosophical commenary; albeit unsystematic at that. De facto, James Q. Wilson saw Calvin & Hobbes as a reflection of Aristotle’s moral philosophy. Wilson, a political theorist, also argued that social order is founded upon self-control as well as delayed gratification; which Calvin is borderline horrendous at. Calvin is certain he is destined to achieve greatness, irregardless of him completing his homework or not. He even named his favorite sport after himself “Calvinball”, with him being the only individual entitled to change the rules impromptu, were it to suit his needs.
Alas, as the years pass by, Calvin becomes increasingly aware that his surrounding environment fails to suit his every need. He remains flabbergasted about this rather strange idea. It is here, where the humor shines most, as it reflects our own attempts to resist and rebel against such evidence.
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