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7 Things You Might Not Know About Calvin and Hobbes

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7 Things You Might Not Know About Calvin and Hobbes

Like the questionable legality of that little bumper sticker.

 

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Though we can’t pick your friends, we strongly encourage you to ostracize anyone who expresses disinterest or disdain for Calvin and Hobbes, the brilliant comic strip illustrated by Bill Watterson from 1985 to 1995. For the December 2013 issue of mental_floss magazine, we scored a rare interview with the famously private Mr. Watterson. Here are seven more notes about the author, the boy, and his stuffed tiger. Tuna fish sandwich and toboggan optional.

 

1. Watterson to Spielberg and Lucas: Thanks, But No Thanks

 

Lee Salem, Watterson’s editor at Universal Press Syndicate, recalls fielding several calls in the 1980s from a who’s who of celebrities and producers who wanted to either get in business with the author or just pass along their admiration for his work. At one point, both Steven Spielberg and George Lucas reached out asking to meet with Watterson, but the artist, who felt schmoozing and publicity took his focus away from the strip, politely declined. (Salem did, however, forward a fan letter to Watterson from Stephen King. The editor didn’t open it, but we’d like to think it expressed satisfaction at the numerous decapitated and suicidal snowmen that populated Calvin’s front yard over the years.)

 

2. Calvin and Hobbes … and Robotman?

 

When Watterson was busy trying to find a home for Calvin and Hobbes in its earliest incarnation—the two were supporting characters in a strip titled In the Doghouse, about the grown-up struggles of Calvin’s older brother—United Feature Syndicate made the cartoonist an offer: Would he shoehorn an existing character, a sentient machine named Robotman, into some of Calvin’s fantasies? The syndicate had licensing deals cooking and was looking to get their intellectual property into newspapers to help push merchandise. Watterson, displeased with the crassly commercial nature of the request, refused. (Robotman got his own strip in 1985. And no, we don’t remember him, either.)

 

3. The Complete Collection Isn’t Quite Complete

 

To celebrate the strip’s 20th anniversary in 2005, publisher Andrews McMeel issued a hernia-inducing collection of Watterson’s entire body of work—sort of. Salem recalls a minor blow-up from readers when Watterson published two strips in the 1980s that depicted Calvin mocking the idea he might be adopted. In one strip, Calvin’s complains that “I’ll bet my biological mother would’ve bought me a comic book…” It was later changed to, “I’ll bet a good mother would’ve bought me a comic book…”

Another strip, featuring Hobbes in a washing machine, is missing from the collection entirely. Some have speculated that putting the tiger in a spin cycle might be an unwelcome hint he’s not real. No one, including Watterson, ever wanted to have that question answered.

 

4. Watterson Did License. A Little.

 

The persistent affection for Calvin and Hobbes is attributable in part to Watterson’s adamant refusal to water down his characters with toys, coffee mugs, and backpacks. While there was never a Garfield-esque empire of merchandising, he did occasionally offer his blessing for ancillary items. Calvin appeared on a Museum of Modern Art shirt commemorating an Ohio State University exhibition of comic art in 2001; two calendars, for 1989 and 1990, were issued; the book Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes was a tutorial intended to help students improve their language skills; finally, the duo mugged for a postage stamp in 2010, part of a Postal Service sheet of comic strip icons.

 

5. Urine Trouble

 

While any true fan of Calvin and Hobbes finds the ubiquitous, unauthorized car decal of Calvin peeing on automotive logos distasteful, at least one state took legal action: In the late 1990s, South Carolina slapped drivers sporting it with a ticket for $200, declaring it “obscene.” In a 2005 Q&A with readers to promote the Complete collection, Watterson dryly noted that he “clearly miscalculated how popular it would be to show Calvin urinating on a Ford logo.”

 

6. Spaceman Spiff Was Originally the Whole Idea

 

When Watterson decided to exit a floundering career in editorial cartooning, he imagined a number of strips and circulated them amongst the syndicates. One of them, Spaceman Spiff, was intended to be a parody of the Star Wars space fantasy genre. “It was so bad,” Watterson told the Dallas Morning News in 1987, “that I make fun of it in Calvin.”

 

7. The Last Calvin Strip Wasn’t Watterson’s Swan Song

 

Though he’s never returned to cartooning and only paints for his own satisfaction, Watterson did release a new piece of work in 2012: An oil-on-canvas depiction of Petey Otterloop, one of the characters in the comic strip Cul de Sac. Watterson donated the work to help raise funds for Parkinson’s research, a disease afflicting the strip’s author, Richard Thompson. Selling for over $13,000 at auction, it might just be the most affordable piece of Watterson art we’ll ever see: an original Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strip sold for a staggering $203,150 that same year.

 

This article was originally published on October 21, 2013, by Mental Floss, and is republished here with permission.

 

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I have always found the "Calvin urinating" stickers distasteful as well, and misrepresent Calvin as I understand him from the comics, and I have always considered myself a tremendous fan.

 

Someone posted the following on Facebook recently, and I read it. I will neither confirm nor deny that my vision became blurry as I read it.

https://medium.com/@playmaker/in-the-final-minutes-of-his-life-calvin-has-one-last-talk-with-hobbes-4f6d76dc9cae

 

 

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I always thought the little  decals with Calvin urinating on something to be immature and tasteless yet somewhat humorous. One day nearly 20 years ago I saw Calvin urinating on the word "America" I knew it wasn't a  sanctioned copy of Calvin and took steps to make sure the decal was seen by no one else. Sure, it's the United States and we do have Freedom of Speech but we also have Freedom of Expression. I expressed myself by creating little diamond shaped  glass pieces...

 

My favorite Calvin and Hobbes comics involve the various snowmen that have met their demise at the hands of  Calvin and Hobbes. Hilarious! :lol:

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"Questionable legality"??

 

Nothing questionable about it. It is illegal as hell.

 

Mr. Watterson owns Calvin. Mr. Watterson did not license Calvin to the people making those window stickers. This is copyright infringement, and is illegal.

 

Whether it is Calvin peeing on a car logo, or Calvin kneeling in front of three crosses is irrelevant. It is illegal.

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You can still read Calvin and Hobbes daily here, I know I do......along with several others. Still like it after all these years and I don't care if they are reruns. 

 

BTW, for those of you who are Get Fuzzy fans, it is there also.

 

https://www.gocomics.com/

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The best comic ever. So amazing that Watterson never licensed anything; would have made hundreds of millions. Deeply impressive-- it is one of the rarest things in the world for someone to deliberately turn his back on certain riches. No doubt he made a lot of money on the strip, itself.

 

I admire it. I even understand it....but I probably would have gone the Charles Schultz route if it had been me!

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calvinandhobbes.jpg

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Or at least the For Better or For Worse/Girls With Slingshots route - draw the comic for 10 or 20 years, then start all over again at the beginning. It still sells because it now has readers who weren't alive when it was around the first time.

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It probably just me but I never associated the peeing decals with Calvin and Hobbs. To me that boy on the decal does not represent the Calvin I know from the comic strip.

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Back in the late 80s there was a large raid out at the beach. Closed down several t-shirt shacks. Arrested many people.

 

Unauthorized Garfield representations.

 

It seemed Jim Davis had had enough.

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