Tom Jeffreys on ‘Calvin and Hobbes’

‘It’s all there: charm, humour, ethics, friendship’

Calvin and Hobbes. Courtesy: Bill Watterson

Calvin and Hobbes. Courtesy: Bill Watterson

‘It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy … Let’s go exploring!’ And, with that, on New Year’s Eve 1995, Bill Watterson brought to an end one of the great newspaper comic strips: Calvin and Hobbes. I was eight when first introduced to it by an Austrian aunt: Calvin, a six-year-old boy with an overactive imagination; Hobbes, his best friend, a stuffed tiger. In the presence of others, Hobbes remains mute and limp, but becomes sardonic and occasionally wild when it’s just the two of them.

Late at night, when my brain won’t shut down, I read Calvin and Hobbes. When I’m cold and alone, I read Calvin and Hobbes. It’s all there: charm, humour, ethics, friendship, humanity’s place in the world, our relationship with our non-human fellows, art as reflection, escape, invention …

That last strip is a landscape of freshly fallen snow. ‘It’s like a big white sheet of paper to draw on!’ says Hobbes with a knowing grin. ‘A day full of possibilities!’ marvels Calvin. And that was it: after ten years, Watterson, who never allowed the characters to be merchandized, brought down the curtain. Calvin and Hobbes dash off together on their wooden sled. One world ends; another begins.

Tom Jeffreys is a writer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. His first book, Signal Failure: London to Birmingham, HS2 on Foot, was published by Influx Press in 2017. He is working on a book about birch trees in Russian art, landscape and identity.

Issue 200

First published in Issue 200

January - February 2019

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