Hobbes was just plain terrible

After seeing a recent Calvin and Hobbes thread, it occurred to me the subject of how good a friend Hobbes really is has never come up. Like, anywhere, ever. (And before anyone brings it up, I’m not really the one to ask how good the strip was or its place in the grand scheme of comics history. I do think it was highly accurate in how it portrayed certain archetypes…smart and wise but weirdly hypocritical girls, bullies, perpetually unhappy mothers…but whether this helped the strip’s quality, I can’t say.) I keep hearing about how the strip is about the magic of friendships or Hobbes is Calvin’s adult conscience or he represents the duality of reality or whatnot, all of which I think avoids the elephant in the room.

I don’t have the time or energy to research this fully, but I’d like to remind everyone that:

  • He is incredibly violent. Literally every school day he slams into Calvin at a horrifying velocity. He frequently attacks or mauls Calvin in the house for absolutely no good reason, and even tried to eat him once.
  • He bullies Calvin, constantly. In addition to daily brutality, he uses his physical superiority to harass, intimidate, and extort him. Other than checkers (which Calvin is terrible at), the only games he ever plays with him are ones where he can exploit his obvious physical advantage, which he does every time.
  • He is absolutely self-centered and self-absorbed. His relationship with Calvin is completely one-sided, take, take, take. He once clobbered Calvin because h e thought he was opening a can of tuna (it was pineapple, but of course all cans sound the same :roll_eyes:), because lord forbid anyone else in the house get to eat anything.
  • Whenever Calvin asks him for any kind of information whatsoever, his response is invariably either wild-guess drivel (“A paper tiger is a tiger that delivers papers. Y’know, like a paperboy.”) or outright BS (“Tigers eat caterpillars! By the truckload!”). His dissertations on arithmetic, in particular, are Insane Troll Logic territory, and I strongly suspect he could go on for hours if Bill Watterson had more panels.
  • He emotionally abuses Calvin, constantly. Gloating about everything he doesn’t have to do that Calvin does, such as going to school. When Calvin mentioned that Suzie Derkins had moved in next door, his immediate reaction was to tease him. (“Do you loooovvveeee her?” :man_facepalming:) He lies and threatens and makes ridiculously unreasonable demands (the treehouse password being a prime example).
  • Any time Calvin asks any kind of favor from him whatsoever, he either whines and cries like a baby, pulls a CYA, or weasels out of it. He knows as much about actual friendship as Moe knows about fair fights.

I don’t like it when violence, abuse, egomania, greed, and a host of other despicable behaviors get glossed over. Occasionally dispensing a bit of pithy wisdom does not excuse daily physical violence. Going along with a wagon ride does not excuse dispensing misinformation. “Friendship” does not excuse doing the most colossally jerky thing imaginable at every opportunity. And this is a real problem for me because I have seen real life terrible behavior brushed off in the name of friendship, or just being one of the guys, or this, or that.

Hobbes was a piece of garbage. Suzie was a terrific girl with the regrettable flaw of following a sexual double standard (which one hopes she’ll eventually grow out of.) Rosalyn didn’t get paid enough for this. It’s okay to say it. None of this diminishes the quality of the strip in any way.

I guess you’ve never owned a cat? :grinning:

I think this is the important point. You’re seeing the comic strip through the filter of your bad experiences. But other people see it differently.

Well, blame Calvin for all that. He’s the one who made Hobbes into an imaginary friend in the first place.

Calvin adores Hobbes. They are the best of friends.

That they fight and squabble is what kids do. They never truly hurt each other. And their interactions usually have a lesson behind them. Calvin is learning.

OP…did you have siblings?

A reasonable objection would be that Calvin has adopted a non-constructive approach in isolating his failure in mathematics, his childish ignorance, and his occasional physical accidents, as “somebody else’s fault”. If this approach carries over into adulthood, it will self-destructive.

The counter argument is that he is not an adult, and that isolating the problems outside himself allows him to define himself as someone who overcomes the problems imposed on him by the world – which is a constructive approach.

I support the second argument. In either case, I don’t have to accept Calvin’s imaginative attribution of his own failures to a stuffed toy: I observe and sympathize.

IIRC it is never made clear if Hobbes is real or only a stuffed toy.

Certainly we can say that in our world Hobbes is not real but in the world of the comic I do not think that is ever made explicit (e.g. we see Hobbes as a stuffed toy and we see Hobbes having physical interactions with Calvin).

Hobbes certainly appears real to Calvin, but he is a stuffed toy.
And as Hobbes is a total figment of Calvin’s imagination, Calvin could gentrify him at any time of his choosing. Make him an example of learning, sophistication and fun. But at his current age and stage of development Calvin choses not to. Calvin is the worry, it’s not Hobbes who is leading him astray.

He is incredibly violent. Literally every school day he slams into Calvin at a horrifying velocity. He frequently attacks or mauls Calvin in the house for absolutely no good reason, and even tried to eat him once.

It’s illuminating that in their brutish, slapstick relationship Calvin never causes damage to Hobbes. And the only time Calvin actually gets hurt is when he does it to himself.

Exactly. Hobbes is, like Spaceman Spiff, a total creation of Calvin’s 6yo imagination. With all the incompetence, inconsistency, and slapstick mini-violence that 6yo boys are famous for.

Hobbes sometimes plays the role of wise mentor, more often of comic foil, or Robin to Calvin’s Batman. When Hobbes “attacks” in greeting, bowling Calvin over, that’s Calvin’s imagination saying that he (Calvin) is worth that kind of enthusiastic greeting. If Calvin had a real live human male friend his age, they’d probably greet the same way. At least until somebody broke a tooth.

It’s exactly because “live” Hobbes is totally imaginary that his behavior can be so over the top so often. Said another way, Hobbes is the 6yo that Calvin wants to act out. But can’t because of all the constraints of the real world, be that Mom, School, or his actual factual limitations as a 6yo, not an adult. Calvin really can’t drive, can’t do math, doesn’t like girls, etc., But Hobbes as Calvin’s alter ego, can do all those things and skillfully so.

The whole and entire point of the strip is that the border between the real world and the imaginary world is very, very faint to a 6yo boy. And that’s the charm. We adult male types remember being that way. Women would experience the strip differently of course, but the faint line between dreams, imagination, and reality is equally applicable to them.

An interesting topic would be doing a similar strip from the POV of a 6yo female protagonist. We couldn’t re-use any of the C&H characters; they’re each designed around Calvin. But we could imagine a 6yo girl with parents, school rivals, babysitters, etc. And a super-active imagination.

I still can’t over the fact that Calvin used substandard cardboard components for the transmogrifier.

We saw Susie and Mr. Bun. But Susie was a rather dull person holding tea parties with her friends. She was quite friendly to Hobbes, who you will notice was far better behaved around Susie, which reveals that Calvin was the instigator of all the violence with Hobbes. Hobbes was a victim here.

That was the time machine. The transmogrifier was made from a substandard squirt gun.

The squirt gun was the second iteration of transmogrifier technology.

You’re right. It’s been a long time.

Well yes. But again those characters are designed as foils to Calvin. Susie is drawn boring because 6yo Calvin thinks girls are boring.

I’m talking about a completely separate strip, a whole franchise, whose protagonist is a hyper-imaginative 6yo girl. How would that play out? I expect women find C&H cute but ultimately annoying as there aren’t any good roles for the females young or old.

So the question is what a strip designed to appeal to women and their memory of their own early childhood would look like. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t look like Susie and Mr. Bun; at least not much of the time.

No, Susie is not a figment of Calvin’s imagination. She’s drawn boring because she is. Calvin reveals how he sees her to us, but she is not portrayed that way otherwise. And Hobbes likes her too, and I value Hobbes opinion over Calvin’s.

I’m sorry; we’re not communicating due to my poor explanations.

I agree 100% that Susie is as real as Calvin in the strip world. But Watterson made Susie boring because that’s what Calvin’s life (both his real and imaginary lives) needs for the strip to function. In a strip centered on a highly active boy, the girl has to be boring.

My point was that in a strip centered on a highly imaginative 6yo girl, that girl would not be boring. At least not if the strip was going to have any legs. That very different POV is why none of the characters from C&H could be reused; they show a world designed around the needs, preferences, and perceptions of a 6yo boy.

Well, there’s Cul de Sac.

It has several characters, but the main one is Alice, an imaginative and pushy 5yo girl. She finds her older brother Petey pretty boring and useless.

Babymouse fills this role pretty well. I’m not sure if she’s six, and she’s definitely not human, but her stories regularly lapse into over-the-top fantasy sequences in much the same way Calvin’s do. (It’s a graphic novel series, not a strip, so I guess that’s another deviation; but strips are getting pretty rare these days).

I understand what you mean, I was just pointing out that we did have Susie. No, she wasn’t simply a gender flipped version of Hobbes. But I don’t think it will be that simple to a produce a similar young girl version of Calvin, she’ll need her own personality, her own relationship with a stuffed animal, with parents, friends, teachers, cardboard boxes, and reality.