Hobbes was just plain terrible


Hobbes, named for philosopher Thomas Hobbes, is the deuteragonist of the comics. He is Calvin’s stuffed tiger and best friend, who, from Calvin’s perspective, is a live tiger and real as anyone else in the strip. The interplay between the two title characters, and the question of whether Hobbes was real or not (Watterson said yes, but only Calvin can see that he’s alive) is what gave the strip its unique personality that remained mostly untouched during its decade-long run. SOURCE

When Calvin and Hobbes was accepted by Universal Syndicate, and began to grow in popularity, Watterson found himself at odds with the syndicate which urged him to begin merchandising the characters and touring the country to promote the first collections of comic strips. Watterson refused. To him, the integrity of the strip and its artist would be undermined by commercialization, which he saw as a major negative influence in the world of cartoon art[16] and he came to believe that licensing his character would only violate the spirit of his work.[23] He gave an example of this in discussing his opposition to a Hobbes plush toy: that if the essence of Hobbes’ nature in the strip is that it remain unresolved whether he is a real tiger or a stuffed toy, then creating a real stuffed toy would only destroy the magic. SOURCE

At first, the nature of “Hobbes” is easily explained: Hobbes is a toy, and Calvin has used the toy to create an imaginary friend. However, this oversimplification does not do justice to the complex situation that Watterson effortlessly creates. Watterson suggests that there is not one valid reality, it is not that Hobbes is either a toy or he is a conscious being. Both are valid. Hobbes exists in “dual realities” (Aronstein 2011) which intersect on occasion. SOURCE:

Hobbes is quite the ladies’ man, in fact.

Hobbes also likes bath time and doing homework. He’s not just what Calvin wishes he could be (smart, strong, wise), but what Calvin knows he should be.

But he’s a boy who holds conflicting ideas: he should be nice to girls, but girls also have cooties and are gross. So he shunts off the “how SHOULD” I act to the imaginary friend and goes about the business of being a jerk.

@Whack-a-Mole . Thank you. So he’s sorta-imaginary.

Someone once pointed out to me that Hobbes appears as a stuffed toy if and only if adults are in that same panel. I don’t remember if that’s 100% accurate, but certainly at least 99%.

I’d much rather have Hobbes for an imaginary friend than Snoopy, who had (imho) no redeeming qualities.

Oh, hell no. I completely identified with Calvin. I was a lot like him as a child. And I had a brother who was a lot like Susie. In children under about 8, genders are not that relevant.

As an example, look at Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby. She’s an active, imaginative child who has a “Susie” for a neighbor, in the form of Howie, a boy who does “boy” things-- he likes to use tools to take things apart and put them back together-- but he’s quiet, and never gets into trouble, and kind of annoys Ramona, because he doesn’t react to things. She also gets annoyed at her good, quiet big sister, who never gets into trouble.

My introduction to Beverly Cleary was when a teacher read Ramona the Pest to us, and the boys were absolutely as interested as the girls.

He appears as a stuffed toy in Susie’s presence as well. I don’t think there’s every a panel where the real tiger version of Hobbes can be observed by anyone other than Calvin. There might be a few where a third person is in the frame but not aware of the presence of Calvin and Hobbes. Now I’m curious and want to check to see if there are any such edge cases.

Non-Sequitur also has long story arcs about an imaginative little girl.

Anyway, I think C&H would crush it in Great Debates.

This book cover has that edge case, but I don’t know if that counts:

ETA: Here you go: Mr. Bun | The Calvin and Hobbes Wiki | Fandom

Here’s another one:


OK, I’m done. Love this strip!

I found them through Scholastic Books. Read the Ramona/Beezus books as much as the Henry Huggins series.
Cleary is still alive at age 104!

Right, those both illustrate the point exactly. I thought there were such strips but couldn’t remember.

If Susie can see Hobbes, he’s a stuffed toy. If she’s looking away, he’s a tiger.

There was one panel where Susie is having a tea party with Hobbes. She sees him as stuffed, but when she turns around to talk to Calvin and can’t see him, Hobbes is alive behind her and Calvin can see it.

Watterston was meticulous about this.

Excellent examples. In both of them, Susie is looking away, so it’s okay to show Hobbes as real.

Hobbes is a manifestation of Calvin’s subconscious - of course he’s violent, a bully, self-centered, self-absorbed, a bullshitter and a total egomaniac. Because that’s what Calvin is. He’s six, for Ghu’s sake!

Methinks the OP has a projection issue or three. And bad experiences with either cats or children. Or both.

You’re quoting the author?

Pfft. What the hell does he know?

but… was Hobbes

just plain terrible?

Somehow I automatically assumed that was what this thread would be about :slight_smile: And that is what the tiger not-so-cryptically represents.

Hobbes the philosopher was a jerk; and a bore. Hobbes the tiger is grand; and someone I would happily give my tuna fish sandwich to.
Like I’d have a choice…

Is there a reality where Hobbes is always a real tiger and only he can see the real Calvin while everyone else sees Calvin as a stuffed boy?

Little known fact: Hobbes the philosopher was actually a stuffed toy, except when Heidegger was around.