25 Great Calvin And Hobbes Strips

This article was originally posted on September 7th, 2004, by Jon, Nick and Bill. We've re-launched Progressive Boink, friends! Our new front page is here. Hope you enjoy.

Hundreds of comic strips have been published in newspapers. The majority are terrible, and almost all the rest are mediocre. There have been maybe four or five good comic strips in the history of the world. So saying that Calvin and Hobbes is the best comic strip ever doesn't really hold a lot of weight.

And it's really a shame that it's so difficult to quantify this strip's greatness. I can confidently state that Calvin and Hobbes outclasses the rest of the comic strip world more than anything else has ever outclassed the rest of its medium. Sans this strip, the industry is characterized by guys sitting on rocks making stupid puns, a Family Circus kid misunderstanding the meaning of a word, or an overweight father playing golf while telling jokes such as I LIKE GOLF and GOLF IS HARD. It's a medium that doesn't really deserve something as good as Calvin and Hobbes, but it got it anyway, and the newspaper-reading world was made a better place by it.

Calvin and Hobbes ran from 1985 to 1995. Bill Watterson drew thousands of strips, and while I wish like hell that he would come back and draw more, it's probably best to reflect and be thankful for what he's done. Below we have showcased, in no particular order, some of our favorite Calvin and Hobbes strips of all time. If you love them as much as we do, let us know if you think there are any that we should have included. And if you missed out, well, hopefully we can give you some idea of why Mr. Watterson is our hero.

"Virtue needs some cheaper thrills."

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© Universal Press Syndicate

Calvin is an unbelievably intelligent six-year-old. Hobbes is his tiger friend who plays the role of Jiminy Cricket, casual observer, and savage beast. This strip introduces their dynamic rather well. Calvin's a grossly misbehaving child, and no matter how he tries, he can't betray his nature.

It's kind of refreshing to see a strip that doesn't feel the need to have an uplifting message, or feel like it needs to point out that it's mean to whack an innocent person upside the dome with a snowball.

- Jon

"He's one of the old gods! He demands sacrifice!"

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© Universal Press Syndicate

One of the top classic Calvin strips. It serves as an example of what set C&H apart from other comics: It's not a simple set-up to a punchline in the last panel, but a whole and complete work that uses every inch of space. Not only that, but tonally it's a huge departure from other strips of the time (or of today, for that matter). I can only imagine the initial reaction across the country to a dark, gothic tale of supernatural creation and destruction, wedged between Gasoline Alley and Mark Trail.

- Bill

"You've taught me nothing except how to cynically manipulate the system."

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© Universal Press Syndicate

Pretty much the voice of Bill Watterson dictating the current state of our school systems. Dead on if you ask me. The school system is more of a test for being able to acquire knowledge than preparation for anything worthwhile.

- Nick

"We prefer your extinction to the loss of our job."

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© Universal Press Syndicate

Calvin and Hobbes is sometimes at its best when it's bizarre, and this is definitely one of the more bizarre strips. There are some subtleties in this strip that I like, such as the guy in the third panel doing the "end is nigh" pose and the futuristic spacecraft revealing an old-timey loudspeaker.

Hobbes' bizarre reply is the icing on the cake. Perhaps it stems from his disdain for humanity's willingness to stomp over nature to gain the extra dollar.

- Jon

"It's psychosomatic. You need a lobotomy. I'll get a saw."

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© Universal Press Syndicate

The "realistic" art style and dramatic angles of comic strip soap operas like Rex Morgan, M.D. are funny enough when they're real, so Watterson didn't have to stretch too far for a parody. I mean, look at this. I wouldn't listen to two real people talk about whether to put their kid in day care, why would anyone actually read this? Also, that second panel is scary and I think Rex is driving so fast because his passenger has to hurry and get back to The Human League.

- Bill

"Scientific progress goes 'boink'?"

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© Universal Press Syndicate

The Duplicator Story.

Some of the stories told in this strip last weeks, and this was one of them. Calvin and Hobbes isn't particularly unique in this respect; after all, the last ten years of "Funky Winkerbean" have chronicled him making his bed. Calvin and Hobbes stories are so great because they give the strip the opportunity to spin completely out of control.

In this story, Calvin invents a device which allows him to instantly duplicate himself. His intent is to create a clone that will do all the hard work for him, but hell unleashes when he realizes that the clone, being exactly like him, is just as much of an asshole as he is. Calvin #2 manages to create Calvins #3-6, and they all cause chaos because they know that Calvin #1 will have to pay for it. It's just about the best alibi a kid could have. It probably reaches its climax when Calvin's mom sees #4 glued to the television when he's supposed to be doing chores and yells, "What are you doing watching TV?" #4 replies casually, "Why, are you taking a survey?" If I had responded like that to either of my parents when I was a kid, they would have shot me in the kneecap.

Needless to say, this is where we got the name of this website.

- Jon

"For a mom, sometimes she's pretty cool."

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© Universal Press Syndicate

Probably the best approach a parent could take when their child asks of cigarettes. It's also the only strip where Calvin gets what he wants. Figures that she shits all over him at the same time.

- Nick

"Words fail me."

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© Universal Press Syndicate

The Transmogrifier Story.

Ahhhhhh, The Transmogrifier. The Transmogrifier was composed of several strips, and was even made more efficient when held within the parameters of a squirt gun. This is my favorite Transmogrifier strip, because Calvin is adorable. This was also the strip where I realized that all Calvin and Hobbes strips were written in all-caps.

- Nick

"I notice your oeuvre is monochromatic."

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© Universal Press Syndicate

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© Universal Press Syndicate

Also setting Calvin and Hobbes apart was how surprisingly literate it was, especially for a comic that was not a specific commentary piece like Doonesbury or Bloom County. Watterson admitted in the Calvin and Hobbes 10th Anniversary collection that he had held quite an interest in art for many years, and always had sort of a bemused fascination with the amount of bullshit people build around it. I'm, uh, paraphrasing, of course. Sad to say, there are many people who would find the "artwork" in these two strips to be utterly brilliant and pay a ton of cash for them. Then they'd melt. The art, that is. Or maybe the people who bought it too, hell, I dunno.

- Bill

"OK, first we're going to learn the 'Deadman's Float.'"

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© Universal Press Syndicate

When I was six years old (Calvin's age), my mom dragged me to swimming lessons all summer. It was without doubt the worst experience of my entire life (and it's quite terrible to think that I had to suffer the worst experience of my life at the age of six). I hated water. I hated the cold. I hated getting up early every morning. I hated the peer pressure. I was scared shitless of drowning. The drive from my house to the pool was about half an hour. I memorized all the landmarks on the way, and as each one passed my wish that I was dead would grow more fervent. I honestly anticipated swimming lessons like one would anticipate a lethal injection.

After coming home on the second or third day, I came across the first Calvin and Hobbes collection. The first page I opened to was the beginning of the story of Calvin's experience with swimming lessons. I identified with it immediately. It was incredibly spot-on. No matter how horrible my day was, I could at least take solace in the fact that my struggles were shared by someone else, even if he were a drawing. This story reminds me that I've been able to relate to "Calvin and Hobbes" more than just about anything else in the world.

- Jon

"AIEEE!! THEY GOT FRANK!!"

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© Universal Press Syndicate

It's hilarious to see Calvin take a huge shit on the hunting industry's favorite rationalization. This is a prime example of the animal-loving influence that Hobbes has had on Calvin.

Huge kudos to Bill Watterson for graphically murdering a guy in the funny papers.

- Jon

"KaZAM!"

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© Universal Press Syndicate

I always identified with Calvin as a child (I suppose you could say I still do), and this strip pretty much sums up what being a kid like Calvin is like. Constantly feeling out of sync with the rest of the world, and thus retreating to the world you create for yourself in your mind. If you think about it, Calvin was really quite an anomaly in popular entertainment -- not just in comics, but in anything, be it movies, TV, etc. He has no friends, and no extracurricular activities; the only people he ever sees are his parents, who he has a strained relationship with, and Moe, Susie, Rosalyn, and Miss Wormwood, all of whom he detests and all of whom detest him. The only person he ever has any real interaction with exists only in his head. He is, for all intents and purposes, completely alone. And he's fine with that. The kind of kid most people would entirely ignore all through school is not generally the kind you make the star of your show, and yet the strip became hugely successful.

I know that people of all ages enjoyed Calvin and Hobbes, but I have to think that it meant even more to those of us who grew up with him. Going to school every day and seeing all the ways we didn't fit in, it was nice to see someone like us, who was intelligent and independent, and didn't need to be a smile-plastered Mouseketeer to enjoy life. Though numerous motivational posters and guidance councelors and after-school specials had said it again and again, it was Calvin who managed to truly express the idea—without being preachy, without being sappy, perhaps even without trying—that it was okay to be different.

- Bill

"Think BIG! Riches! Power! Pretend you could have ANYthing!"

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© Universal Press Syndicate

This strip has become a personal philosophy for me the as of late. Before I moved to Virginia, I used to watch every single Red Sox game with my father, and one day, while the Red Sox held a small lead on their opponents, he asked me "If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?" I answered, "For the Red Sox to have a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the 6th." He called me a dingbat.

- Nick

" * "

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© Universal Press Syndicate

This was possibly the first great Calvin and Hobbes strip. Childhood mischief had always been played out by assholes like Dennis the Menace and Jeffy from Family Circus. The difference is that those two were well-meaning retarded kids. It's already been established that Calvin's a smart kid, and here he is just wantonly being an asshole. To see a child genius sit there and nonchalantly bang the shit out of a coffee table is hilarious.

- Jon

"His eye twitches involuntarily."

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© Universal Press Syndicate

Don't act like you never did this with your toys. A shame that enjoying destruction is looked down on nowadays, since "fantasy violence" and "terrorist action" are so obviously one and the same, because hell, it is fun. Stuff blowing up; what's not to like?

- Bill

"Do you believe in ghosts?"

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© Universal Press Syndicate

This, in my developed opinion, is the funniest strip ever released. Really not much to say about it, except that it's funny. Which you could probably figure out. Or disagree with. Or BE AN IDIOT.

- Nick

"We're here to devour each other alive."

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© Universal Press Syndicate

Probably Hobbes' greatest quote of all time.

The best part, though, is probably Calvin staring contemplatively toward the heavens as if to say, "Oh shit, God's not going to help me."

- Jon

"I fold."

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© Universal Press Syndicate

Takes a little bit to pick up on...

- Nick

"Denial."

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© Universal Press Syndicate

Just like every six-year-old kid, Calvin daydreams a lot, and just like me, he usually daydreamed about dinosaurs. Dinosaur strips were some of the most beautiful that Bill Watterson ever drew. It really exhibits his depth as an artist, not only in his ability to render things well, but in the spacing of his panels. Before Calvin & Hobbes came around, Sunday comics were just:

TITLE PANEL > THROWAWAY JOKE > BUILDUP > BUILDUP > BUILDUP > BUILDUP > PUNCHLINE

Watterson is the only newspaper cartoonist to ever convince me that he approaches his comic strip as a work of art and not just a bunch of joke boxes. He uses half the allotted space to draw Calvin as a pterodactyl, which is awesome, and the real-life storyline at the bottom being placed as an inset toward a panoramic rendering of the pterodactyl flying away is just perfect.

- Jon

"Do you LIKE her??"

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© Universal Press Syndicate

This is the first strip that mentions Susie Derkins. She's pretty much the girl that Calvin has a crush on but makes fun of as to remove any question of the fact. This strip also shows how much of a smart-ass Hobbes is, which kicks ass.

- Nick

"You know what's the rage this year? ...Hats."

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© Universal Press Syndicate

Deadpan at some times, wacky at others, Hobbes' got all the good lines in C&H. For some reason, the line "You know what's the rage this year? ...Hats." stuck with me for years and years as one of my favorites of all time. Try to work it into conversation at least once a day.

- Bill

"XING"

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© Universal Press Syndicate

pwned

- Nick

"Heeryor lunboks. Hoffa gut tay askool."

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© Universal Press Syndicate

I quote this strip more than almost anything else. Just ask Nick. This is one of the funniest strips in history, in part because of the ridiculously wild story, and in part because mispronunciation is hilarious.

I absolutely have to try this trick sometime.

- Jon

"You squeeze my tears out."

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© Universal Press Syndicate

The best Calvin and Hobbes strip to my memory. I think it speaks for itself.

- Nick

"...But don't YOU go anywhere."


The Raccoon Story.

What makes Calvin & Hobbes the greatest ever is its ability to make you laugh your ass off, and identify with it.

What makes it one of the great treasures of our culture is its ability to invoke emotions that you never thought you'd spend on a comic strip.

This one's positively touching.

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© Universal Press Syndicate

Thanks, Mr. Watterson.

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