Thirty years ago today, we learned that tigers can be captured using tuna fish sandwiches.
That’s how cartoonist Bill Watterson introduced the world to precocious 6-year-old Calvin and his cynical stuffed tiger (and best friend) Hobbes. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Although Calvin and Hobbes appeared in newspapers for only a decade, from Nov. 18, 1985, to Dec. 31, 1995 — far too short a time, fans will agree — its influence on cartoonists and readers is immeasurable.
Watterson was able to capture and convey the unfettered imagination of childhood as Calvin battled aliens, wreaked havoc as a dinosaur and constructed menacing armies of snowmen. However, it wasn’t always flights of fancy for Calvin and Hobbes. They pondered weighty subjects, too, like mortality, morality, our place in the universe, and friendship.
Over the 10-year run, Watterson’s work progressed and flourished, most noticeably in the Sunday strips, where he was free to experiment with styles and layout. It’s in those installments that Calvin and Hobbes moved above and beyond any of the other comics with which it shared the page, to become a beloved classic. It’s now the standard to which all other modern comic strips are compared, to the dismay of many a cartoonist.
Thirty years ago we said hello to Calvin and Hobbes, but even when the strip ended, we never really said goodbye. Like Calvin, we merely went exploring, poring over the many collected editions to discover something both new and familiar. And we’ve been exploring ever since.
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