Calvin and Hobbes: What's Old is New Again.

by Meredith O'Brien


My 9-year-old son came home from his elementary school book fair clutching two collections of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes comics asking me if I’d ever heard of them ‘cause he thought they were, and I’m quoting here, “Awesome.”


When I sat down to peruse the books about the precocious, spiky-haired 6-year-old with a vivid imagination and impossibly broad vocabulary who nicknamed himself “the Generalissimo of the Mud and Mayhem Society,” I was immediately sucked into the books and devoured the two collections in short order. Though published in the 1990s, the tales they tell resonated really strongly with me.


What I particularly loved was his relationship with his ever-patient, ever-clever parents whom Calvin describes as dull looking “outer space alien freaks” who he believes are “here to enslave me and spoil my youth.” Calvin tests his parents constantly and they yet still maintain their cool, even when they’re literally chucking him outside with his trusty stuffed pal Hobbes and telling him to go play. (I can related because I’ve personally been called “cruel and mean” when I’ve made my active 9-year-old go outside to play because, like Calvin, his energy was just too big for the indoors.)


In one comic strip, Calvin mused aloud at the dinner table that if God was a chicken they’d all suffer dire consequences for eating a chicken dinner. His parents barely flinched at his declarations and just told him to eat, unlike with my kids, he complies. As a parent of two picky eaters – at least I’m blessed with one child who is a well balanced eater – I seriously relish the humor and occasional snark with which Calvin’s parents respond to Calvin’s ridiculous kitchen table pronouncements as I oftentimes feel worn down by my kids’ culinary complaints.


I also enjoyed reading multiple comic strips about the subject of bathing as, like my kids, Calvin hates bathing and does anything he can to avoid it, though he has no problems with stripping naked in his yard in the rain. Go figure. It was a relief to see his normally well tempered mother grit her teeth have to carry the little bugger, who was kicking and screaming, into the bathroom. While I don’t have to resort to carrying my kids, I do have to grit my teeth and issue threats an awful lot.


As my children, particularly my 9-year-old, have struggled recently in the wake of daylight savings time and haven’t gotten up early enough to catch the school bus – they got rides to school the first week after the time change because they couldn’t get up on time and neither could I – I deeply appreciated the many comic strips about Calvin’s mother’s attempts to rouse her cranky son on school days, while noting, ironically, that he gets up at the crack of dawn without difficulty during the summer. One comic featured a typical morning rush where Calvin realizes once he gets to the bus stop that he’s left his lunch on the counter, at the same moment, his mother spies the lunch sack in the kitchen. They miss one another as his mother races to the bus stop and Calvin runs home, only to meet up at the bus stop just as the bus has pulled away. The angry looks on their faces as Calvin’s mother drives him to school are priceless. Then you get to the last frame: The mom gets home to find that Calvin has left his school books on the kitchen counter in the spot where his lunch had been left. The mother screams.