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Secondary characters in Calvin and Hobbes

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Bill Watterson's comic strip Calvin and Hobbes features a wide range of secondary characters. These range from his fellow students at school to monsters and aliens from Calvin's vivid imagination.

Calvin's family[edit]

Calvin's parents
File:Calvin's mom and dad.png
Calvin's unnamed parents, usually referred to only as "Mom" and "Dad"
First appearance
  • November 18, 1985 (Dad)
  • November 26, 1985 (Mom)
Last appearance
  • December 3, 1995 (Dad)
  • December 21, 1995 (Mom)
Created byBill Watterson
ComicCalvin and Hobbes

Watterson has never given Calvin's parents' names "because as far as the strip is concerned, they are important only as Calvin's mom and dad."[1] Like Hobbes, they serve as counterpoints to Calvin's attitude and view of the world.[2] However, Watterson sometimes uses them to explore situations adults can relate to, such as the desire to enjoy leisure time as opposed to the need to work, or bad customer service and frustrations when grocery shopping. Also, occasionally Watterson takes the time to flesh out the two parental characters. One example is a storyline in which the family returns from a wedding to find their house has been broken into and ransacked. For several strips, Calvin and Hobbes fade into the background as Mom and Dad reflect on the impact of the event.

Calvin's father is a white-collar office worker,[3] specifically a patent attorney, as Watterson's own father was.[1] An outdoorsman, he enjoys bike rides and camping trips, sometimes in extreme weather and insists that these activities, like Calvin's chores, "build character". Though his age is never specified, when Calvin offers him a bowl of chocolate cereal, he replies "No thanks, I'm trying to reach middle age." In a rare instance where Calvin and Hobbes are pushed into the background of a story arc, Calvin's father is particularly shaken when the house is robbed. As he admits to his wife, "I don't think I'd have been in such a hurry to reach adulthood if I'd known the whole thing was going to be ad-libbed."[4]

Calvin's mother is a stay-at-home mom[3] who is frequently exasperated by Calvin's antics. Before Calvin's birth, she worked a stressful job filled with aggravation, which Calvin's father claims is the reason she was better prepared to stay at home and raise Calvin. Whether or not he was jesting is debatable. On the rare occasions when she is not reacting to Calvin's misbehavior, she seems to enjoy quiet activities, such as gardening and reading. She is frequently the one forced to curb Calvin's destructive tendencies; in one Sunday strip, she allows Calvin to smoke a cigarette in order to teach him how unpleasant smoking can be.[5] (Watterson has said he regrets the fact that the strip mostly shows her impatient side.) She also usually seems sympathetic towards her son's relationship with Hobbes, and a few times has found herself speaking to Hobbes as well, though this embarrasses her.

Early on in the strip, Watterson says, they were criticized by readers for being overly sarcastic and insufficiently patient, especially Calvin's father, who has several times reminded his wife that he at first wanted a dachshund instead of a son.

Other relatives[edit]

Uncle Max[edit]

Calvin's Uncle Max appeared in a series of strips in 1988, visiting the family.[6] Uncle Max is Calvin's father's "big brother", though he is established as single and childless. When Calvin (who first suspected he was a con man trying to swindle them) guesses that Max was in jail (to explain why he hasn't met Max), his mother is outraged, while his father seems to agree with Calvin, saying "with Max, that's not a bad guess".

Watterson has said Uncle Max was meant to be included in further strips, such as where the family would go to Max's home to pay him a visit; he never appeared again because Watterson felt that it was strange for Max to be unable to refer to the parents with proper names, and that the character never provided the new material for Calvin that he had hoped for.[7]

Grandparents[edit]

A few strips mention Calvin's grandparents. One example, which Watterson selected for reproduction in the Tenth Anniversary Book, features Calvin describing his father's complaints about comic strips: newspapers print them too small, and now they look like Xeroxed talking heads. Hobbes then tells Calvin that his grandfather takes comic strips seriously; Calvin says as a result, his mother is looking into nursing homes.[8]

Susie Derkins[edit]

Susie Derkins
File:Susie Derkins.png
Susie Derkins, Calvin's classmate
First appearanceDecember 5, 1985
Last appearanceDecember 16, 1995
Created byBill Watterson
ComicCalvin and Hobbes

Susie Derkins is a classmate of Calvin who lives in his neighborhood.[9] She is the only recurring character in the comic strip to have both a forename and a surname revealed[10] (other characters are mentioned briefly). Named after Watterson's in-laws' family beagle,[1] she first appeared early in the strip as a new student in Calvin's class, but in later strips speaks as a longtime neighbor. In contrast to Calvin, she is polite and diligent in her studies, and her imagination usually seems mild-mannered and civilized, consisting of games such as playing "house" or having tea parties with her stuffed animals. Her parents are referred to several times in the strip, but have not really appeared.[11]

Susie is frequently the victim of Calvin's derision and plots, and is also often willing to retaliate when provoked. Most commonly, Susie will be the target of Calvin's water balloons or snowballs. Calvin often goes to great lengths to disgust or annoy Susie, as when founding his and Hobbes' club 'G.R.O.S.S.' (Get Rid Of Slimy GirlS) purposely to oppose her. Susie is Calvin's equal (and often superior) in cunning, often turning his plans into ignominious defeats. The two sometimes speak at their bus stop, where both become exasperated by their conversation; and at the lunch table, where Calvin recites disgusting descriptions of what his lunch contains. Elsewhere, Susie becomes frightened that Calvin's irresponsibility shall threaten her post-secondary education, or argues in academia's favor against him.

Watterson has said he suspects that Calvin and Susie may have a crush on each other, and that "this encourages Calvin to annoy her". This love/hate relationship is most obvious in a Valentine's Day strip in which Susie seems to appreciate "a hate mail valentine and a bunch of dead flowers", and Calvin rejoices inwardly when she retaliates. In another strip, Calvin calls Susie for help with homework, and she teases him that he missed "the melodious sound of [her] voice". During one series of strips Calvin modifies his "duplicator" to copy only his good side; this well-dressed, polite, and very-intelligent version of Calvin soon becomes besotted with Susie, and is mystified by her hostile reaction.

Mr. Bun[edit]

Mr. Bun is Susie's stuffed rabbit, which frequents her tea parties as a guest. Unlike Hobbes, Mr. Bun is never shown as a living character, and Hobbes once described Mr. Bun as "comatose".[12] This is used for comedic effect occasionally, as when Susie, playing "House" with Calvin, attempts to use Mr. Bun as their baby child, only to have Calvin refuse to recognize him as a human infant—with the entire strip, including the rabbit, drawn in a realistic style à la Rex Morgan, M.D..

Miss Wormwood[edit]

Miss Wormwood
First appearanceNovember 21, 1985
Last appearanceOctober 30, 1995
Created byBill Watterson
ComicCalvin and Hobbes

Miss Wormwood is Calvin's schoolteacher. Watterson commented that a few astute fans of the strip have correctly asked him if Miss Wormwood was named after the apprentice demon in C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters.[1] She usually wears polka-dotted dresses, and serves as a foil to Calvin's mischief. Despite the changing seasons and recurring holidays, the characters in Calvin and Hobbes do not age, and so Calvin and Susie return to Miss Wormwood's first-grade class every fall.

Miss Wormwood is rarely sympathetic to the trouble Calvin has in school, and comes across as a rather strict, sour character. She often calls on Calvin to answer questions, to catch him off guard, to which Calvin either replies with an excuse ("Hard to say, Ma'am. I think my cerebellum just fused."), or takes solace in the world of Spaceman Spiff or another alter ego.[6][13] She is quick to send Calvin to the principal's office at the first sign of trouble. Calvin apparently takes joy in being the reason why Miss Wormwood mixes different stress-related medications, "drinks Maalox straight from the bottle", and is anxious for retirement (one strip has her chanting in her head, "Five years until retirement, five years until retirement, five years until retirement..."). Regarding the difficulties of reining in rambunctious students, she once commented that "it's not enough that we have to be disciplinarians. Now we need to be psychologists."

Moe[edit]

Moe
First appearanceJanuary 30, 1986
Last appearanceNovember 20, 1995
Created byBill Watterson
ComicCalvin and Hobbes

Moe is a bully in Calvin's school.[2][14] His frequently monosyllabic dialogue is shown in crude, lower-case letters. Watterson describes Moe as "every jerk I've ever known".[1] Moe is the only minor character in the strip who hurts Calvin without being provoked, and is also the only significant character never portrayed sympathetically.

Stephan Pastis of the 2000s comic Pearls Before Swine has cited Watterson and Calvin and Hobbes as among his many influences; in particular, the Zeeba Zeeba Eata fraternity of crocodiles is identified with Moe, even speaking in the same typeface.

Rosalyn[edit]

Rosalyn
First appearanceMay 15, 1986
Last appearanceSeptember 16, 1995
Created byBill Watterson
Comic stripCalvin and Hobbes

Rosalyn, the last of the significant recurring characters to appear, is a high school senior and the only babysitter able to tolerate Calvin's antics.[15] Calvin is often terrified of her, calling her a "sadistic kid-hater" and a "barracuda in a high-school-senior suit"; but in the final Rosalyn story, their opposition is averted by a game of Calvinball, which Rosalyn wins.[6] In nearly all the "Rosalyn stories", Rosalyn is shown demanding advance payment and raises in wage from Calvin's parents, supposedly to pay for college or for the hard work necessary to control Calvin. (For the same reason, she briefly appears as Calvin's swimming instructor.) In at least four stories, Rosalyn telephones her boyfriend, Charlie, to cancel prearranged meetings which she cannot fulfill. (Charlie remains an unseen character.) Calvin sometimes urges Charlie to stop courting Rosalyn, on grounds that Rosalyn is sadistic and/or insane. The collection Revenge of the Baby-Sat took its name from a storyline in which Calvin steals her study notes and threatens to flush them down the toilet bowl.

Other characters[edit]

The cast of principal, recurring characters in Calvin and Hobbes is limited; for example, in the Yukon Ho! collection, only five regular characters appear.[16] Other characters who make infrequent or one-off appearances include the following.

  • Living food: Calvin often imagines that an oatmeal-like food comes to life, sometimes attacking him (or, in one case, reciting Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" soliloquy[17]). Bill Watterson has said that his inspiration for this came from a cartoon drawn by himself in childhood, which featured living oatmeal.
  • Extraterrestrial life forms: Calvin encounters many extraterrestrial life-forms in the course of the strip, usually during adventures as his alter-ego, Spaceman Spiff. Most of these aliens are non-humanoid, bizarre monsters, but represent Calvin's imaginative perception of Susie, his parents, and teachers. During the story which gave the name to the Weirdos from Another Planet! collection, Calvin and Hobbes encounter a native Martian, who is a small creature with tentacles and eye-stalks. In the strip's final year, Watterson drew two stories involving recurring alien characters, Galaxoid and Nebular, to whom Calvin "sold" the Earth for 50 alien leaves to use for his science project, which he failed when his teacher rejected the leaves' origin. The donors returned in the final two weeks of strips, angry at Calvin for failing to reveal the changing seasons; but were placated when Hobbes clad them in Christmas stockings.
  • Doctor: Calvin occasionally visits his pediatrician, who appears to be a mild-mannered physician with a friendly demeanor. Calvin, however, sees him as a vicious, sadistic interrogator, sometimes imagining him as an alien or overreacting to playful diagnoses. The doctor made his final appearance when he diagnosed Calvin with chicken pox.
  • Principal Spittle: Calvin's school principal usually makes his appearance when Calvin has upset Miss Wormwood; typically, he is seen looking over his desk as Calvin tries to explain his latest mishap, with an apathetic or infuriated expression in his face. He is seldom shown speaking except in his first appearance. He is depicted thinking to himself that he hates his job.
  • Classmates: The reader sees various classmates of Calvin, but other than Susie and Moe they are almost anonymous, and perceive Calvin as the misbehaving minority who makes things difficult for the conforming majority.
  • Mr. Lockjaw: Mr. Lockjaw is the gym teacher and coach of the baseball team at Calvin's school. He is a squat, burly man with little patience, and no sympathy for Calvin whenever Moe gets violent with him in gym class, with Calvin commenting that Lockjaw thinks "violence is aerobic." When Calvin leaves the baseball team, Lockjaw calls him a "quitter",[18] and this emotional trauma leads to the reader's first encounter with Calvinball.
  • Scouts: Early in the strip, Watterson shows Calvin participating with other children in Cub Scout activities in the woods. Watterson thought at the time that Scouting might offer some potential for interesting adventures, but eventually abandoned the idea, considering it uncharacteristic of Calvin to join an organization, and viewing it as a distraction.
  • Susie's mom: She is shown from the waist down in a foiled attempt to pester Susie, and is also seen having a brief dialogue during Susie's first experience with Calvin's alter-ego, Stupendous Man.
  • Substitute teachers: Occasionally, Calvin's class will have a substitute teacher, whereof only two are named. In one set of strips, a woman is substituting; she looks through some notes Calvin's teacher left and inquires which child Calvin is. Later, Hobbes asks Calvin what he thought of her, Calvin replies he is unsure as "she went home after noon."
  • Mabel Syrup: The author of Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie, which Calvin demands as his bedtime reading,[19] and its sequel Commander Coriander Salamander and 'er Singlehander Bellylander.
  • The monsters under the bed: the primary villains of the comic strip, along with Moe: a set of bizarre-looking photophobic characters, who live under Calvin's bed and periodically plan to eat Calvin, but are outwitted by him on each occasion. One of them was named Maurice, and another one is named Winslow.
  • Calvin's bicycle: A supporting villain, it will frequently chase (and even sometimes run over) Calvin, destroying household items or injuring Calvin himself.
  • Other adults: On occasion, other adults appear in the strip, such as a flower vendor,[20] a barber, friends or coworkers of Calvin's parents, and a policeman.

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Watterson, Bill. "Cast of Characters". The Complete Calvin and Hobbes (press release). Andrew McMeel. Archived from the original on 2005-10-26. Retrieved 2006-03-19.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Coleman, Alisa White (2000). ""Calvin and Hobbes": A Critique of Society's Values". Journal of Mass Media Ethics. 15 (1): 17–28. doi:10.1207/s15327728jmme1501_3. ISSN 0890-0523.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Brabant, Sarah; Mooney, Linda A. (1999). "The Social Construction Of Family Life In The Sunday Comics: Race As a Consideration". Journal of Comparative Family Studies. 30 (1): 113–133.
  4. Calvin and Hobbes - The Revenge of the Baby-Sat, p. 70.
  5. "Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson for May 25, 1986 - GoComics.com". 25 May 1986.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Sandifer, Philip (2007). "When Real Things Happen to Imaginary Tigers". ImageTexT: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies. Department of English, University of Florida. 3. eISSN 1549-6732.
  7. Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book, by Bill Watterson.
    ISBN 0-8362-0438-7 (paperback)
    ISBN 0-8362-0440-9 (hardback)
  8. "Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson for Nov 11, 1987 - GoComics.com". 11 November 1987.
  9. Krulwich, Robert (2012-02-21). "Calvin And Hobbes, Add The Bacon". NPR. Retrieved 2018-09-03.
  10. Ulster, Laurie (2015-12-29). "'Calvin and Hobbes,' How We Miss You". Biography.com. Retrieved 2018-09-03.
  11. In one strip, the legs of Susie's mother were shown.
  12. Heit, Jamey (2012-02-15). Imagination and Meaning in Calvin and Hobbes. McFarland & Company. ISBN 9780786490318.
  13. Curtis, James (2016). ""Let's Go Exploring!": Illustrating childhood development in Calvin and Hobbes" (PDF). Good Grief! Children and Comics. Ohio State University Libraries Publishing Program: 29–46.
  14. Aronstein, A. J. (2011-06-30). "Calvin and Hobbes and the Trouble with Nostalgia". Vulture.com. Retrieved 2018-09-03.
  15. Hingston, Michael (2018-05-01). Let’s Go Exploring: Calvin and Hobbes. ECW Press. ISBN 9781773051796.
  16. Williams, Neil (1995). "The Comic Book as Course Book: Why and How". Paper Presented at the Annual Meething of the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.
  17. Caldwell, Joshua (2012-01-05). "Comic panel layout: A Peircean analysis". Studies in Comics. 2 (2): 317–338. doi:10.1386/stic.2.2.317_1. ISSN 2040-3232.
  18. "Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson for May 3, 1990 - GoComics.com". 3 May 1990.
  19. Barnett, David (2009-03-26). "Fictional characters are signing book deals". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-09-03.
  20. "Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson for Feb 13, 1986 - GoComics.com". 13 February 1986.


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