Calvin And Hobbes Final Comic Celebrates 25th Anniversary, Still Beautiful
A little over 35 years ago, a small comic strip by Bill Watterson debuted in newspapers across the United States. Ten years later, the same cartoonist would decide to end that comic at the height of its popularity as one of the most important in the medium. Watterson would have legendary fights with Universal Syndicate and, by proxy, newspapers editors for artistic freedom within the panel constraints of his strip. He mostly won them all and gave the last generation of regular “funny papers” readers something they can revisit for the rest of their lives and pass on to their kids. December 31, 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the final Calvin and Hobbes strip, arguably one of the most perfect endings in all of comics.
Comic strips are a strange kind of storytelling. The characters cannot really evolve or change in significant ways, but there are serial elements to them. Calvin, and the tiger who may or may not have been alive, were perpetually six-year-olds. Yet, the strip also told moving and profound stories. One memorable series featured Calvin and Hobbes finding a fatally wounded baby raccoon. Along with his parents, he tries to nurse the creature back to health, but it dies. It’s never mentioned again in the strip, but it lives on forever in the minds of those who read it.
The Legacy of Calvin and Hobbes Endures
Interestingly, there is almost a total lack of Calvin and Hobbes branded merchandise. Save for collections of the strips, Watterson would not allow dolls or even animated adaptations of his work. Still, that doesn’t dampen enthusiasm for the characters. There are dozens of videos on YouTube that are simple pan-and-scans of the strips. Some fans have even taken to animating moments from the strips or even making faux-trailers for adventures featuring Calvin’s most famous imaginary characters. Daveed Diggs and his musical collaborator Rafael Casal shot live-action recreations of Calvin and Hobbes comics in 2014.
Even on the 25th anniversary of the final Calvin and Hobbes comic, the strip doesn’t feel final. Set against a stark white background of freshly fallen snow, it’s ironic considering the colorful and artistic Sunday panels Watterson was known for. The strip shows Calvin and his best friend celebrating the “clean slate” look of the snow-covered landscape. Then they bound off on his sled to have some ‘adventures,’ meaning that in our imaginations he and Hobbes are still out there being the best kid ever at imagining.
Today in Comics History: A brilliant chapter in cartooning came to a close 25 years ago, on December 31, 1995, when the final “Calvin and Hobbes” ran. pic.twitter.com/EHL4GezKHT
— Tom Heintjes (@Hoganmag) December 31, 2020
You can purchase Calvin and Hobbes books or read the strip at GoComics.com.
What do you remember about Calvin and Hobbes on the 25th anniversary of the final comic? Share your memories in the comments below.
Featured image by Bill Watterson via Universal Features Syndicate
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.