One of my biggest heroes is “Calvin & Hobbes”–Bill Watterson’s ground-breaking comic book characters from the 90’s. For those who don’t know, Calvin is a 5-year-old boy who is filled with mischief, imagination, and deep, soul-searchingquestions about the universe and our place in it. It is a comic strip written for adults through the eyes of a 5-year-old. Calvin has a stuffed tiger named Hobbes that grows and is alive in his mind yet ismerely a small stuffed animal from other people’s perspective. You get a real sense of his vivid imaginationand clever wit from the detailed artwork and narrative that Watterson puts into the drawings.
Calvin is a jerk. He is self-centered, uncaring, and completely disrespectful to his parents and friends. So why is he one of my heroes?
Because it’s all a ruse. Calvin is a searcher. He asks questions, explores, goes on adventures both in his mind and in the world around him, and has undying loyalty to his “friend”, Hobbes. He has not time to worry about what others think of him. His only mission is to figure this world out and why he is in it. But the storytelling is beautiful. There is irony in almost every strip as he is completely clueless of his regular misinterpretation of what life is about. Then, usually through something Hobbes says,he gets it. You go along as a reader laughing at his antics, then there seems to always be a moment where his lack of wisdom turns into deep wisdom. It catches you by surprise, and it is extremely satisfying when you don’t see it coming.
Watterson drew the strip for 10 years, then he abruptly stopped. It was wildly popular, and he stood to make millions of dollars from merchandising and licensing. He refused to allow Calvin to become a commercial metaphor. Calvin became a conduit for those of us who grew up searching a little more than our peers. He was funny, rude, and had a complete disregard for authority. While this seems like a recipe not to be emulated, somehow it created a balance to the constant barrage of what society expects from each of us.
People typically think of their heroes as being a person who influenced them. Who am I to say Calvin& Hobbes don’t fulfill that requirement?