As a kid, I was always an avid reader of the Chicago Tribune’s Sunday comics section. This was, in fact, easily my favorite portion of receiving the paper up until high school or so. I suppose I should have been filled with journalistic zeal, especially considering my own total lack of artistic powers of any kind, but hey — I like me the funnies.
There were good comics that came and went during this time, but there’s no doubt that Calvin and Hobbes was my favorite, and continues to be my favorite comic strip of all time. Author/artist Bill Watterson’s observations on childhood and the human condition were perhaps the most astute to ever appear in a sequence of colorful panels, and he never had to sacrifice humor in order to bring it about.
Like many others, then, I was heartbroken when Watterson retired from comics in 1995. Calvin and Hobbes, like Gary Larson’s “The Far Side,” was a comic that ended before it ever had a chance to decline, and these are the types of media that often inspire the most dedicated fans in their post-original life cycles. It seems unlikely that a show like, say, the original “Star Trek” would have become quite as big a phenomena if it had dragged along through a dozen forced, creatively stagnant seasons. After all, this is what the odd-numbered Star Trek movies were for.
The loss of Calvin and Hobbes was felt even more deeply than with most canceled series, however, due to Watterson’s stance on merchandising. When he stopped, so did Calvin and Hobbes in all forms except the collected books of comics. There is no official Calvin and Hobbes merchandise, because Watterson held strong views against commercialization and never allowed any to be made. Even the most obvious product tie-in ever — a stuffed Hobbes doll — is unavailable in an “official” sense. The most you can find is the endless, knockoff, “Calvin peeing on things” stickers that understandably have irritated Watterson for years.
And so, fans have often turned to variations on fan art in their zeal to keep Calvin and Hobbes alive in our hearts. The problem, however, is that any thought of a “future” Calvin and Hobbes almost invariably turns dark and depressing. This is a comic strip about a boy and his (presumably) imaginary stuffed tiger friend, after all. It’s very difficult to write a future for these characters that doesn’t involve Calvin either discarding Hobbes or growing up in a psychiatric ward. And as a result, you’ll find many disturbing comics to that effect online. And if you love these characters the way I do, you don’t want to read those comics. Trust me.
That’s why I was so happy, earlier this year when I discovered a short series of Calvin and Hobbes tribute cartoons called “Hobbes and Bacon.” Written by the creators of a now-defunct webcomic called “Pants are Overrated,” these comics are finally what Calvin and Hobbes fans have been hoping for — the idea of a future for the characters that still fits in the spirit of the strip and retains the sense of magic and joy that the original comics possessed.
Everything is accounted for: Calvin is now grown, married to the next-door neighbor and former enemy Susie Derkins, proving that their longtime squabbles were indeed some form of mutual crush. We see that he’s a successful cartoonist, still making a living doing something imaginative, but has also adjusted to true “adulthood.”
Meanwhile, and most importantly, we see that Calvin and Susie have a precocious daughter (a stroke of genius that it’s a girl) named “Bacon,” in keeping with the tradition of philosophical names in the vein of John CALVIN and Thomas HOBBES. It is Bacon who inherits Hobbes the Tiger as a friend, quickly developing the same kind of relationship with him that Calvin once had. And Calvin, we can assume, gains some extra sense of satisfaction by seeing his daughter get the same joy from Hobbes that he once did. Unlike in the original strip, we can assume that Calvin will be a more understanding parent than his own were in his daughter’s closeness to a stuffed animal. He’s been there, after all. It’s all so incredibly hopeful. I think the Calvin and Hobbes fans out there wanted to see something like this more than anything — a well-adjusted future for these characters.
Ultimately, though, there were only four episodes of “Hobbes and Bacon,” which may be around the correct amount to do. With that said, the fans certainly wanted more. Just read the comments on this, the final strip, which hints at the return of the make-believe game “Calvinball,” perhaps to be rechristened as “Baconball.” These are passionate fans experiencing an intense catharsis of sorts, begging for more, many seemingly on the edge of tears. One gets the sense that they’ve just been sitting on the internet, waiting for this to show up.
That’s the kind of gulf that Calvin and Hobbes left behind for some people. So I’m glad that there was even a little solace to be had in “Hobbes and Bacon.” For me, a few comics like this can recast the entire end of the series and point it in a more positive direction. So thank you to the guys at “Pants are Overrated” for making such an impact in such a small space.
What do you think, sirs? If you loved Calvin and Hobbes, what do you think of “Hobbes and Bacon”?