'Calvin and Hobbes' turns 30! Here's what you didn't know about the iconic comic strip

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Calvin and Hobbes available in e-books November 12, 2013 (c) 2013 Bill Watterson.
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Thirty years ago Wednesday, the world was introduced to Calvin and Hobbes, a daily comic strip about a mischievous young boy named Calvin and his best pal, a tiger named Hobbes. In those decades, Calvin and Hobbes has grown from a simple comic strip into a worldwide phenomenon, with generations of readers across the world sharing laughs over cartoonist Bill Watterson's iconic strip.

Here are six things you didn't know about Calvin and Hobbes.

The characters were named after protestant reformer John Calvin and philosopher Thomas Hobbes

LEFT: Portrait of John Calvin, French theologian and religious reformer. RIGHT: Thomas Hobbes, after the original portrait by John Michael Wright.
DEA / G. DAGLI ORTI/De Agostini/Getty | Culture Club/Getty

Calvin was named for the "16th-century theologian who believed in predestination" and Hobbes after the "17th-century philosopher with a dim view of human nature," according to Andrews McMeel Publishing. Both of these philosophers' beliefs are reflected in their respective characters, with Calvin constantly questioning the state of the universe, and Hobbes commenting on Calvin's peculiar and eccentric behavior.

Bill Watterson has been strongly against merchandising Calvin and Hobbes

With the rise in popularity of Calvin and Hobbes came the opportunity to make big bucks off the strip. But Bill Watterson has always been against merchandising Calvin and Hobbes, feeling that featuring the characters on purchasable goods would devalue the comic's artistic integrity. This hasn't stopped the spread of unofficial merchandise, including popular car decals featuring Calvin. Watterson did agree to license the characters on few circumstances, including from the Museum of Modern Art shirt and a U.S. postage stamp in 2010.

"Note pads and coffee mugs just aren't appropriate vehicles for what I'm trying to do here," Watterson said in a 1989 interview with Comics Journal. "I'm not interested in removing all the subtlety from my work to condense it for a product."

Watterson's publishing deal with newspapers frustrated other cartoonists and editors

After taking a sabbatical from cartooning in 1991, the Universal Press Syndicate announced that Calvin and Hobbes would be published on an unbreakable half page in newspapers starting in 1992. This move allowed Watterson more creative control when writing the strip, but was also received with criticism by other editors and cartoonists, many of whom had adopted a standard publishing layout that allowed for flexibility.

"Proud as I am that I was able to draw a larger strip, I don't expect to see it happen again any time soon," Watterson said in Calvin and Hobbes: Sunday Pages 1985-1995. "In the newspaper business, space is money, and I suspect most editors would still say that the difference is not worth the cost. Sadly, the situation is a vicious circle: because there's no room for better artwork, the comics are simply drawn; because they're simply drawn, why should they have more room?"

Watterson considered turning Calvin and Hobbes into an animated series

Watterson was intrigued by the storytelling possibilities that came with animation, and had expressed his admiration for the cartoons by artists like Tex Avery and Chuck Jones. "I know I'd enjoy working with the visual opportunities animation offers, but you change the world you've created when you change the medium in which it's presented," Watterson said. "To see it done right, it would also take an awful lot of time and energy on my part, neither of which I've got a lot to spare."

An original Calvin and Hobbes strip once sold for $203,150

Cartoonist Brian Basset had swapped originals with Watterson, and after falling on difficult financial times, put up his 1986 Calvin and Hobbes original strip for auction in 2012, according to The Washington Post. The strip fetched over $200,000, breaking the record for the highest amount paid for an original comic strip at auction. The previous record had been $113,500 which was paid for a Peanuts original in 2007.

Hobbes is real, sort of

Many fans have speculated on whether Hobbes was real or imaginary over the decades, but Watterson has maintained that the tiger is very much real, at least in the eyes of a child. The cartoonist said in an interview that the assumption that Hobbes isn't real is because no other adults in the strip see the tiger the way that Calvin does. "It would seem to me, though, that when you make up a friend for yourself, you would have somebody to agree with you, not to argue with you," Watterson said. "So Hobbes is more real than I suspect any kid would dream up."