I started reading Calvin and Hobbes about halfway through its run, when I was in junior high. Adolescent me immediately identified with six-year-old Calvin: narcissistic, nihilistic, and with a burgeoning taste for hedonism.
However, as I started approaching thirty, I found Calvin becoming more of an alien, a foreign soul more like the kids I was working with than the father and public servant I saw in the mirror. But this comic strip wasn’t done speaking to me yet: these days, I now see myself reflected in the character of Calvin’s dad.
Calvin’s dad is a harried professional who’s vaguely disappointed by the modern world; one whose dour cynicism seems rooted in unfulfilled ideals. He confronts materialism with sarcasm, laments his son’s solipsism with a passive, sardonic wit, and often seeks escape from it all through torturous routines of self improvement involving art, literature, and nature. At one point, he even directly quotes Thoreau’s Walden.
Not to paint too grim a figure of him, though. He’s a devoted father who always tries to enjoy and guide his son, and his marriage is clearly a source of constant contentment. However, those strips are rarely as funny as the bitter ones, so they’re not celebrated here.
Here are seven perfect examples of Calvin’s dad in action; the first four from Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat, the other three (with the artist’s illuminating commentary) from The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book.