Tuesday, October 17th, 2023

Calvin and Hobbes: bucking the merch craze and staying special


I love Calvin and Hobbes because it meanders effortlessly between keenly observed commentary on human nature and farce. Sometimes it makes me think, and sometimes I snigger just because it’s funny.

But while Bart Simpson had a hit record and you can stay in a Charlie Brown hotel (no, really, there’s a Peanuts hotel here in Kobe), the naughty boy and his tiger never appeared on merch. Not official stuff anyway. If you’ve got a Calvin and Hobbes T-shirt then I’m sorry, but it’s bootleg.

Phil Edwards, who proudly boasts of being a world expert on “Peeing Calvin” takes a YouTube dig into why Bill Watterson didn’t license his creation far and wide. Along the way he explores the origin of the urinating bumper sticker, Calvin crypto and how Watterson helped upend the traditional syndication model for comic strips.

My take is by not licensing his work, Calvin and Hobbes stayed special. We don’t see it splattered on a thousand and one t-shirts in all kinds of crap product placements. We just have the strips, endlessly shared by fans and occasionally reminding us to buy a calendar or a book. And yes, we buy them.

And it’s finite. The strip lasted a decade and that was it. That’s all you get and no director’s cut.

So we see the boy and his tiger having adventures and even though we know we saw that same strip a year ago, it brings a smile and a little bit of happiness.

It reminds us there’s a magical world out there, so let’s go exploring…

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction. Find out more.