Calvin and Hobbes Complete Collection

As of this weekend, I’m the proud owner of the Complete Calvin and Hobbes Collection. something that fills me with an embarrassing amount of joy. Don’t get me wrong: I probably have the majority of these books in separate places between my house and my old bedroom at home, but they’ve become so worn down from years of re-reading that I thought it would be nice to own them again, on the real.

Part of the reason I wanted to own the collection (besides the fact that I want to read every strip again), is that I want my daughter to grow up with Calvin and Hobbes the way I did. Bill Watterson’s masterpiece of a comic strip was a formative, foundational part of my childhood, in a way that almost nothing else in this world is. Yes, more than Star Wars or video games. While those things were the stone and spark for the fire of my imagination, Calvin and Hobbes taught me how to use it — and set my mind ablaze.

I honestly don’t remember when I started reading Calvin and Hobbes. It was just always there, in each and every paper, and I would read it before going to school for the day. The first time I realized I could actually own one of the books for myself, however, was through the Scholastic Arrow Book Club. I’m not sure if anyone remembers that stuff, but they were mostly so nerds like me could order books through elementary school classrooms. After I bought my first, I saved up money so I could get the rest. And after that, I kept checking every new Scholastic Arrow for word of a new Calvin and Hobbes book. My obsession, like Obi Wan and Darth Vader’s circle, was complete.

When my parents divorced and we moved to a new city, I could relate to the kid who found his solace in a stuffed tiger, who would rather live in imaginary worlds than in the one the rest of us felt trapped in. Being terrible at sports, I understood the need for a game like Calvinball, with no rules. Having grown up around the woods but moving to a suburb of Houston, I identified with Calvin’s explorations in the forest surrounding his home. Calvin’s Spaceman Spiff antics during school were so similar to my own daydreams, and his dinosaur jetfighters felt like telepathy.

The thing about video games, Star Wars and other movies is that they ended, while Calvin and Hobbes stayed persistent throughout my childhood. They were microcosms, universes contained within a cartridge or VHS tape, while Calvin and Hobbes went ever onward, the adventures new in my mind every day. Every strip did more than made me laugh, it spoke to me. And kept on speaking while I went from awkward elementary schooler to even more awkward middle schooler. And by the time Watterson ultimately stopped the strip in 1995, when I was about 12 years old, they had taught me something.

Even though I didn’t have a cardboard box that could transmogrify, clone, or send me back in time, and I didn’t have a yard full of deranged, mutant killer monster snow goons, I had the same tools that Calvin used to create those things — an imagination. Once I realized that I could use my mind to spin my own adventures, create my own places, visit my own worlds, and that I didn’t need cartoons or movies to do that for me, my world changed. Soon, I was drawing my own places, writing my own stories. And in some ways, I never stopped.

For years, I kept reading and re-reading Calvin and Hobbes, from beginning to end, whenever I felt my imagination begin to falter. I’d start from the first book and go all the way through It’s a Magical World, and then I’d start all over again. Even though stories have come and gone that captured my imagination in different ways, nothing stoked the fire like Calvin and Hobbes.

I can’t wait to dive back in, and share it with my most favorite person on the planet.

Did any of you guys read Calvin and Hobbes growing up? If not, what were the things that captured your imagination in the same way? Am I crazy for loving the tales of a boy and his tiger to such a degree?

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