Calvin & Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson On Why Hobbes Is A Tiger, And The Lasting Impact Of The Cartoon

At the very beginning, why did you decide to make Calvin’s stuffed animal a tiger versus a bear or some other animal? Was there a particular reason?

Bill Watterson: I don’t think there was a lot of thought in that either. I wanted something less conventional than a bear. For Calvin, it should be a bit unusual. But I probably spent all of five minutes thinking about it. Once I hit on a tiger, of course, it was great — cats and I have a certain rapport, so this was a very natural fit for me. Maybe Hobbes could have been some other animal, but he arrived as a big cat, and that expanded my connection with him. Hobbes was as much my alter-ego as Calvin was.

Are you surprised that the strip continues to enjoy such immense popularity so long after you stopped drawing it, and do you have any thoughts about why it’s had such lasting impact?

Bill Watterson: It seems the less I do and say, the better everyone likes my work! (laughter) So, no, I don’t understand it at all! I honestly assumed that the books would go out of print within a few years, once they didn’t have the strip in the newspaper to create the readership for them. But people kept buying the books anyway, and now parents are showing them to their kids, and a new generation is coming up reading the strip. That’s something I never anticipated at all.

As for why it continues to speak to people, I don’t really know. I always tried to make the strip entertaining on several levels, so one aspect might appeal even if others don’t. But really, I was writing to amuse Melissa (my wife) and myself. That’s as far as I understand.

Via Jenny Robb, curator and associate professor at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at The Ohio State University in an in-depth interview in “Exploring Calvin and Hobbes: An Exhibition Catalogue” (Andrews McMeel Publishing).