Bill Watterson’s masterful daily comic, Calvin and Hobbes, proves time and again that he can make his audience laugh or cry on any given day. When the young Calvin and his tiger best friend contemplate life’s more difficult truths, it is both heartbreaking and all too real. Juxtaposing Calvin’s youth against incredibly mature themes is what makes Calvin and Hobbes one of the most poignant and timeless comics ever created.

The Calvin and Hobbes strip from September 19, 1993, starts with an unusual first panel. A close-up shot of a little bird lying dead on the ground is quite a departure from Watterson’s typical drawings – a shocking intro begging readers to pay attention. Upon finding the bird, Calvin laments the fragility of life and the impossible act of truly appreciating its temporary nature while continuing to function daily. The task is overwhelming, to be sure, but six-year-old Calvin expressing his hope that he will understand it all when he is older is heartbreaking to readers, because they know that he will never get the answers he assumes come with age.

Calvin and Hobbes’ Thoughtfulness Sets It Apart

Calvin and Hobbes Dead Bird-1

During Calvin and Hobbes’ syndication, newspaper funny pages provided fans with a way to start their day before heading off to work or a means to unwind at the end of a grueling shift. Many comics, including Calvin and Hobbes, strive to give their fans a joke to briefly escape the struggles or mundanity of their lives. However, it’s the thoughtful strips about the realities of life that endear Calvin and Hobbes to so many fans, even after all these years. Readers cling to Calvin’s youthful imagination as he daydreams his way through childhood, but sometimes Calvin’s imagination directs him toward something so real – like the miracle of life. It is hard to forget these little gems of wisdom because they are coming from a child.Related: “People Would Be Wishing Me Dead”: Why Calvin & Hobbes’ Creator Ended the Comic Despite Its Popularity

Reading Calvin and Hobbes Brings Adults Back to Childhood

Calvin and Hobbes reading

When Calvin turns pensive, the audience sits up and notices, and then they sit back and ponder. The funny circumstances Calvin creates or finds himself in are certainly the bread and butter of Calvin and Hobbes cartoons, but Watterson shows his genius when he utilizes a little boy and his stuffed tiger to get grownups to really think. Reading this strip, an adult fan can’t help but remember being young and thinking the adults had everything figured out. Their hearts break for Calvin because they realize they haven’t figured out anything more than he has.

This strip, as with others where Calvin discusses life’s intricacies with Hobbes, often leaves fans saddened by the idea of such a young kid having to navigate the ugly parts of human existence. However, those strips also highlight all that is amazing about Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin’s childlike wonderment and limitless creativity are not too dissimilar to the reader’s childhood, and reliving it through this boy and his tiger best friend reminds fans that time is fleeting, as Calvin tells Hobbes in this cartoon. The dead bird can symbolize all life, and it can also symbolize childhood, which is also beautiful, precious, and very temporary. Thankfully, Calvin and Hobbes always get back to more important things in the next comic, like throwing snowballs at Susie or pretending to be a Space Man, leaving the adults to worry about everything else.

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