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Where have you gone, my Calvin & Hobbes?

It's hard to believe, but the last day of 2005 will mark the ten-year anniversary of the publication of the last Calvin & Hobbes newspaper strip. Let that sink in a minute. Next December will be ten years missing Calvin, Hobbes, his mother and father, Spaceman Spiff, Tracer Bullet, Stupendous Man, et all.

I first started reading the Calvin & Hobbes newspaper strip sometime in the late 1980's. My cousin Justin, already a fan, lent me one of his books which collected nearly a year's worth of strips into a block of reading. Immediately I was hooked. My first instinct was to try to create my own Calvin & Hobbes type strip called Samuel & Tripps. Of course being an eleven year old these strips never saw the light of day and now reside in my safe deposit box. (Trust me, these will be worth a lot of money one day when I finally become super-famous.)

I followed Calvin & Hobbes through middle school, high school and into college. Though I might not have religiously read the newest strip in the evening paper, I did make a habit of reading all the collected books.

I can't say what exactly drew me to Calvin & Hobbes. On the one hand the writing of the strip was impeccable. Each panel lead the path to another joke while the art was exquisite. Bill Watterson, creator, artist and writer of Calvin & Hobbes, was as talented an artist as he was a writer. No one else could quite capture the beauty in a deranged Tyrannosaurus Rex charging down a suburban street or the subtle elegance of a snowman with three heads and six arms.

My favorite strips were usually the ones where Calvin contemplated the meaning of the universe. (Though there were a few that dealt with Calvin discovering a baby raccoon, trying his best to nurse it back to health, failing and learning about the meaning of life in the process that comes to mind too. Beat that, Peanuts.)

Through his imagination Calvin was able to do anything he wanted, from bringing his stuffed tiger Hobbes to life, traveling to distant Mars, duplicating himself and discovering that he doesn't necessarily like himself all that much, turning himself into a human-fly, etc. It was impossible to guess what was going to happen next in a Calvin & Hobbes newspaper strip.

My memories of Calvin & Hobbes are a bit tarnished by the spate of stickers on the back of trucks depicting Calvin urinating on logos of various competing truck brands. (Classy!) It's obvious that these people don't get Calvin. They see him as a troublemaker ' - a sort of modern-day Tasmanian Devil.

Though I may like Calvin & Hobbes, I know others out there who are positively obsessed with the strip. Take for example my friend Sean Faurote. Sean too has been reading Calvin & Hobbes since his youth and owns all 17 collected Calvin & Hobbes books. His obsession does not stop there. A quick trip to his house reveals Calvin & Hobbes drawings framed and hanging on the walls of his home as well as very large model of Calvin, Hobbes and a large dinosaur assembled and fully painted in his den.

At the most extreme, Sean has gone as far as to name his first-born son "Calvin" after the title character in Calvin & Hobbes. Sean says, "When I think of Calvin (the newspaper strip), I just smile. Naming our son just kind of came about naturally. The funny thing is, reading C&H now I really laugh at his parents' perspectives. They are much funnier to me now that I have children."

(Please note, I am not poking fun at Sean in any way for naming his con "Calvin." My first-born will be named "Thor" with each subsequent child [I've planned for 18] being named after the Norse gods.)

But that's the kind of draw Calvin & Hobbes has over people. It's good enough to warrant naming a first-born child after.

But it all eventually had to end.

I remember reading in the newspaper in 1995 that Watterson was hanging it all up and that there would be no more Calvin & Hobbes after 1995. I nearly cried at the news. What reason would there be to even pick up a paper if there wasn't going to be a new Calvin & Hobbes inside? In fact, I no longer read comic strips. What's the point when the all time best strip is gone?

All through 1995 I'd read each new Calvin & Hobbes strip with a certain amount of dread. Each finished strip meant one less new Calvin & Hobbes, one day closer to the end

I remember the day of the last Calvin & Hobbes strip very well. That Sunday I got up and went to the local grocery store specifically to buy the newspaper, which ran the color Sunday strip of Calvin & Hobbes on the weekends ' my local paper had no Sunday edition.

The last Calvin & Hobbes strip featured the two leads with their sled on an almost all white snow covered page. The last bit of dialogue had Calvin saying, "It's a magical world, Hobbes ol' buddy. Let's go exploring." With a newspaper strip the quality of Calvin & Hobbes, it sometimes is a magical world.

Look for a gigantic Calvin & Hobbes book to be released later this year featuring every Calvin & Hobbes newspaper strip in existence. I, for one, can't wait.