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Don't get discouraged, we got the same result after working on you for 6 years.'

—Calvin's dad

Calvin's father is a main character of Calvin and Hobbes. Like many other characters in the strip, is a relatively down-to-earth and sensible character whose attitudes serve primarily as a foil for Calvin's outlandish behavior.

Both parents go through the entire strip unnamed, except as "Mom" and "Dad," or such pet names as "honey" and "dear." He first appeared in the very first Calvin and Hobbes strip, though he was the only parent shown until a few days later, when Calvin's mother was introduced.

The appearance of Calvin's father is similar to Bill Watterson himself back when he was drawing the strip.


Calvin's father is generally mild-mannered and calm. He steadfastly believes in the value of hardwork and tries to instill this within his son via chores, to little success; he is often shown telling Calvin that certain things (often unpleasant) "build character." An avid outdoorsman, he loves riding his bicycle whenever possible (even riding it through the snow on one occasion), and often tries to teach Calvin to ride his bike. He is the only member of the family to enjoy their annual camping trip; he is shown to enjoy drawing or painting nature scenes when not fishing or swimming, and always tries to get Calvin out with him.

Several strips imply that Calvin's father was a party animal in his youth. On one occasion, Calvin goes through his college yearbook and asks if his father is the guy "...with the keg and the 'Party Naked!' shirt?" His father reacts quickly and defensively, implying that the picture is indeed of him. On another occasion, when Calvin asks what "the old college try" means, his father tells him it means when you get friends, beer, and pizza, and forget about tomorrow. Looking at another picture, Calvin asks who the "bimbo" in the picture with him is, and his dad angrily answers "That 'BIMBO' is your mother!," suggesting that his mom may have been a party animal as well.

He is patient to a degree, but gets annoyed with Calvin's antics faster than Calvin's mom does. Calvin's dad, however, has been shown to delight in abusing his parental authority to make up ridiculous explanations to many of Calvin's difficult questions, such as where babies come from (telling Calvin there are assembly kits at Sears and K Mart) or how people calculated the load limit for bridges (telling him that they build the bridge, run trucks over it until it breaks, then weigh the last truck and rebuild the bridge). In another strip, Calvin's dad fed him the lie that the sun was no bigger than a quarter and set in Arizona every night. Mom, however, intervenes at times when she feels that they should be focused on more important issues, such as Calvin's poor performance in school, and she may believe these stories are a contribution as they are messing with Calvin's mind. Another time when Dad made a joke that they would not celebrate Christmas like other families do, Calvin was shocked by this. Mom chastized Dad for this, considering this joke as crossing the line into being outright nasty to do to someone as young as Calvin.

He is shown on occasion to have a cynical streak in regards to commercialism and new technology, preferring a quiet, simplistic lifestyle (Hobbes comments that "[he]'s going into the future kicking and screaming"). Despite often being aggravated by his son, in some story arcs his gentler parental nature is revealed, showing that he truly loves and cares for Calvin by consoling him in times of crisis. Notably, in one strip he is working when Calvin asks him to play outside; he originally says that he is too busy, but gives in to temptation and runs outside to join his son, and the two build a snowman together.

Although Calvin's father has repeatedly suggested (jokingly) that he's not actually related to Calvin, his answers to Calvin's questions show a sense of humor and playfulness quite similar to his son, suggesting that he was actually quite similar to Calvin growing up. It is clear that his father gives Calvin his sense of humor and his wild imagination. Calvin's dad has helped him build snowmen, suggesting that Calvin got his skill at creating snow sculptures and snowmen from his father.

Calvin's father seems to be reluctant to accept modern technology, and has shown great distaste for television on occasion. He has also resented how technological innovation "increases expectations," and how machines like modems, faxes, and car phones "make life more harassed." Calvin has mentioned that his dad prefers communication by mail, and Hobbes has remarked, "Of course, your dad thinks transportation should've stopped with the bicycle." Calvin once complained about how all his friends' families either own a VCR or subscribe to cable television whereas Calvin only has "dumb ol' summer repeats". Unfazed by the comparison, the father dryly comments "How cruelly we mistreat you", and instead suggests Calvin read Oliver Twist as he might "relate to it". In one strip Calvin tells his father that he would do better on his school book reports if they had a computer, to which his father replies "You'd still need to read the book and tell the computer what to say." After the family does buy a computer, Calvin wonders why their computer doesn't have an Internet connection; Calvin's dad responds that "It's bad enough that we have a telephone." Calvin's mom has pointed this out too: in one strip, she and Calvin return home from a kids' matinée, Calvin's father asks Calvin "How was the kiddy matinée movie?"—Calvin vaguely remembers that he saw a movie and states it was OK; when Calvin's mother enters, visibly worn out from whatever antics took place, she grabs the front of his shirt and angrily tells him "We ... are ... buying ... a video player." Another time, when Calvin's mother wants to get an answering machine, Calvin's father counters that life is better without one as they will not feel obligated to return unwanted calls.

Relationship with Calvin

Calvin's behavior often causes his father annoyance, sometimes provoking him to yell at Calvin. In fact, Dad once said during an argument with Mom that he never wanted a kid in the first place - he wanted to buy a dachshund. He is sometimes regarded as being harsh towards his son, but in two "serious" story arcs, he consoles Calvin and holds him whie he cries. One dealt with the difficulty of accepting death when Calvin found a raccoon and it died the next morning. Another arc was where Calvin accidentally broke his dad's pair of binoculars and confessed to doing so. Dad is at first furious and shouts angrily, but then calms down when Calvin is contrite. Dad admitted that he was upset, but the tirade was an overreaction; Calvin admitted his wrongdoing upfront rather than having to be tracked down, and it was a pair of binoculars, which was not much in the grand scheme of life.

Calvin's father was once put to the test when Calvin's mom fell sick and it was revealed he could not cook. Despite Calvin's behavior annoying him at times, he indeed loves his son. However Calvin's father sometimes doubts that Calvin might be his biological son due to his behavior and had a theory that the nurses switched the bassinets in the hospital and once told Calvins mother that he was going to get a DNA test to see if Calvin was really his son.

Calvin obviously resents his father's parenting style and frequently tries to get him to change by presenting him polls like a campaign manager to a politician, which are almost always unfavorable. His father always ignores these polls, knowing they are fraudulent.

Behind the Scenes

The actual image of Calvin's father is a self-portrait of Watterson himself. Watterson has said that he identifies more with this character than with Calvin. The character is more closely based on Watterson's own father, who is also a patent attorney, and often told his family that unpleasant things "built character." 



  • When Calvin's dad tells him that negative things "build character", what he means is it builds *good* character, implying he needs some to balance out his overabundance of bad character.

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