The Calvin and Hobbes Wiki
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* Planet Q-13
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* Planet X-13
* Planet X-13
* Planet Quorg
[[Category:Alter Egos]]
[[Category:Alter Egos]]

Revision as of 18:10, 6 August 2010

Spaceman Spiff

Spaceman Spiff is one of Calvin's many alter egos. Spiff is a space explorer who often does battle with aliens, either on foot or in space.

Spaceman Spiff is really a result of Calvin's common daydreaming. The events in his daydreaming are usually events that are happening outside of his imagination, such as his teacher talking or other kids persuading him to slide down a slide. In his imagination, Calvin imagines these people as aliens trying to kill him, often to try and get him to spill "secret information" or some "top-secret formula" about his "Death Ray Blaster" or "Atomic Napalm Neuralizer", weapons he uses to kill the aliens, albeit the fact these weapons don't usually work.

Spaceman Spiff, "interplanetary explorer extraordinaire," explores the outermost reaches of the universe "by popular request" in a red flying saucer with a bubble canopy. He talks in third person in all but three strips.[citation needed] As the comic developed and evolved over time, Watterson began to introduce Spiff's adventures with alliteration, ranging from the first phrase or sentence to eventually the whole first panel, featuring phrases such as, "Poised precariously over a percolating pit of putrid pasta."

The galaxy in which Spiff travels is a cruel place where Spiff is shot down or captured by ferocious and disgusting aliens (Some aliens, such as the Unidentified Blob, do not appear hostile). In reality, these aliens are often people such as Calvin's parents or Miss Wormwood. Frequently, Spaceman Spiff becomes stranded on an unexplored planet due to alien attacks or malfunctioning equipment. Most of these planets seem devoid of civilization, and often have hostile environments or alien predators. Spiff rarely lands on a planet without crashing or experiencing some technological malfunction.

Early in the strip's career, the alien planets Watterson invented were, in his words, "rather generic."[citation needed] As his work matured, Watterson brought the Spiff saga in line with his principle that "Things are funnier when they're specific, rather than generalized,"[citation needed] basing his alien landscapes on the rock formations of southern Utah, as well as the landscapes within the comic Krazy Kat. Gradually, the monsters became more detailed.

The vocabulary, and Spiff's array of high-tech gadgetry, offered a caricature of the "science" found in many science fiction books and TV series. Watterson described Spaceman Spiff as a parody of Flash Gordon. The grand "space opera" style of Spiff's adventures may also spoof Star Trek and Star Wars. Since all the Spiff adventures have a lone protagonist playing with reality, they are close to the early work of Philip K. Dick and that of other writers who have featured lone individuals going to the edge of their perceived world.

In the final years of Calvin and Hobbes, Watterson began to show an interest in information technology, often pitting the progressive and computer-savvy Calvin against his technophobic and reactionary father. Watterson's satire of the personal computer and its effects spilled over into the Spaceman Spiff strips. In one strip, Spiff's ship had a computerized weapon control system that was so finicky and slow that Spiff was hit by the aliens before he had a chance to use any of his weapons, but in reality, it's was the slow computer that crashed.

In the Introduction to Opus: 25 Years of His Sunday Best, fellow comic strip artist Berke Breathed noted that in 1981, he had begun a storyline for his character Milo Bloom in Bloom County, which he described as 'a little blond-haired boy with an over-tweaked imagination working out his real-life anxieties and passions via space hero fantasies'; had it continued, it would have featured 'Dukakis and Donald Trump aliens'. Daunted by the negative reaction from the fans after the first strip based on this story, Breathed decided not to continue with the story, and began a new storyline by introducing a Penguin who watched the 'Mister Rogers' Show - an idea which sat much better with Bloom County readers. Five years later, Calvin rocketed into his adventures as Spaceman Spiff, which Breathed says 'was just how the comic universe was meant to be'.


Spiff carries a futuristic gun, originally named the Atomic Napalm Neutralizer. Later on, the name was changed to the simpler Death Ray Blaster, or Death Ray Zorcher. It is difficult to say whether it was a replacement weapon or not, since both guns were similar in shape; on one occasion Spiff also used a similar one called an Atom Blaster. The Death Ray Blaster had cooking-based settings such as "Shake-n'-Bake", "Medium Well", "Deep Fat-fry" and "Frappe", yet they prove useless against almost every enemy Spiff faced. The real-life equivalent of these fantasy weapons often turned out to be Calvin's dart gun, water pistol or snowballs, explaining their ineffectuality. Spiff's other weapons include Demise-O-Bombs (water balloons) a Zorcher (his water gun) at least one Hydro Bomb (a jar or glass filled with water) and one Stun Blaster (a rock).

Spiff's saucer has just enough room for Spiff and little else; yet the craft is equipped with an astounding array of weapons, detectors and propulsion devices, many of which tend to malfunction. The design of the ship appears to be based on a toy spaceship of Calvin's, which appeared in one strip. Spiff wears goggles, whose lenses change their shape according to his emotions.

Creatures Encounterd

Planets Visited or Referenced