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Calvin and Hobbes were even more destructive than you think

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Bill Watterson

Childhood distorts your memories in strange ways — everything seems bigger, more extensive, more dramatic. Take the seminal comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes, for example. Much of its 1985 - 1995 run lined up with my own childhood; I eagerly waited for the newspaper (yes, comics in the newspaper!) every day from about 1989 on. When I started reading, I was only a year or two older than Calvin himself, thus making the strip eminently relatable in a way that few other pieces of art have ever been for me. (And make no mistake, Calvin and Hobbes is art.)

Calvin and Hobbes damage chart

Of course, it was an exaggerated version of being a kid — in particular the amount of destruction that Calvin heaped on his poor, unwitting parents. My memories tell me that nary a week went by without some incredible amount of damage caused to Calvin's home. An article and chart published to the ridiculously-named PNIS (Proceedings of the Natural Institute of Science, which claims to be a "part-serious, part-satirical journal publishing science-related articles") backs up those assumptions, and even puts a dollar figure on it. According to these calculations, Calvin's destructive tendencies cost his parents approximately $15,955.50 over the course of the strip's 10 years.

I'm simultaneously impressed by these calculations and longing for more data — for some reason, the chart only gives five scant examples of the damage Calvin inflicted on his family's home and property. A few of those examples are among the most ridiculous incidents Bill Watterson ever published — particularly the time he pushed his family's car out of the garage, causing it to roll across the street into a ditch — but the time he juggled a dozen eggs over the rug is relatively minor in the grand scheme of things.

Calvin and Hobbes strip

I need more. The author of the study says he cataloged "every instance in which either Calvin (or Hobbes) caused any type of physical damage or it was mentioned that Calvin had caused some damage." Why not show every single incident, complete with dates and damage estimates? With only five examples listed on the chart, we're missing huge swaths of data — in just 10 minutes of searching, I found five more home damage incidents. Who can forget Calvin pounding nails into his family's coffee table for absolutely no reason, or the time Calvin and Hobbes positively destroyed the living room with a game of indoor baseball? How can I confirm these calculations without reading the entire series again and doing my own methodical research? I suppose I can make the sacrifice and find the time — for the good of science.