‘Calvin and Hobbes’ set its trap and first captured readers 30 years ago

Who can blame Hobbes for falling into Calvin’s tiger trap 30 years ago — we all were captured too.

On Nov. 18, 1985, Bill Watterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes” made its debut in newspapers across the country. The syndicated comic strip first introduced readers to mischievous six-year-old Calvin, excitedly explaining to his dad about his tiger trap, and Calvin’s tiger companion Hobbes, happily munching away on the trap’s tuna fish sandwich bait.

The trap was not a fluke: readers were ensnared into the daily adventures of the duo for just more than a decade. A year into its syndication, “Calvin and Hobbes” was being featured in 250 newspapers. By the time its final strip was published on December 31, 1995, Watterson’s work had been published in as many as 2,400 newspapers worldwide.

Watterson, like Calvin, also fought against rules numerous times. After returning from the first of his two sabbaticals, he negotiated an unprecedented half-page layout for his Sunday “Calvin and Hobbes” strips, a move — he wrote in the collection “Calvin and Hobbes: Sunday Pages, 1985-1995” — that rekindled his enthusiasm and “gave newspapers a better product and made the comics section more fun for readers.”

Watterson also famously resisted merchandising the brand and its characters — a deal which estimates say could’ve netted him and the Universal Press Syndicate as much as $400 million.

“I’m very happy that people enjoy the strip and have become devoted to it,” Watterson told The Los Angeles Times in 1987. “But it seems that with a lot of the marketing stuff, the incentive is just to cash in. It’s not understanding what makes the strip work.”

Despite the comic’s popularity, Watterson ended the strip himself after a little more than 10 years. “A comic strip, like anything else, has a natural life span,” he said in a rare interview featured in the book “Exploring Calvin and Hobbes.”

Though it’s been nearly 20 years since “Calvin and Hobbes” last graced us with a new tale, the last strip promised readers that his characters would continue to find new adventures.

“It’s a magical world, Hobbes ol’ buddy,” Calvin says, “Let’s go exploring!”

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