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Calvin and Hobbes Graduate Thesis: An Insightful Journey

Bill Watterson’s comic strip Calvin and Hobbes has been a favorite of millions since its first appearance in newspapers in the 1980s. It is no surprise, then, that the comic strip would eventually make its way into academia. In 2014, a graduate student at Ohio State University wrote his thesis on the comic strip, exploring the complex themes of childhood and imagination that Watterson so brilliantly captured over the course of 10 years.

The Background and Context

The thesis, titled “Exploring Calvin and Hobbes: An Exhibition of Visual Storytelling and Childhood Imagery,” was written by Justin Hall. Hall, a graduate student at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, was tasked with creating an exhibition that explored the visual language of comics. It was during this process that Hall realized the power of Watterson’s comic strip and its ability to capture the essence of childhood.

Overview of the Thesis

Hall’s thesis is a visual exploration of the world of Calvin and Hobbes. It includes panels from the comic strip, as well as original drawings and sketches by Watterson himself. Hall’s main argument is that the comic strip is a powerful medium for exploring the themes of childhood and imagination. He uses examples from the comic strip to illustrate his point, showing how Watterson used visual storytelling to reinforce the power of imagination and the importance of childhood.

The thesis is organized into several sections, each of which explores a different theme or aspect of the comic strip. These themes include the role of imagination in childhood, the importance of play, and the ambiguous nature of reality. Through his analysis of the comic strip, Hall makes a compelling argument for why Calvin and Hobbes remains relevant today, even though it was published over 20 years ago.

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Controversies Surrounding the Thesis

Not everyone was pleased with Hall’s thesis, however. Some critics argued that it was too simplistic, and that it failed to capture the complex social and cultural issues that are often present in comics. Others criticized Hall for focusing too much on the visuals of the comic strip, and not enough on the narrative.

Despite these criticisms, however, Hall’s thesis received widespread attention and praise from the academic community. Many praised him for his insightful analysis of the comic strip, and for his dedication to the medium of comics.

Key Takeaways

  • Calvin and Hobbes remains a beloved comic strip that continues to captivate readers of all ages.
  • The visual language of the comic strip is a powerful tool for exploring complex themes and ideas.
  • Hall’s thesis offers a compelling analysis of the themes of childhood and imagination in Calvin and Hobbes.
  • There are differing opinions on the merits of Hall’s thesis, but it ultimately received widespread praise from the academic community.


Q: Is it possible to read Hall’s thesis online?A: Yes, the thesis is available online through Ohio State University’s electronic thesis and dissertation archive.

Q: What other academic works have been written about Calvin and Hobbes?A: There are several other works that have explored the themes and ideas present in Calvin and Hobbes, including essays and scholarly articles.

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