Although Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes ended a decade-long daily syndication run way back in 1995, 21 years later, it's still sorely missed. Following the antics of 6-year-old Calvin and his stuffed tiger Hobbes — who appears animated to him but very much idle to everyone else — the comic strip managed a delicate balancing act between the bright possibilities of childhood imagination and the dark realities of feeling alone in a big world. Maybe that's why it spoke to so many kids who grew up reading the comics page of the newspaper and stuck with them well into adulthood. For two fans who took it upon themselves to create a live-action homage to Watterson's work, that definitely seems to be the case.
Created by Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs back in 2014, Hobbes & Me pulls single strips from the Calvin and Hobbes archives and recreates them in short videos line by line, frame by frame. Casal plays Calvin, mostly wearing a striped T-shirt and messy hair, while Diggs — who has since become known for originating the roles of Lafayette and Jefferson in Hamilton — steps into a fuzzy ensemble to play Hobbes.
Because only Sunday comics were in color back when Calvin and Hobbes ran, most strips first appeared in black-and-white, a feature recreated in most of the eight episodes Casal and Diggs made. The first is a classic look at Calvin's beyond-his-years existential angst:
"I think Watterson's gift to me as a young person was writing a sophisticated, curious, intellectual kid that made me feel comfortable in my boyish curiosities," Casal wrote in an email to A Plus. "And Hobbes gave those curiosities company, what every young person with a wandering mind wishes for — a certain level of validation."
Interestingly, he pointed to similarities between Calvin and Hobbes' relationship and his own friendship with Diggs as inspiration for creating the series. "Our dynamic as friends is really not far off from Calvin and Hobbes to begin with, and I think once someone pointed that out to us, it snowballed from there," he said. "We are project-obsessed, and once Diggs pulled out his tiger-print fur coat, I think we just had to do it. Bought a striped red shirt from a local Ross, grabbed some friends to help us shoot, and then went through the fun of picking certain strips to recreate."
That dynamic is demonstrated pretty clearly in "Monsters Under the Bed," which sees the two holed up under the covers together:
As for how they went about choosing which strips to recreate, Casal said it really came down to a mix of what showcased their favorite aspects of the friendship and what was easiest to pull off.
"Of course we want to do the detective fantasies, and one with Calvin and his magical box, and Spaceman Spiff!" he explained. "And maybe even a front door tiger attack. Next, we just need to cast Susie, and the parents! My parents actually look a lot like them ..."
Because both he and Diggs perform the strips line for line but are definitively adults, the series is as much a loving homage to Calvin and Hobbes as it is a sort of existential noir where two dudes ponder life's meaning without regard for anything happening around them. Although the concept has been explored before, it makes you wonder what Calvin would be like all grown up.
Casal said he's planning to "shoot another 9-12 episodes" for fun, which would be a welcome continuation of the quirky, heartfelt project. Until then, satisfy your desire for adult Calvin and Hobbes with two men arguing about the unfairness of taking a bath while one of them is subjected to its horrors: