A reader writes:
Not to ignore the fun in the Hobbes and Tyler comparison, but there are big differences between the two.
In the commentary at the beginning of one of his Calvin and Hobbes collections (I forget the name), Watterson makes a point that people often refer to the “trick” of Hobbes being alive only when no other people are around. He makes it clear that he thinks people make too big of a deal of this, and that it really is just the different versions of reality experienced by the characters in the strip. To Calvin’s parents, friends, etc, Hobbes is a stuffed animal because that is what they expect him to be. To Calvin he is an alive Tiger, who has his own thoughts and opinions, because that is what Calvin expects him to be. While Tyler can only do things that “Jack” can conceive of, even if “Jack” can’t do them unless he has taken on the Tyler persona, Hobbes acts independently of Calvin. Watterson even notes that Hobbes is clearly smarter than Calvin in his description of Hobbes in the same collection, implying that Hobbes isn’t controlled or limited by Calvin’s imagination, but capable of independent thought that is greater than his companion. Plus, unlike Tyler, Hobbes is the voice of reason.
Yeah, I know, it is just a comic strip, but some of us were raised on it, O.K.?
Okay, I’ve not read every Calvin and Hobbes strip, so I’m not an expert. But I like the comparison more than I dislike it. Yes, Hobbes is the voice of reason, but that doesn’t change the structure of the situation. Calvin’s parents experience Hobbes as a stuffed animal and Jack’s associates experience Tyler as crazy Jack. But Calvin and Jack are still experiencing reality as different than those around them. They are both psychotics. And, no I don’t think that every child that has an imaginary friend is a psychotic, but Calvin remains the age he is and continues to experience a reality with a large, talking tiger called Hobbes. And, no, Hobbes does not “act independently of Calvin” in precisely the same sense that Tyler does not act independently of Jack. Unless you want to go even further than Freudian and suggest that the id is a completely different individual than the ego. Or, maybe the reader would be happer saying that Hobbes is Calvin’s superego, while Tyler is Jack’s id. That’s fine, but they’re still both psychotics.