The “Almost” Hobbes Doll!

Like many of you, I grew up reading, loving and damn near worshipping Calvin and Hobbes. Bill Watterson’s famously perfect comic strip spoke to us in so many ways. We all saw a little (or a lot) of ourselves in Calvin, even if we only wished that we could muster enough imagination to turn our dolls into walking, breathing, talking best friends.

I still read the old strips all the time. Even if some of the references have become dated, their humor, cleverness and wonder haven’t lost a step. Without a hint of hyperbole, Calvin and Hobbes was as good as or better than literally anything else that I’ve ever been into, regardless of whether the particular thing’s brow was held high or low. There’s a reason people who love Calvin and Hobbes are so proud about it.

Watterson had a noble stance about licensing his characters. Basically, he never did it. Not in the “normal” ways, at least. No Calvin and Hobbes dolls. No Calvin and Hobbes spiral notebooks. No stickers, no Happy Meals, no Saturday morning cartoons. For him, it was as much about preserving the spirit of his work as retaining complete control. While the strip assuredly left him financially set, Watterson tossed away the chance to multiply his wealth by a factor of a hundred, all so his stories and characters would stay his stories and characters.

Raise your hand if you think you could resist the same temptation. I know I couldn’t.

As such, Calvin and Hobbes merchandise is more or less nonexistent, save for bootleg items. While most fans have always appreciated Watterson’s “stubbornness” on this issue, it’s just as true that we’d KILL for a Hobbes doll. (Need proof? Do an Etsy search for “Hobbes.”)

With that preamble out of the way, I can finally get to the point.

Reader Terry Wilson sent me a hot tip earlier. “Go to Target,” he said. “Bring ten dollars,” he said.

So I did, and that’s what I found. The Circo “Tiger” doll, which bears more than a passing resemblance to Hobbes. It’s not an exact match, but it is CLOSE. Maybe too close to be a coincidence?

The dolls have apparently been around for a while, and there are other animals in the series with the same overall body shape, so it’s probably just a lucky break for Hobbes fans who like their consciences clear.

He was ten bucks, or maybe a few dollars more. I don’t know, I paid no attention to the price. Absolutely positively none. Money was no object. So long as my credit card wasn’t rejected, I was going to go home with Almost Hobbes.

The look seems to combine Hobbes’s “doll tiger” and “real tiger” states, possibly representing the half-second transformation process that Watterson never bothered to illustrate. Whatever. I love this thing so, so much.

Sure, you can sit there and pick it apart. “Ears aren’t black.” “The beard is off.” Okay, yes, but I’m glad for those differences. So long as those differences exist, this isn’t really Hobbes. It’s Almost Hobbes, and I don’t have to feel guilty about buying it and hugging it and making it play Parcheesi with me.

Here’s Almost Hobbes, waiting for a fork.

Here’s Almost Hobbes, investigating Almost Calvin’s Transmogrifier.

Here’s Almost Hobbes, breaking the fourth, fifth and seventeenth walls.

Here’s Almost Hobbes, the bright spot of my week.

Thanks again for the tip, Terry. If I could represent my level of happiness through brightness of color, my pre-Hobbes world was air force blue, and now it’s electric pink lemonade. I shouldn’t be this excited about a tiger doll, but I’m not going to fight it. It’s an unnatural high, but at least it’s a safe one.

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77 Responses to The “Almost” Hobbes Doll!

  1. It’s like an amalgamation of toy Hobbes and “living” Hobbes!

    Interesting sidenote RE: Watterston’s principles, for any who don’t know–he used to sneak into a bookstore local to his home and sign Calvin and Hobbes books for fans.

    After they started showing up on eBay, he stopped, because that wasn’t the point.

  2. Man oh man…I’m gonna have to find this. My Calvinball games have been woefully one sided.

  3. Homina homina homina.

    First off, Calvin and Hobbes is one of THE best strips and pieces of literature I have ever run across and OF COURSE I am a huge fan of Hobbes. Needless to say, this may be an immediate purchase tonight as soon as I get out of work!

  4. They won’t yank these. They’ve been selling them at Target for atleast a couple years now.

    The one with the Tiger sitting at the table with a can of Bumble Bee is the coolest thing I’ve seen today.

  5. @Leggo: Other people have noticed this then, right? I only heard about it from Terry today, but there’s no way I wouldn’t have thought “Hobbes” had I seen it earlier. Hooray for it only being $10.

  6. Kinda looks like a weird cross between Hobbes and Chester Cheetah to me.

  7. While I told myself that I was trying to avoid stuffed animals that weren’t collectibles or didn’t come with codes…come to think of it, tigers are some of the only things I don’t have around here, and I love the “Calvin and Hobbes” comics. And both those pictures are awesome – love the transmogrifier recreation.

  8. I love the transmogrifier! The “Bug” setting doesn’t turn you into a bat, does it?

    FangsFirst: This is also why Ringo Starr stopped signing things recently (aside from just being busy). He wanted people to appreciate it because they were fans, not so they could turn around and sell it.

  9. @Matt: I too thought it was Hobbes at first glance when I saw it at Target. Then I noticed it was Circo brand and didn’t say “Hobbes” anywhere on it.

    I bought one a couple years ago as a gift, so yeah, they’ve been around awhile.

  10. Hobbes took a selfie!

    My god, he is just asking to be hugged. By me.

  11. I, like everyone love Calvin and Hobbes. As a kid I always tried sooooo hard to make my playtime approach even a fraction of the awesomeness found in those pages. It never did…

    My first love will always be Peanuts, but Calvin and Hobbes hold a special place for everyone in our generation.

    Also a friend of mine worked at the YMCA in Cuyahoga Falls, OH where Watterson used to work out. She talked to him a few times and he was really nice. one day he gave her a signed book, “Because you treated me like every other patron.” Most people probably act like fanboys around him so he appreciated it.

  12. @drew do: I love Peanuts too, especially the older stuff, but nowhere near to the level of C&H. The only thing on nearly equal footing is The Far Side. (I really can’t pick a favorite between the two. I know C&H is better and I know I like it more now, but Far Side meant too much to me at one point to call #2. More like #1B.)

  13. Matt, glad you got as excited about that guy as I did when I saw him for the first time. I used to work in the electronics Dept. in Target (up until Saturday that is, Got myself an amazingly awesome job that started yesterday) and my little counter was literally right across from the isle these dolls were located on. When I saw the morning crew stocking the shelves I had to do a double take, I honestly thought that Watterson had reversed his stance. So in celebration of my new job, I decided to pick one of these guys up! Good thing I did too, according to my bosses there is already a voluntary recall of these guys because of the similarity.

    I agree with choice of not making it 100% true to Hobbes, because in all honesty, I don’t want Hobbes, I want a friend LIKE Hobbes. Hobbes is Calvin’s, I want another tiger buddy named after a famous philosopher.

    Also, Kudos on the Transmogrifier! That’s effing brilliant!

  14. I HAVE ONE OF THESE. I just bought it a few weeks ago because I saw it and I was like “That tiger looks like Hobbes I MUST HAVE IT”

  15. @Terry: Thanks again, man. You made my day and it needed to be made!

    @Annette: That’s awesome, I’m glad it’s not just us. I literally went to Target THE SECOND Terry showed me a picture, and just about died when I saw it there in the doll aisle.

  16. One of the best posts ever! Love the pictures! Wondering if anyone else enjoyed the fan created series Hobbes and Bacon?

  17. He’s wonderful! Target is opening up here in Canada in May, I can only hope the Almost Hobbes makes it into the newly stocked stores.

  18. I liked the Far Side as well. Currently the only comic strip I enjoy is Get Fuzzy. I REALLY love that strip and remember the first time I read it in the newspaper.

    I also read Garfield, not because I even like it, but because it’s always been there since I was a kid. There’s something comforting about that for some reason.

  19. weird that watterson licensed all those pictures of calvin peeing on stuff though

  20. Hey, just a heads up, for some reason the comments are only showing the first 9. The main page says “14 comments” but when I jump back in here it only shows 9.

  21. Ok, once I post a comment I can see all the comments. Just when I initially click through it only shows the 9.

  22. I don’t think the peeing Calvins are officially licensed. How did that whole thing ever get started, anyway?

  23. My wife and I stayed in Chagrin Falls for part of our honeymoon (because it was part of the route and because she is awesome), and I bought my copy of the complete Calvin and Hobbes from the previously mentioned bookstore.

    Calvin & Hobbes is the reason I draw comics, and the reason I make comics the way that I do.

  24. Yah, so that is to say I might just buy a case of these.

  25. I gotta get me one of those

  26. While it has much odder sentiments (including extremely political streaks), Bloom County has always had a (largely irrational, but still pretty damn justifiable) higher place in my heart.

    But I have huge, stupidly expensive hardcovers of both strips (and a few odd others–lik the Far Side one, and Popeye [well, Thimble Theater from his introduction on till Segar's death], and Pogo….but none are tops like those two)

  27. This post made me inordinately happy! We bought one of those last November for our fetus simply because of the strong resemblance! Even my husband recognized him and he wasn’t exposed to C&H as a kid (but he knows I adored them so the baby HAD to have one). Now I read Hobbes and Bacon and get all giggly because I can see our little girl being just like that. With her Almost Hobbes. :)

  28. i always wonder what Bill Watterson thought about the Calvin peeing stickers

  29. The pic of Hobbes on the transmogrifier just made me so happy I started to tear up a little. Thanks, Matt. :)

  30. I thought he only had paw pads in the early strips.

  31. ‘Almost Hobbes’; Pretty much, not unlike in anime where in a living room scene the word at the bottom of the TV screen is ‘PONY’ or ‘SOMY’, not an exact match to keep the lawyers away. They do that with McD’s as well, the arches are upside down.

  32. Just came back from Target, got last AM in the joint (maybe all of LA if they are doing the voluntary recall?)! In looking at this magnificent tiger, he reminds me a bit more of Calvin’s stuffed tiger before he became “alive” (he always alive, some people just can’t see it). Still, he is so close to Hobbes (definitely the Sorny version) that I had no hesitation once I saw him, C&H is ruling the roost here in LA!

  33. I’ve always wanted a Spaceman Spiff action figure.:) When I was a kid, I always *knew* that Calvin and Hobbes were real, because of how awesome they are. Seeing the pic of the Transmogrifier warms the cockles of my freakin heart!

  34. Just a fun little fact for the commenters here!

    Back when I was in college sometime probably in 1999 or 2000 Bill Watterson agreed to visit our English department to host a reading as well as a Q&A session. He was a very down to earth guy, very relatable. Not the least bit arrogant or anything.

    Anyway I was able to ask him what influenced him in his career and he said that Charles Schulz and the Peanuts comic strip was far and away his greatest influence. He pointed out how Calvin’s body proportions were similar to Charlie Brown (feet, legs, body, head). Also the dirt cloud that followed PigPen around is similar to the illustrations Watterson used to show dirt/chaos when Calvin got dirty or fought/wrestled with Hobbes.

    Nothing mind blowing to my story here but it was really cool to hear him talk about C&H in person.

  35. Anyone else not seeing comments?

  36. I’m seeing them. Not sure why others aren’t. Let me clear caches.

  37. Could be something simple like just needing to hit refresh.

  38. OOOokay, fixed the comments thing. Apparently I had somehow gotten 2 different versions of Firefox installed and they were working in tandem somehow. Freaked the whole thing out lol. We’re good now, everyone go about your business.

  39. I was always a Calvin and Hobbes nut from the beginning. Also far side made me bust a gut. While I’m here, can we get a shout out to Fox Trot? oh how I love that comic

    My mom could not understand how I “got” the political jokes in Bloom County…Whatever happened to the spin off called Outland? OMG I was a freak for sunday comics.

  40. Anyone ever catch the Farside Cartoon special that came on back in the day? It was pretty dang good. It was basically just 30 min of smooth transitions from one far side comic to another, and half the fun was spotting all the individual comics you had read.

    Here it is if you want to watch it. It’s pretty darn good.

  41. I spotted this in Target last month and had the same reaction. Grabbed it not caring about the price. Bought it for my son.

  42. My wife’s birthday is coming up… I could use this as an other excuse to to be an even worse husband.

  43. This is fantastic. But I come away from this post with almost-Hobbes a #2 on my must-have list, behind “a square cardboard box.”

  44. Chester Cheetah, in a rare moment where he takes his sunglasses off.

  45. This doll is adorable, and Calvin and Hobbes definitely rocked, but the only influential comic strip cat who was orange and black that inspired me as a kid was “Garfield”. I was obsessed with Garfield, and Jim Davis in general. One of my biggest thrills as a pre-teen was meeting Mr. Davis at a local store that sold original animation cels. He signed my compilation of the first 3 Garfield books for me wishing me luck in my art pursuits….

  46. Ain’t this a bucket of nostalgia.

  47. Matt, this brought me so much joy today. I almost choked on the bus to work and then got the warm fuzzies all day. The Transmogrifier and dinner time was just so perfect.

  48. I read this yesterday, and I HAD to have one of these. lol So today I went to my local Target and actually found this guy. :D I’m on the fence about trying to die the face white and the back of the ears/end of tail black. Other than that, it is pretty damn close to the real deal. Your photos are awesome, but later on I’ll add my image…which isn’t as cool. Just Hobbes on a shelf with my Calvin & Hobbes books.

    Other thing that this entry made me aware of…I’m still missing a few books from having them all. I used to check these out from the Library all the time when I was younger, and would buy one here and there. I don’t go to bookstores that often, but I will be later on this week. :)

  49. This is awesome. Probably the most awesome thing I’ll see this week.

    Calvin & Hobbes is a big part of my childhood, and it’s still my favorite comic strip. When Watterson stopped, I never really found anything that would replace it. I still re-read the strips often, and it’s like stepping back in time.

  50. As a couple folks mentioned Peanuts as a heavy influence on C&H, and others mentioned Bloom County, it’s worth it to check out Pogo, by Walt Kelly, which also heavily influenced both C&H and BC.

    The third influential strip is Krazy Kat, but that’s really an acquired taste and not for everybody.

    What Peanuts lent to C&H was the joke structure (and early peanuts was a very dark strip, most people are only associated with the bland later years,) but Pogo is where the lush artistry and more philosophical content came from.

    Krazy Kat just stands alone in it’s own swirling inventive madness.

  51. I have three kids. One of the best things about having all these kids is how easy it makes it to say, “need to go to Target to pick up a (several??) Almost Hobbes.”

    Imagine what you could do with many Almost Hobbes!

  52. Count me in as one of the odd few that somehow managed to skip over that comic….don’t know how, since I was kind of aware of it, but none of my friends really were into it either growing up. Now that I’m older, I see I kinda missed out on some good stuff! Guess I was more of the Garfield/Peanuts/Dennis the Menace kind of kid since I have more memories of those than anything else. Who knows, maybe my life would have ended up differently if I had read C&H……

  53. Ah Calvin and Hobbes, you made my childhood that much better. I’ll pick one of these up first chance I get.

  54. I love Watterson for his rejection of all that money he could have made through marketing. He had enough and he was happy. It’s amazing how many people can’t understand that.

  55. You’re doing the Lord’s work here Matt! I ran out and bought myself two. Its the first product you’ve written up I’ve been able to get my hands on. Still trying to find myself a Green Bamboo Mystery Peanut . . .

  56. @mandy_Reeves: Outland ended in 1995 (in general, a pretty sad year for comic strips!) and was later “revived” as Opus in the mid-late 2000s. Both strips are collected (as are 5 volumes of Bloom County) in hardcover form still in print. They’re pretty darn nice.

  57. Its amazing how many of us seemed to have read the same comics. Of course C&H was amazing but I was also a huge fan of Bloom County/Outland. Read many a book about that penguin. Also, loved the Far Side. Many books from that strip as well. They were all very different from each other but fascinating that those are the ones we all gravitated to in the late 80s-90s. Great Stuff!

  58. Wow, you NAILED the transmogrifier. Nice work.

  59. I loved Bloom County, but just could never really get into Outland or Opus. I bought both hardcover collections, but haven’t dug into them yet. Maybe I’ll have a more favorable opinion with some distance. At the time, it just felt like a lousy version of Bloom County.

  60. Thank you for posting this. I went out and bought myself one of these and it made my day. I

  61. You can call him “Al.” And add a “Dracula” to the Dinosaur setting.

  62. Oh man, I want one. Calvin & Hobbes is pretty much my favorite comic strip of all time.

  63. Who bought the most of these? I bought 100 of them. The things I’m in the process of doing, well- it’s a bit crazy.

  64. The custom ones on Etsy are way better but this is a cool choice. For those of you buying more than one, shame on you. How pathetic. One is enough. I bought one anyway and there were oodles of them here. I have one of the custom ones already. I get comments on him all the time as he sits next to my C&H collected books in my office.

  65. I have loved C & H since childhood. I used to sit outside on the front lawn and read the collection books over and over. I still read them to this day. I also have a tattoo of them, forever attaching to them to my life.

    Here is something that may or may not interest you (and others)

    and the fb for another look at some other C & H stuff

    sorry if this was annoying!

  66. I was also more into Bloom County than C&H, but over the yars I have pondered picking up a book or two, just to check it out. I hafta wonder,though, if the magic would still be there for a mid-30′s newb, just now looking into the world of C&H.

    And Outland was never as good as Bloom County. I still read the B.C. books, especially now that they are finally all released in chronological order.

  67. Oh, NOOO! Your Easter Island head is being destroyed by the elements! I guess we all knew it couldn’t last, stupid idea anyway, “build a culture on a tiny island”!

  68. I am so late to this party. I haven’t been by here in a while and I’ve missed a lot. No one will read this comment except maybe Matt, but oh well. This doll is pretty sweet. I’ve never been a big C&H fan, but I like them well enough. My favorite comic strips are The Boondocks (which is only reprints now…AND WHERE IS SEASON FOUR???), FoxTrot, Get Fuzzy, and Pearls Before Swine.

    On a C&H note, has anyone seen this? It’s pretty cool. The first one is my current wallpaper.

  69. I forgot to tell you that after I read this article, I found one at my local Target. I bought it for my nephew. He won’t go to sleep without it.

  70. ugh ive looked EVERY target in my area and can’t find one for my husband for his birthday, if anyone out there can find out at their target and would be willing to pick it up for me please let me know! i would love you forever.

  71. Is this tiger available for sale anywhere? I have looked on Target and eBay and other sites, and I cannot find it! I need it before Halloween, because my son is going to dress as Calvin and he needs a Hobbes. Plus, I’m a huge C&H fan! ;) Someone please email me at ryan (AT) ryanottney (DOT) com.

  72. Thank you so much for posting this! My husband is a huge Calvin and Hobbes fan and made our son an C&H themed wagon. He has now decided our son should go as Calvin for Halloween. As soon as I saw your post, I rushed to our Target and bought this tiger (the last one they had). I can’t wait for Halloween now!

  73. Scored one today at target for $10 for my halloween costume — Thanks for posting this, saved me a bundle of cash!

  74. Hello,

    Does anyone still have the tag to their tiger? I need the UPC number to get a replacement for my son. He lost it while we were on vacation in the UK. Thanks!

  75. Couldn’t find any at our local Targets, but I did score one on eBay.

  76. It took me two tries, but I found one at Target for $9.99(+ tax).

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