My favorite Calvin and Hobbes strip

In the first panel, Calvin is writing at his desk. Above his head float words, in a child's scrawl, obviously showing what Calvin is writing. He's written a tongue-twister: "How many boards would the Mongols hoard, if the Mongol hordes got bored?"

In the second and third panels, Calvin takes on a frustrated, disgusted scowl while looking over what he wrote, then crumples the paper up and throws it away.

I've always found this particular strip absolutely hilarious. I find the rhyme that Calvin writes very clever on its own. Since the first time I read it, the combination of mocking an instantly recognizable rhyme and outdoing it pun-wise has seemed to me, to use a silly phrase, devastatingly clever. How does someone, thinking of that old tongue-twister, connect it with the Mongol hordes? It's the kind of joke you can't reproduce by trying to write one. Somehow, the fact that Calvin disagrees with me makes it even funnier. I suppose what's so funny to me is the irony that this rhyme, one of the funniest and cleverest things I've ever read, is depicted as so hated by its author - if Calvin weren't a fictional character, I'd never have even read the rhyme.

I don't remember if Bill Watterson commented on this strip in the Tenth Anniversary Book, but I get the impression that it was intended as mainly a commentary on that experience we all know: You create something, or you have an idea. You think it's awful. Everyone else loves it. I wonder, though, if Watterson tried to come up with an excellent joke for Calvin to write, for the irony value of it, or if he wrote the "Mongols" rhyme previously, and was as displeased with it as Calvin was.

A thought on their names

Taltos noded: (cut up a bit for brevity)
Now, most would agree that the comic Calvin was generally quite cynical, realistic, and pessimistic. You can also agree then that the comic Hobbes had a fairly light-hearted worldview, sharing, thoughtful, and generally positive. In the philosophy world, the roles are reversed. Hobbes is generally considered to be much closer to the comic Calvin's worldview, and the philosopher Calvin is much more positive, pious, and patient.

This is true; however, each character has a striking similarity to his namesake, as well as the ironic contrast to the two philosophers.

Looking at Calvinism*, the theme of religious predestination is important - it typically leads to a view among the members of a Calvinist sect that they are predestined to salvation, and anyone who disagrees with them is destined for damnation. Calvin certainly holds the belief that he is destined for greatness and most everyone else is inferior to him - he says almost exactly that in many strips.

Hobbes, on the other hand, certainly does not have the cynical outlook of Thomas Hobbes - unless you consider that Thomas Hobbes' idea of man as a fundamentally savage, animalistic creature applies only to man, that is, humanity. Hobbes, as an intelligent, communicative tiger, agrees with Thomas Hobbes that humans are brutes; he thus concludes that himself, tigers, and in fact other animals in general are superior to man, especially in the area of civilized behavior.

*By "Calvinism" I mean not the beliefs of the man but the behavior of those groups, mostly people of certain Protestant faiths, who follow an interpretation of John Calvin's ideas. The Dutch Boers in colonial South Africa are perhaps the most extreme example of this type of interpretation taken to its self-serving extreme.