Spaceman Spiff

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Spaceman Spiff
Calvin and Hobbes character
First appearanceCalvin and Hobbes, 29 November 1985)
Created byBill Watterson
In-universe information
NicknamesSpiff, Calvin
OccupationBounty hunter

Spaceman Spiff is a science fiction hero within the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, which Bill Watterson wrote and illustrated from 1985 to 1995.


Spiff is one of Calvin's many alter egos,[1] imaginary personae who have solo adventures (without Hobbes's company) in fantasy worlds which usually have some form of indirect connection with his home or school life. He travels through the galaxy in a red flying saucer with a bubble canopy. In all but one strip, the saucer is tiny, with just enough room for Spiff and apparently little else. Yet, the craft is equipped with an astounding array of weapons, detectors and propulsion devices. Spiff wears square glasses, or goggles, whose front openings change their shape according to his emotions. The galaxy is a cruel place where Spiff is often zapped by ferocious and disgusting aliens (who, in reality, are really people such as Calvin's parents, Miss Wormwood, etc.) or stranded on a desert planet or both. He has a raygun, known by various fantastic names, but in reality, it is merely a water pistol.


The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book provides background on Spiff's character.[2][verification needed] Watterson first conceived an earlier version of Spiff when he was taking a high school German class, producing a two-page comic titled "Raumfahrer Rolf". When he was in college he reworked the strip and renamed his hero "Spaceman Mort".[3] Later on, after finishing college, he came up with the name Spaceman Spiff and made what he hoped was a professional strip with Spiff as a hero. There was little resemblance to the Calvin-Spiff character: The early Spiff was a "diminutive loudmouth" with a Chaplin moustache who explored space in a dirigible with his sidekick Fargle. The newspaper syndicates all rejected this early strip, and the present Spiff was finally born as one of the many imaginary alter egos of Calvin when the Calvin and Hobbes strip took off.

Early in the strip's career, the alien planets Watterson invented were, in his words, "rather generic".[citation needed] As his work matured, Watterson brought the Spiff saga in line with his principle that "Things are funner when they're specific, rather than generalized",[citation needed] basing his alien landscapes on the rock formations of southern Utah, as well as the landscapes within Krazy Kat. Gradually, the monsters also took on more detail, becoming more than blobs of slime. The vocabulary, and in particular Spiff's array of high-tech gadgetry, offered a caricature of the "Science" found in many science fiction books and TV series.


Watterson himself described Spaceman Spiff as a parody of Flash Gordon.[4] The grand "space opera" style of Spiff's adventures may also point to a spoof of Star Trek and Star Wars; there is very little cyberpunk in Watterson's oeuvre.

In the final years of Calvin and Hobbes, Watterson began to show an interest in information technology, often pitting the progressive and computer-savvy Calvin against his reactionary father, who comments, "It's bad enough to have a telephone."[citation needed] Watterson's satire of the personal computer and its effects spilled over into the Spaceman Spiff strips.

Other adventures[edit]

Calvin had many other science fiction adventures, in addition to the Spiff episodes.[5] Some of them delved farther than the Spiff stories in exploring the aesthetics of science fiction and the nature of id and otherness.


  1. ^ "Spaceman Spiff and the Stupendous Man: The Culture Industry in "Calvin and Hobbes"". 12 January 2015. Retrieved 19 June 2022.
  2. ^ Watterson, Bill (1995). The Calvin and Hobbes tenth anniversary book. Kansas City. ISBN 0-8362-0440-9. OCLC 33148847.
  3. ^ Martell, Nevin (19 August 2010). Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip. A&C Black. ISBN 978-1-4411-0685-8.
  4. ^ Martell, Nevin (2009). Looking for Calvin and Hobbes : the unconventional story of Bill Watterson and his revolutionary comic strip. New York: Continuum. ISBN 978-1-4411-9366-7. OCLC 682891953. A sarcastic send-up of classic Sci-Fi strips, Spiff paid backhand homage to flashy space heroes like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon while tapping into the Star Wars craze.
  5. ^ "Video Tribute To Spaceman Spiff From Calvin And Hobbes". GIANT FREAKIN ROBOT. 9 January 2013. Retrieved 19 June 2022.