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Swipe File – Calvin Peeing

Twenty years ago the bootlegged decal was ubiquitous, and illegal (still is).

First things first—Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson says he has nothing to do with the lewd caricature of his beloved Calvin.

Watterson was vehemently against licensing his creation for merchandising, and that includes the stickers that “cheapened and corrupted” the comics. Watterson never gave the decals his OK. He later joked to his publisher, “I clearly miscalculated how popular it would be to show Calvin urinating on a Ford logo.”

So the bootlegs emerged. But that’s just the beginning of the story. Where did the bootlegs begin? What’s the source for the picture? And why did they stick around?

From 2014 comes Phil Edward’s history of the decal.

Since the Calvin decals are all illegal copies, it’s difficult to know where they began, but the first media mention comes on November 26, 1995. Reporter Tom Zucco described “a 25-foot motor home with a sign showing Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes urinating on the letters FSU.” The urinating Calvin was part of the UF/FSU rivalry.


Above the June 5, 1988 Bill Watterson panel that may be the inspiration for the decal image.

There’s one lingering question. How can the stickers still be sold when they’re obviously illegal?

IP violations like the Calvin stickers are enforced by lawsuits, not cops. An active legal team could probably crush the stickers. In 2006, United Press Syndicate made noise about doing just that.

“We aggressively pursue people stealing Calvin’s image,” spokeswoman Kathie Kerr said. “But most of them are fly-by-night operations that are hard to track down and prosecute.”

 

Hat tip to today’s Chris Langrill reminisce about the subject.

After all, as we all know, in America the Calvin Peeing decal is the No. 1 best way (aside from Twitter) to show the world how you feel about things that are bad and wrong in your completely rational mind.

 

Community Comments

#1 Kip Williams
February/6/2020
@ 2:53 pm

When Dale Earnhardt died, I posted somewhere that I expected to see a tear in the eye of the Calvinoid whizzing on the 3. I, of course, received a reply from someone who found the sentiment illogical, and went on at some length about my failure to understand such things.

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