How Much Damage Did Comics' 'Calvin' Do? Here's 'HARD' Data

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Children cost a bundle to raise from crib to college. But if you've got a rambunctious kid like Calvin, from the celebrated cartoon strip "Calvin and Hobbes," you'll spend roughly $16,000 more. That's the number Matt J. Michel calculated in the Proceedings of the Natural Institute of Science (PNIS -- get it?).

US postage stamp depicting Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip
AlamyThe "Calvin and Hobbes" strip was honored with a stamp.
The institute (I just can't call it PNIS) describes itself as a "part-serious, part-satirical journal publishing science-related articles."

"It's like The Onion, if The Onion were writing a scientific article," says Michel, the journal's editor. "We are a parody of a scientific article."

Although some PNIS articles are completely made up, Michel's "Calvin and Hobbes" article is based on "Honest and Reliable Data" or HARD. (Insert snicker here.)

Michel starts with a serious premise, though: that raising kids is an expensive proposition -- upward of $226,000 from start to age 17, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture 2012 report. The Ag Department doesn't break out how much physical damage to homes children cause on their way to adulthood. So Michel posits that the best way to calculate the cost is to analyze fictional children, like Calvin, whose lives are carefully documented.

"Calvin and Hobbes" is the syndicated strip drawn by Bill Watterson that appeared on comics pages in newspapers across the country from 1985 to 1995, and now continues to rerun in them. (It's considered such a classic that it was honored with a U.S. Postage stamp.) Calvin is a 6-year-old with a vivid imagination, no restraint, and almost no filter. His imagination gives life to Hobbes, his stuffed tiger, who inspires Calvin to wreak havoc on his home and possessions.

Michel combed through "The Complete Calvin and Hobbes," a four-volume set containing every strip, and recorded the damage Calvin caused. He then consulted Amazon, J. Crew, and online home improvement calculators to determine a price tag for the destruction.

Here's some of his HARD data on Calvin's home damage and what it would cost to repair.
  • Builds a snowman in bedroom: $3,000.
  • Tries to fix leaky faucet and floods bathroom: $1,200.
  • Drills holes in wall: $8 (for Spackle).
  • Floods kitchen: $1,200.
  • Spills oatmeal down radiator: $77.
  • Drops 12 eggs on rug: $150.
  • Flushes toy boat down toilet: $150.
  • Removes floorboards to make secret passage: $257.
In total, Calvin caused $15,955.58 in damage over the course of the comic strip; $1,850.55 in damage a year.

Michel, who has a doctorate in biological sciences, concedes that Calvin stayed 6 throughout the comic strip and represents a "worst-case scenario" kid. Michel also admits that his home improvement knowledge is limited, and his costs to repair damages are guess-timates.

But the article does give a glance at what raising a kid like Calvin might cost. Michel, who's married with no children, says he's not deterred.

"This article makes me want to have kids," says Michel, 33. "The damage he causes is just stuff that can be easily replaced. There are really good moments with Calvin. One thing for certain is that life would never be boring with a child like him."

And that's priceless.
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