In the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, the protagonist, Calvin, has several alter egos including Spaceman Spiff, Stupendous Man, Tracer Bullet, and others who appear less frequently.
Calvin often pretends he is someone else and often gets lost in imaginative landscapes. His hyperactive imagination leads him to envision himself as other characters with different abilities and goals to escape difficult situations such as school quizzes. The strips which portray these events blend fantasy and fiction as Calvin morphs elements in the "real world" with his fantasies. On several occasions, Calvin has appeared as either a larger or a smaller version of himself, wreaking havoc like Godzilla or crawling across a book page as "Calvin, the human insect." More frequently, Calvin's imagination transforms him into a being of a different kind. In many comics which involve Calvin in an alter ego, the strip is heavily stylized to portray Calvin's environment from his imaginative point of view. Such strips often finish with the last panel or two back in the "real world," providing backstory or simply to show the real world consequences of Calvin's actions. (e.g., Spiff dousing an "alien" with a Hydro Bomb (a.k.a. a glass of water), who is revealed to be Calvin's father).
The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book provides background on Spiff's character. Watterson first conceived an earlier version of Spiff when he was taking a high school German class, producing a two-page, short-lived comic titled "Raumfahrer Rolf". When he was in college he reworked the strip and renamed his hero "Spaceman Mort", but decided not to publish it for various reasons. Later on, after finishing college, Watterson 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 Charlie Chaplin moustache who explored space in a dirigible with his sidekick Fargle. All the newspaper syndicates 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 began.
Spaceman Spiff, "interplanetary explorer extraordinaire," explores the outermost reaches of the universe "by popular request" in a red flying saucer with a bubble canopy. As the comic developed and evolved over time, Watterson began to introduce Spiff's adventures with alliteration, featuring phrases such as, "Poised precariously over a percolating pit of putrid pasta."
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