Character overview

Tracer Bullet is a hard-boiled private investigator styled after film noir and detectivefiction stereotypes, especially Sam Spade of The Maltese Falcon (novel), who spouts incisive metaphors and wears a trench coat and fedora. He resembles Calvin, though the Frank Miller-like high-contrast art style Watterson uses in the Tracer Bullet strips obscures Tracer Bullet’s features.

Watterson considered this style dramatic but regarded it as time-consuming, so he drew few Tracer Bullet strips than he would have liked. There have been only three strip sequences that involved Tracer Bullet.


Watterson first used Tracer Bullet in a story where Calvin has Hobbes cut his hair because, “the barber never cuts it the way [he likes],” and ends up bald. This story turned out to be one of Watterson’s favorites: the sight of Calvin’s haircut was one of the few times his own work made him laugh aloud, and Calvin’s use of a fedora to cover his head led to the introduction of Tracer Bullet.


Watterson would later lament; “Wish that I could write like this more often” (Tenth Anniversary Book). Tracer Bullet has only appeared twice more. In his second appearance, Calvin has to solve a problem on a math test and imagines the process as Tracer Bullet. He last appeared in a story wherein Calvin and Hobbes break a lamp during a football game.

Tracer Bullet owns at least 3 guns, a .38 revolver, a .44 magnum and a .45 handgun.


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