The Calvin and Hobbes search Takedown

Eight years ago, I started typing out each of the Calvin and Hobbes strips by hand. Four years ago, I set up a site that let people search for strips. Early this month, I was asked to take it down.

This is the story.

I can’t quite remember when I started reading Calvin & Hobbes. The earliest reference I can find in my blogs is in July 1999. I remember it didn’t take me long to become a fan. I’d read every strip on the newspaper; hunt them out at bookshops; and spend a fair bit of time searching for archives online.

At some point, I discovered a few archives of the complete Calvin & Hobbes images. These aren’t hard to find, and they’re still around in plenty. So that gave me a few more months of delight.

The trouble, though, was that I never could quite find a strip when I wanted to. A friend would refuse to accept something, and I’d want to pull out that strip where Calvin declares to reside in the state of “Denial”. Or if they said something fancy, I’d want to pull out the one where Hobbes says “I notice your oeuvre is monochromatic”. Or those strips where Calvin’s Dad explains how things work (“They build bigger and bigger trucks over the bridge until it breaks.”)

There were a few Calvin and Hobbes search engines around. None quite did what I wanted them to – which was to search the text, and show me the strip, with a nice scrollable interface.

So I set out to build one. I can’t remember when, exactly, but it was before Sep 11, 2002.

It took me many years. I’d spend several train rides and evenings typing this stuff out. My friends, employers and family were a bit puzzled, but just added it to my list of eccentricities and carried on. I was halfway there in 2005, pushed further in 2006, and with some help, I managed to finally complete it.

I was able to do a lot of cool stuff with this, like statistically improbable phrases and some amusing posts as well.

It also increased traffic to my site, which was a bit disconcerting. I didn’t want to attract attention. In 2007, I removed the page from Google’s indexes, which cut the number of hits a fair bit. Since then, the site was only visited by a few people that knew of it, and the occasional stumblers.

A month ago, I got reddit-ed and MetaFiltered.

It didn’t take me long to figure that a takedown notice would be on its way. It turned out to be quite a friendly mail, actually – scary only in parts. (A bit of a carrot-and-stick approach, perhaps.) Anyway, it took me all of 2 minutes to remove all of the pages and links.

Of course, the reason I went to all of this effort was because the original Calvin & Hobbes site does not have the search feature. I’ve reached out to United Media, offering my transcripts and code. Let’s see what happens.

  1. Kannan says:

    Moral of the story : If you do something good, just keep it to yourself or your elite group who will appreciate it’s usefulness. Over reaching can be bad in “free world”. That said, it was indeed a really really good page 🙂

  2. Srihari says:

    Been reading Calvin and Hobbes from your site for quite a long time. Time and again I would try and recollect a particular strip, and the search feature made it very comfortable. Sometimes I would just key in a particular idea, and search for it, and more often than not, Calvin would have something or the other to say about it! Shame it had to be taken down 🙁

    All the same, thanks to your efforts, we all were so many smiles richer! 🙂

  3. Arvind says:

    Hey Anand!

    First of all,hi-5! I’m a huge calvin n hobbes fan n I started late too, pretty much like u! But yea, left no stones unturned in devouring whatever C&H content I can set my eyes or lay my hands on!! 🙂

    Ohh this is nothing in relation to this post but I’m totally hooked onto ur blog for a while,now…So much so it’s hampering my productivity at work place(A tobacco firm…No prizes for guessing which 1)…I’m totally lagging behind schedules n deadlines but for the moment it just feels like there’s nothing which can eclipse the joy of readind your posts! 🙂

    Ohh n I coudln’t help noticing a few commonalities between us! Gives a mere mortal like me to identify and associate with the almighty Himself, u c…I’m a Tam bram too, from chennai…Name starts with A and ends with D…Teetotaler…Engineer + MBA…Though I cudnt make it to the IITs, guess i’m just a notch behind, having graduated from NIT, Trichy…Followed by a coupla years work-ex…And MBA from NITIE…Can relate to all ur pranks from undergrad n workplace cliches! No wonder I’m just addicted to the content on ur blog…

    Wish I cud meet u in person, sometime! Thanks for writing, Anand…Keep up the good(no, absoultely fantastic) work! 🙂

  4. 408wij says:

    I suggest mapping your database to the comics at a legit site ( I.e., you host the search, but they host the comics.

  5. Deepak says:

    Time to come out of hiding! I think I got to your site coz I used to work for your current company. Your CnH site was lovely – I pulled out some gems through that search myself. Sorry and sad you had to take it town. Hope all that work you put in transcripting goes to good use!

  6. George says:

    I was one of those people that ‘stumbled’ across your C&H site a couple years ago. The searchability was brilliant. Good luck on transferring it to the other site!

  7. evans says:

    I’m a teacher and would frequent your site to pull relevent comics to delight my kids. It takes way too much time for me to flip through my books to find what I am looking for, so your site was a godsend. I’m sad to see it down, and I hope that your work can live on somewhere else. Right now I’m trying to find a good luck strip to put on my final exam… really missing your site.

  8. Andreas Schamanek says:

    First of all, thank you very much indeed for all the efforts, the typing, coding, and keeping it up for so long. It’s a pity it is gone. I was reading the strips of gocomics on a daily basis but just like you write when I was looking for a particular quote I had your search engine bookmarked.

    I had no idea you had typed all the strips yourself. This was utterly amazing work. Thanks again.

  9. Graham says:

    I can’t remember when i first stumbled apon your Calvin and Hobbes site but it was many moons ago. I’d just like to say a massive thanks really. I’d spent years laughing at the books while I was growing up and your efforts enabled me to instantly find all those excellent strips I’d remembered.

    All the best


  10. Naveen Arur says:

    Really sad man. I am such a huge fan of C&H. Hope United Media comes to their senses and make use of your hard work.

  11. Frank says:

    Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Using two sites to do the work of one is not the ideal… but for now here is a way to find those strips you have in mind or are trying to search by topic or whatever.
    The first is a complete collection of all of the actual strips on the following site:
    The cool thing about this site is that you can actually download the entire collection in a zipped file (105mb) if you prefer to have the strips stored on your computer, and it opens with your web browser.
    The following site will allow you to search for key words:
    It used to have the actual strips posted as well, but alas has had the same woes as just about everyone else. One reason I think that the scripts have been allowed to stay up is that they are no the actual verbatim texts from the strips… it is a commentary on each strip… so essentially it has all of the key words you might want to search for and extra, in the sense that it is a narrative of what is happening frame by frame, including the dialogue in the 3rd person… so the interesting thing is that you may be able to find topics through the narrative as well, not just the script/ speech bubbles.
    So anyways, what you do is pop in the topic or words you are looking for in the second link I posted… find what date it was published on… and then go along to the first link I posted – and you will be able to search by year and month. Each month that opens has 28-31 “batches” of strips for that particular month. Just count down to the day you are looking for as you scroll down.
    This may be a long-winded explanation, but it’s just 2-3 steps instead of one, which is what I’m going to make do with until something more convenient crops up.
    I have tried the above search method, and surprisingly gives me the same results… if not more options. Check it out for yourself and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
    A suggestion… since none of the material posted on the above sites is wholly property of the site owner, perhaps someone with the know-how could combine the commentaries and the strips (With a lot of manual copy-pasting however) to end up with a single downloadable PDF or Word document where anyone could easily do a word/strip search by simply using the Adobe reader/ Word search functions. Anyways, that’s my five cents for now.

  12. Bjarne says:

    What a shame. For the last 6 years this site has helped me digging down in strips to find the one which did just fit in the situation. Hope United Media will take over the job 🙂

    Thanks for the good work from Denmark.

  13. Pradeep says:

    what a shame.

    how are u doing buddy? been some time…

  14. Li says:

    Anand, thanks for your great efforts. I stumbled across your Calvin & Hobbes site years ago and loved it, but I always knew it wouldn’t stay around forever. Alas, it was fun while it lasted.

    Ravi Atluri, thanks for posting on 8/13/10. I’m sure that’ll be taken down someday too. I’ll keep it to myself.

  15. Hope says:

    I REALLY miss your website. 🙁 I’d use it all the time, cuz i find myself in the exact situations as you, where I can come up with a calvin and hobbes strip for almost every situation in life and in most conversations.

  16. x-f says:

    I too used the search feature for a couple of years. It was sooo great I could instantly find the right strip I was looking for! Sad you had to remove it all.
    A very big thank you for your efforts writing it all down by hand! Hope it comes back one day.

  17. Prashanth says:

    It’s really sad that you had to take down the Calvin & Hobbes archives . I used to come to this site often to look up Calvin strips – for example the one where he goes into a dimension where time has no meaning!

    Came in today to look for strips where Calvin’s father tells him to eat his vegetables because it builds character and discovered this page. Anyway, just thought I would tell you – thank you for all your efforts!

  18. BabyGodfather says:

    Man, this is really sad that you had to take it down. I had the exact same problems about searching the right Calvin’s strips at the right moment as you. Maybe only you know my annoyance.

    Is there anything that we could do ? I mean, I don’t think it needed to be taken down. They didn’t have any problems people posting Calvin strips in their blogs, did they ?

    Are they taking down all the pages that include Calvin Strips ? It’s ridiculous.

  19. […] to the joys that are lawyrs, @sanand0 was asked to take the Calvin & Hobbes text archive down. […]