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Behind the Scenes: My Fan-Made Interpretation of Spaceman Spiff from Calvin and Hobbes


I’m Joseph Conover, an artist in Los Angeles, and I have been doing design work professionally since 2016 at many different studios on movies ranging from Avengers: Endgame to Guardians of the Galaxy, Pacific Rim: Uprising, Wonder Woman, and more. I’ve been using Blender since 2006, though, and it was one of the first 3D software packages I ever learned. Blender has become a sort of sketchbook to me where I build out all my ideas first. And, with all the generalist stuff it can do, it has become probably the most powerful tool in my utility belt!

Growing up I read Calvin and Hobbes, a comic book that really resonated with me, and I’ve always wanted to create something that honors that work. I decided to create a fan-made interpretation of Spaceman Spiff, Calvin’s foremost alter ego.

Ideas, layout, camera, animation, and modeling all started in Blender. Then I exported and imported back and forth to and from various other programs like Houdini, Substance Designer, ZBrush, and World Machine to do edits before finally exporting to Maya for rendering in Redshift. Post-processing is done in After Effects and 3D post done with the Blender to AE exporter.

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The Mothership

The large looming Mothership was a design I thought about for a long time. A lot of inspiration comes from NASA’s International Space Station. It’s made as if the tubular structure base was built first, and, over the years, has been retrofitted and iterated on. The wires and structures were inspired by ISS photos combined with classic Sci-Fi book covers and modern Sci-Fi art. And it contains a spinning artificial gravity core to house intelligent organisms that lived natively on gravitational planets. It was modeled in Blender and ZBrush, then textured in Substance Designer. The tractor beam was a sort of afterthought to give some direction to the audience. I was able to quickly make and render it in Cycles with the new hybrid CPU/GPU rendering and composite it over my scene, which was nice.

The Mountains

The red mountain scene was largely inspired by this wonderfully drawn panel from the comic. I exaggerated the ship's destruction quite a bit so it reads better, but kept the integrity of Spaceman Spiff and the ship's design intact. I also took a lot of creative liberties in making the alien landscape, a humid world where hot water churns below and bursts through vast red rock mountains. The idea for water plumes that extend into the stratosphere was taken from NASA's Hubble discovery of possible water plumes on Jupiter's moon, Europa. It was built in Blender, terrain made in World Machine, then back to Blender for the displacement mapping and texturing, then exported to Maya for rendering.

The Logo

The logo design ended up being a much faster and less complicated design due to the minimalism and simple beauty of my reference. NASA's simple ISS "moonrise" photos combined well with the beautiful Spaceman Spiff planet drawing for a satellite view of the red mountain planet with the slowly turning logo looming overhead.

The Final scene

The final scene is a reveal of "Spaceman Spiff" perched on a "mountainous" blanket, ready to cause some mischief in the middle of the night. It's a simple scene made for Calvin and Hobbes fans, with Calvin's pet stuffed tiger Hobbes and a 90's home video aesthetic.
That’s it, I hope you enjoyed this project!

About the Author

Joseph Conover, I have been doing design work professionally since 2016 at many different studios on movies ranging from Avengers: Endgame, Guardians of the Galaxy, Pacific Rim: Uprising, Wonder Woman, and more as well as ads, designs, and interactive content.


About the Author

Abby Crawford

I've been a part of the BlenderNation team since 2018, producing Behind the Scenes and Meet the Artist features that highlight Blender artists and their work.


  1. Awesome! Great fan of Calvin, this is the most amazing thing I ever see related to Calvin. Great work! I want to see the entire movie now! When will you finish it? :)

  2. You choose to render the mountain scene in Maya.

    In your opinion, what are pros and cons of Maya's renderer vs Cycles / Eevee? What made you decide on Maya to render this?

    What (if anything) would have made you pick Blender instead for rendering?

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