Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bill Watterson Interview

Bill Watterson
Bill Watterson, the artist and writer of Calvin and Hobbes, to my mind the best late 20th Century comic strip after Pogo ceased publication in 1975, is almost as notable for the things he didn’t do as for his actual accomplishments.

He didn’t accept the idea of merchandising his popular characters to the hilt, and resisted his syndicate’s constant pressure to do so, allowing only the publication of book collections of the strip and calendars. No stuffed characters, no Hobbes dolls hung upside-down with suction cups to the inside of station wagon windows, no notebooks, sticker books, T-shirts, TV specials or Burger King soda cups. Just the strip, pure and simple.

And it was pure and simple, a classic humor strip, brilliantly written and wonderfully drawn. He didn’t overcomplicate it, try to make it too topical or stretch it beyond its natural limits. When he felt the strip had run its course, Watterson retired, and again resisted any desire on the part of the syndicate to keep it alive artificially and milk it into oblivion.

Watterson himself did not seek the spotlight, preferring to let his characters do the talking, and rarely gave interviews. There was a brief interview with Watterson published in yesterday’s Celveland Plain Dealer (which I believe is his hometown newspaper). The interview was conducted by email, and is very short and not particularly revealing, but worth noting just as an event.

You’ll see it marked as the first in 20 years, but that discounts the question and answer with fans that his book publisher, Andrews McMeel, conducted in 2005 to promote the release of The Complete Calvin and Hobbes.

The cleveland.com site has also posted a selection of rarely seen editorial cartoons by Watterson from his stint with Sun Newspapers in the 1980’s. Unfortunately, as in the images above, the reproductions in their slideshow have apparently been poorly resized and lost some of their original line quality.

At any rate, it’s a good excuse to stop, pick up a Calvin and Hobbes book you haven’t read in a while, and be reminded that “there’s treasure everywhere”.

[Via Daring Fireball]

7 thoughts on “Bill Watterson Interview

  1. John P. Baumlin

    I stopped reading the comics page after Bill Watterson retired Calvin & Hobbes, most of what was left either being trite, stupid or uninspired. I miss it a lot, but I admire Watterson for ending it when he did, on his own terms, and with such optimism and class: “It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy…let’s go exploring!”
    It was funny, insightful and thought-provoking by turns, and always delightful.

  2. John P. Baumlin

    I came back to add that, but you beat me to it, Charley! He did things especially with the Sunday installments that really pushed the limits of what could be done with the format and space he had available and the linework itself was always beautiful.

  3. Rob Hummer

    Still dreaming since that sad winter afternoon of ’95, gazing at the final strip as it appeared in that Sunday’s comics, that perhaps Mr. Watterson has yet to reveal to the world just one more book compilation of C&H strips he’s secretly been working on in the intervening years. What a magical day that’d most certainly be, being able to again experience his wit, outstanding artistic talent, and varied insights about the world.
    John’s above comments say it very well. The comics lost something truly special and monumental when C&H were gone and have yet to see that same magic return.

  4. David C. Lewis

    Thanks for this post. I’m also a great admirer of Bill Watterson, for his art, and for his integrity. Good to know he’s doing well. I think he was right to retire Calvin and Hobbes before he got bored with it. But I do wish he’d share whatever art he is doing. Even simple watercolor landscapes. The man had an extraordinary amount of talent. Remember the dinosaur painting on the back of one his C&H collections? Wonderful!

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