Bill Watterson Lives!
Bill Watterson, the cartoonist who created the beloved comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes,” is a notorious recluse – so much so that he has been called the J.D. Salinger of the cartooning world. Watterson hasn’t been seen or heard from since he announced his retirement – and the end of Calvin and Hobbes – back in 1995. So it came as a surprise yesterday to see that Watterson allowed himself to be interviewed by the Cleveland Plain Dealer in a story published on Feb. 1. This is his first interview since 1989. When asked why he ended his strip after just 10 years of newspaper publication, Watterson said “It's always better to leave the party early. If I had rolled along with the strip's popularity and repeated myself for another five, 10 or 20 years, the people now "grieving" for "Calvin and Hobbes" would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher, livelier talent. And I'd be agreeing with them.”
Nevin Martell is one person who disagrees with that sentiment. He recently published the book Looking for Calvin and Hobbes, in which he chronicles the story of the strip and details his personal quest to track down Bill Watterson. Martell never got the chance to interview Watterson (his letter of request went unanswered), but he did interview many other people close to Watterson who could provide insights into the cartoonist’s life, inspirations, and motivations. The lack of Watterson’s voice makes the book largely speculative, but it is fun to read other cartoonists praising Watterson and recounting their love for the 6-year-old boy and his tiger. Notable fans of Watterson’s include humorist Dave Barry, author Jonathan Lethem, and cartoonist Bill Amend (creator of the strip FoxTrot). In fact, nearly every contemporary cartoonist or graphic novelist considers themselves to have been influenced or inspired by Watterson. I think that speaks to the legacy of Calvin and Hobbes – a legacy that Watterson himself downplays, desiring only to return to his quiet, private life in the Cleveland suburbs. Fortunately for his millions of fans, Watterson has donated his original artwork to the Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University in Columbus. In museums and in comic books, Calvin and Hobbes will live forever.