|Born||William Boyd Watterson II
July 5, 1958
Washington, D.C., USA
|Known for||Calvin and Hobbes
|Spouse(s)||Melissa Richmond (October 8, 1983 – present)|
William Boyd "Bill" Watterson II (born July 5, 1958) is an American artist and the author of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, which was syndicated from 1985 to 1995. Watterson stopped drawing Calvin and Hobbes at the end of 1995 with a short statement to newspaper editors and his readers that he felt he had achieved all he could in the medium. Watterson is known for his views on licensing and comic syndication and his move back into private life after drawing Calvin and Hobbes came to a close.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Career
- 3 End of Calvin and Hobbes
- 4 Legacy
- 5 Notes
- 6 Sources
- 7 External links
Bill Watterson was born in Washington, D.C. where his father, James G. Watterson (born 1932) worked as a patent attorney. The family relocated to Chagrin Falls, Ohio in 1965 when Watterson was six years old because his mother, Kathryn, wanted to be closer to her family and felt the small town was a good place to raise children.
Watterson, who drew his first cartoon at age eight, spent much time in childhood alone, drawing and cartooning. This continued through his school years, during which time he discovered comic strips like Pogo, Krazy Kat, and Charles Schulz' Peanuts which subsequently inspired and influenced his desire to become a professional cartoonist. On one occasion, when he was in fourth grade, he wrote a letter to Charles Schulz, who—to Watterson's surprise—responded, making a big impression on him at the time. His parents encouraged him in his artistic pursuits. Later they would recall him as a "conservative child"—imaginative, but "not in a fantasy way", and certainly nothing like the character of Calvin he would later create. Watterson found avenues for his cartooning talents throughout primary and secondary school, creating high school-themed super hero comics with his friends and contributing cartoons and art to the school paper, and yearbook.
From 1976 to 1980, Watterson attended Kenyon College and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. Although he had already decided upon a career in cartooning, he felt his studies would help him move into editorial cartooning. While at college he continued to develop his art skills—during his final year he painted Michelangelo's Creation of Adam on the ceiling of his dorm room. He also contributed cartoons to the college newspaper, some of which included the original "Spaceman Spiff" cartoons.[a]
Later, when Watterson was creating names for the characters in his comic strip, he decided upon Calvin (after the Protestant reformer John Calvin) and Hobbes (after the social philosopher Thomas Hobbes), allegedly as a "tip of the hat" to the political science department at Kenyon. In "The Complete Calvin And Hobbes," Watterson stated that Calvin is named for "a 16th-century theologian who believed in predestination," and Hobbes for "a 17th-century philosopher with a dim view of human nature."
Jim Borgman had graduated from Kenyon before Watterson arrived, and his work as a political cartoonist so impressed Bill that he decided to pursue a career as one himself. Borgman worked at The Cincinnati Enquirer and encouraged and advised Watterson through his student years. When Watterson graduated in 1980, he was offered a 6-month trial as a political cartoonist for The Cincinnati Post. Things didn't quite work out as expected. Watterson soon found himself out of his depth and unable to live up to the expectations of his editor. Having never been a resident prior to commencing work, he found the politics of the "weird, three-party, city manager government" to be a steep learning curve, and one that he never had a chance to fully understand before finding his employment abruptly terminated.
He then joined a small advertising agency and worked there for four years as a designer, creating grocery advertisements while also working on his own projects including development of his own cartoon strip and contributions to Target: The Political Cartoon Quarterly.
Rise to success
Watterson has said he works for personal fulfillment. As he told the graduating class of 1990 at Kenyon College, "It's surprising how hard we'll work when the work is done just for ourselves." Calvin and Hobbes was first published on November 18, 1985. In Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book, he wrote that his influences included Charles Schulz for Peanuts; Walt Kelly for Pogo and George Herriman for Krazy Kat. Watterson wrote the introduction to the first volume of The Komplete Kolor Krazy Kat. Watterson's style also reflects the influence of Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland.
Like many artists, Watterson incorporated elements of his life, interests, beliefs and values into his work—for example, his hobby as a cyclist, memories of his own father's speeches about 'building character', and his views on merchandising and corporations. Watterson's cat, Sprite, very much inspired the personality and physical features of Hobbes.
Watterson spent much of his career trying to change the climate of newspaper comics. He believed that the artistic value of comics was being undermined, and that the space they occupied in newspapers continually decreased, subject to arbitrary whims of shortsighted publishers. Furthermore, he opined that art should not be judged by the medium for which it is created (i.e., there is no "high" art or "low" art—just art).
Fight against merchandising the cartoon characters
For years Watterson battled against pressure from publishers to merchandise his work, something he felt would cheapen his comic. He refused to merchandise his creations on the grounds that displaying Calvin and Hobbes images on commercially sold mugs, stickers and T-shirts would devalue the characters and their personalities. Watterson said that Universal kept putting pressure on him and added that his contract, which he said he signed without fully perusing it because he was so happy about finding a syndicate willing to give him a chance (which two syndicates had denied Watterson) was so one-sided that if Universal really wanted to, they could fire him but continue Calvin and Hobbes with a new artist. Watterson's position eventually won out and he was able to renegotiate his contract so that he would receive all rights to his work, but later added that he had become so burnt out by the fight that he took a nine-month sabbatical in 1991.
Despite Watterson's efforts, many unofficial knockoffs have been found, including college T-shirts which show Calvin and Hobbes binge drinking or Calvin urinating on a logo. Watterson has said that only "thieves and vandals" have made money off of Calvin and Hobbes.
End of Calvin and Hobbes
Watterson announced the end of Calvin and Hobbes on November 9, 1995, with the following letter to newspaper editors:
I will be stopping Calvin and Hobbes at the end of the year. This was not a recent or an easy decision, and I leave with some sadness. My interests have shifted, however, and I believe I've done what I can do within the constraints of daily deadlines and small panels. I am eager to work at a more thoughtful pace, with fewer artistic compromises. I have not yet decided on future projects, but my relationship with Universal Press Syndicate will continue.
That so many newspapers would carry Calvin and Hobbes is an honor I'll long be proud of, and I've greatly appreciated your support and indulgence over the last decade. Drawing this comic strip has been a privilege and a pleasure, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity.
The last strip of Calvin and Hobbes was published on December 31, 1995.
After Calvin and Hobbes
Since the conclusion of Calvin and Hobbes, Watterson has taken up painting, at one point drawing landscapes of the woods with his father. Watterson has kept away from the public eye and has given no indication of resuming the strip, creating new works based on the strip's characters, or embarking on other projects, though he has published several anthologies of Calvin and Hobbes strips. He will not sign autographs or license his characters, staying true to his stated principles.
In previous years, Watterson was known to sneak autographed copies of his books onto the shelves of the Fireside Bookshop, a family-owned bookstore in his hometown of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. However, after discovering that some were selling the autographed books online for high prices, he ended this practice as well. Valuing privacy, he is reluctant to give interviews or make public appearances. His lengthiest interview was featured as the cover story in The Comics Journal No. 127 in February 1989. He drew a new Calvin and Hobbes cover for that issue of the magazine as well.
In the years that followed the end of Calvin and Hobbes, many attempts were made to locate Watterson in his hometown of Chagrin Falls. Both The Plain Dealer and the Cleveland Scene sent reporters in 1998 and 2003, respectively, but were unable to locate him.
In 2004, Watterson and his wife Melissa bought a home in the Cleveland suburb of Cleveland Heights, Ohio. In 2005, they completed the move from their home in Chagrin Falls to their new residence.
In 2005, Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post sent Watterson the first edition of the Barnaby book, as an incentive, hoping to land an interview. Weingarten passed the book, along with a message, to Watterson's parents, and declared he would wait in his hotel for as long as it took Watterson to contact him. Watterson's editor Lee Salem called the next day to tell Weingarten that the cartoonist would not be coming.
In October 2005, Watterson answered 15 questions submitted by readers. In October 2007, Watterson wrote a review of Schulz and Peanuts, a biography of Charles Schulz, in The Wall Street Journal. In 2008, he provided a foreword for the first book collection of Richard Thompson's Cul De Sac comic strip.
In early 2010, Watterson was interviewed by The Plain Dealer on the 15th anniversary of the end of Calvin and Hobbes. Explaining his decision to discontinue the strip, he said,
This isn't as hard to understand as people try to make it. By the end of ten years, I'd said pretty much everything I had come there to say. 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, ten, or twenty 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. I think some of the reason Calvin and Hobbes still finds an audience today is because I chose not to run the wheels off it. I've never regretted stopping when I did.
In April 2011, a representative for Andrews McMeel received a package from a "William Watterson in Cleveland Heights, Ohio", which contained a 6" x 8" oil-on-board painting of Cul De Sac character Petey Otterloop, done by Watterson for the Team Cul de Sac fundraising project for Parkinson's Disease. His syndicate, which has since become Universal Uclick, has said that the painting was the first new artwork from Watterson that the syndicate has seen since Calvin and Hobbes ended in 1995.
In October 2013, the magazine Mental Floss published an interview with Watterson, only the second since the strip ended. Watterson again confirmed that he would not be revisiting Calvin and Hobbes, and that he was satisfied with his decision. Watterson also gave his opinion on the changes in the comic book industry and where it would be headed in future:
Personally, I like paper and ink better than glowing pixels, but to each his own. Obviously the role of comics is changing very fast. On the one hand, I don’t think comics have ever been more widely accepted or taken as seriously as they are now. On the other hand, the mass media is disintegrating, and audiences are atomizing. I suspect comics will have less widespread cultural impact and make a lot less money. I’m old enough to find all this unsettling, but the world moves on. All the new media will inevitably change the look, function, and maybe even the purpose of comics, but comics are vibrant and versatile, so I think they’ll continue to find relevance one way or another. But they definitely won’t be the same as what I grew up with.
Watterson wrote a brief, tongue-in-cheek autobiography in the late 1980s.
Changing the format of the Sunday strip
Watterson was critical of the prevailing format for the Sunday comic strip that was in place when he began drawing (and to varying degrees, still is). The typical layout consists of three rows with eight total squares, which takes up half a page if published with its normal size. Since some newspapers are restricted with space for their Sunday features, they often reduce the size of the strip. One of the more common ways is to cut the top two panels out, which Watterson believed forced him to waste the space on throwaway jokes that did not always fit the strip. While he was set to return from his first sabbatical, Watterson discussed with his syndicate a new format for Calvin and Hobbes that would enable him to use his space more efficiently and would almost require the papers his strip ran in to publish it as a half-page. Universal agreed that they would sell the strip as the half-page and nothing else, which garnered anger from papers and criticism for Watterson from both editors and some of his fellow cartoonists (which he described as "unnecessarily hot tempered"). Eventually, Universal compromised and agreed to offer papers a choice between the full half-page or a reduced-sized version as to alleviate concerns about the size issue. Although Watterson conceded that this caused him to lose space in many papers, he said that in the end it was a benefit because he felt that he was giving the papers' readers a better strip for their money and editors were free to not run Calvin and Hobbes at their own risk; he added that he was not going to apologize for drawing a popular feature.
Awards and honors
- 1986: Reuben Award, Cartoonist of the Year
- 1988: Reuben Award, Cartoonist of the Year
- 1988: National Cartoonists Society, Newspaper Comic Strips Humor Award
- 1988: Sproing Award, for Tommy og Tigern (Calvin and Hobbes)
- 1989: Harvey Award, Special Award for Humor, for Calvin and Hobbes
- 1990: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
- 1990: Max & Moritz Prize, Best Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
- 1991: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
- 1991: Adamson Award, for Kalle och Hobbe (Calvin and Hobbes)
- 1992: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
- 1992: Eisner Award, Best Comic Strip Collection, for The Revenge of the Baby-Sat
- 1992: Angoulême International Comics Festival, Prize for Best Foreign Comic Book, for En avant tête de thon!
- 1992: Eisner Award, Best Comic Strip Collection, for Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons
- 1993: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
- 1994: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
- 1995: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
- 1996: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
- 2014: Grand Prix, Angoulême International Comics Festival
In 2001, Watterson was contacted by the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University about a possible exhibition of his work. Watterson agreed to participate and decided to highlight his Sunday strips. He chose thirty-six of his favorites, displaying them with both the original drawing and the colored finished product, and for nearly all of them had some sort of annotation added. Watterson also wrote an accompanying essay that served as the foreword for the exhibit. The exhibition was called "Calvin and Hobbes: Sunday Pages 1985-1995" and was opened on September 10, 2001. It was taken down in January 2002, and an accompanying published catalogue with the same title as the exhibit came out as well.
- Many of these early cartoons are archived online.
- Tim Hulsizer (2002). "A Short Biography of Bill Watterson". Retrieved 2009-09-01.
- Watterson, Bill (1995). The Calvin & Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book, p. 17. Andrews McMeel Publishing, Kansas City, Missouri. ISBN 0-7407-7794-7
- Gene Williams (August 30, 1987), "Calvin's Other Alter Ego", Cleveland Plain Dealer
- Nevin Martell (2009), Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip. Continuum.
- Bill Watterson (20 May 1990), "Some Thoughts On the Real World By One Who Glimpsed It and Fled", Kenyon College Commencement Speech
- "Rare Bill Watterson Art".
- Andrew Christie (1987). "Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes on cartooning, syndicates, Garfield, Charles Schulz, and editors". Honk Magazine, Issue 2. Archived from the original on February 18, 2006. Retrieved 2006-03-17.
- Bill Watterson (2005). "Introduction". The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. Andrew McMeel. pp. 491 (Book 1). ISBN 0-7407-4847-5.
- Watterson, Bill (1995). Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book. Andrews and McMeel. p. 21. ISBN 0-8362-0438-7.
- "Winsor McCay: Little Nemo; Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend". Bob's Comics Reviews. November 1996.
- Winsor McCay, Richard Marschall (1987). "An Incredible Ride To the End: An appreciation by Bill Watterson". The Best of Little Nemo in Slumberland. Stewart, Tabori, & Chang. p. 195. ISBN 1-55670-647-2. Retrieved 2006-03-17.
- Watterson, Bill (1995). Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book. Andrews and McMeel. p. 173. ISBN 0-8362-0438-7.
- Watterson, Bill (1995). Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book. Andrews and McMeel. p. 22. ISBN 0-8362-0438-7.
- Bill Watterson (1995). The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book. Andrews McMeel. p. 208. ISBN 0-8362-0438-7.
- Bill Watterson (October 27, 1989). "The Cheapening of the Comics". Festival of Cartoon Art, Ohio State University. Archived from the original on February 10, 2006. Retrieved 2006-03-17.
- Watterson, Bill (1995). Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book. Andrews and McMeel. p. 10. ISBN 0-8362-0438-7.
- "Calvin and Hobbes creator stays out of view, even at debut of collected strips". October 24, 2005.
- "http://www.tcj.com/the-comics-journal-no-127-february-1989/". November 4, 2013.
- Bill Watterson (December 21, 1999). "Drawn into a Dark But Gentle World". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2006-03-17.
- Tucker, Neely (October 4, 2005), "The Tiger Strikes Again", The Washington Post.
- Milicia, Joe (October 22, 2005), Calvin and Hobbes Creator Keeps Privacy, Associated Press.
- "Fans From Around the World Interview Bill Watterson". Andrews McMeel. October 4, 2005. Retrieved 2006-03-17.
- Bill Watterson (October 12, 2007). "The Grief That Made 'Peanuts' Good". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2008-08-27.
- John Campanelli (February 1, 2010). "Bill Watterson, creator of beloved 'Calvin and Hobbes' comic strip looks back with no regrets". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved 2010-02-01.
- Washington Post: "THIS JUST IN: First new art from ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ creator in 16 years, syndicate says", April 22, 2011.
- "Mental Floss Exclusive: Our Interview with Bill Watterson!". Mental Floss. October 17, 2013.
- Cohen, Nicole. "'Calvin & Hobbes' Creator Pens His First Public Comic In 18 Years". NPR. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
- Bill Watterson. "The Brief Tongue-in-Cheek Autobiography of Bill Watterson". Retrieved 2008-05-18.
- Watterson, Bill (1995). Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book. Andrews and McMeel. p. 14. ISBN 0-8362-0438-7.
- "Reuben Award Winners 1946–Present". National Cartoonist Society. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Bill Watterson|
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- Rare Bill Watterson Art at Calvin and Hobbes: Magic on Paper
- "After an Early Bedtime, Calvin and Hobbes Are Up and Running in a New Collection" – Washington Post book review including broad look at Watterson's career
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- Bill Watterson's commencement speech, Kenyon College, Calvin and Hobbes at Martijn's – Bill Watterson, Bill Watterson’s Kenyon commencement speech Bill Watterson's Commencement Address to Kenyon College, May 20, 1990