Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and his Revolutionary Comic Strip
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For ten years, Calvin and Hobbes was one the world's most beloved comic strips. And then, on the last day of 1995, the strip ended. Its mercurial and reclusive creator, Bill Watterson, not only finished the strip but withdrew entirely from public life.
In Looking for Calvin and Hobbes, Nevin Martell sets out on a very personal odyssey to understand the life and career of the intensely private man behind Calvin and Hobbes. Martell talks to a wide range of artists and writers (including Dave Barry, Harvey Pekar, and Brad Bird) as well as some of Watterson's closest friends and professional colleagues, and along the way reflects upon the nature of his own fandom and on the extraordinary legacy that Watterson left behind. This is as close as we're ever likely to get to one of America's most ingenious and intriguing figures - and it's the fascinating story of an intrepid author's search for him, too.
company were seeing this big money coming in and were saying “Why don’t you do make these other strips as popular as Peanuts and Garfield and then we can all make a lot more money?”” Hendin related to me. “Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. You can’t spend money to make a great comic strip; you have to ﬁnd the right person to make a great comic strip.” To determine which strips had the most commercial potential, Scripps insisted United use focus groups for their untested comic strips.
reﬂected in Watterson’s deft ﬁguring and lush landscaping, the central conceits of the strips are somewhat similar. Here’s a boy with an imaginary friend who can affect the real world, though he was usually too lazy or ineffectual to do so. The pie-eyed boy also sometimes goes on fantastical adventures with the Fairy Godfather, though he never transforms himself into another character or alter ego. A juxtaposition of Tigger from Winnie the Pooh with Hobbes yields further similarities. “Tigger is
wariness over his unexpected fame. He reveals that he almost instantly A Boy and His Tiger 89 started getting fan mail when the strip started, along with requests for autographs and original art. “They all want something,” he declared. “It was kind of disturbing at ﬁrst. It surprises me . . . that there’s any element of fame in this.” West concurs, “The success of Calvin and Hobbes caught him by surprise. He wasn’t standing there waiting for the parade to begin; his expectations were very
puzzling to Universal, whose other artists were pestering them for the kinds of offers that Watterson was reﬂexively turning down. After all, who doesn’t want to be successful and earn a boatload of money? Well, Watterson didn’t. Everyone at Universal quickly realized that Watterson’s dream was vastly different and that this new-found fame was more like a nightmare to him. Watterson wasn’t just uncomfortable with his characters becoming ubiquitous; he was worried about becoming ubiquitous
collections for the local bookstore, Fireside Books. Besides that, he kept a low proﬁle. In comparison to the onehit wonders who still tour the state fair circuit, desperately seeking applause for their one moment in the sun, this self-obscuration was highly unusual — though not entirely surprising in Watterson’s case. He had never been comfortable with the idea of being a celebrity when his work was popular, so why would he suddenly want to be one now? Enigma and mystery are in short supply in