Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Who is Bill Watterson? He created the newspaper comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, which ran from 1985 to 1995. You remember that, right? It was about a little boy named Calvin, his toy tiger Hobbes, and their adventures together in his imagination. I loved it from the first time I saw it, which was surprising even to me since I didn't really like newspaper comic strips otherwise, and never have. Very unusually for such a wildly popular comic strip, Watterson never let the characters be merchandised (in stark contrast to Peanuts or Garfield, for example). So there never were any Calvin and Hobbes toys, or cartoons, or coffee mugs, or calendars. Only reprinted collections of the strip itself. (That's the first ever one above, which I still have.) And then in 1995, Watterson abruptly quit doing even the strip itself, and Calvin and Hobbes disappeared forever.
You may not recognize the name Bill Watterson for those reasons alone. But there's more. Following the death of J.D. Salinger, Watterson may now have assumed the mantle of most fiercely reclusive artist/celebrity in America. He hasn't given an interview since 1989. Yet he just responded to a few questions via e-mail from the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper (he lives in the area, apparently), which you can read HERE.
Watterson doesn't give away too much in his short, prosaic responses. But when asked about why he quit the strip abruptly after only 10 years he explained, "This isn't as hard to understand as people try to make it. By the end of 10 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, 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."