|Born||William Boyd Watterson II
July 5, 1958
Washington, D.C., USA
|Known for||Calvin and Hobbes
|Spouse(s)||Melissa Richmond (October 8, 1983 â€“ 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 years and education
- 2 Early career
- 3 Rise to success
- 4 End of Calvin and Hobbes
- 5 Legacy
- 6 Awards
- 7 Notes
- 8 Sources
- 9 External links
Early years and education
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, whoâ€”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"â€”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 skillsâ€”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 workâ€”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" artâ€”just art).
Fight against merchandising the cartoon characters
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. Despite this, many unofficial knockoffs have been found, including college T-shirts which show Calvin and Hobbes binge drinking or Calvin urinating on a logo.
Watterson was awarded the National Cartoonists Society's Humor Comic Strip Award in 1988 and the society's Reuben Award in 1986; he was the youngest person ever to receive the latter award. In 1988, Watterson received the Reuben Award a second time. He was nominated a third time in 1992.
Watterson wrote a brief, tongue-in-cheek autobiography in the late 1980s.
From September 10, 2001, to January 16, 2002, Ohio State University's Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum exhibited 36 of his Sunday strips, all of which can be seen in 2001's Calvin and Hobbes: The Sunday Pages 1985â€“1995.
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.
Since the end of 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 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 donâ€™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. Iâ€™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 theyâ€™ll continue to find relevance one way or another. But they definitely wonâ€™t be the same as what I grew up with.
Changing the format of the Sunday strip
Watterson opposed the structure publishers imposed on Sunday newspaper cartoons: the standard cartoon starts with a large, wide rectangle featuring the cartoon's logo or a throwaway panel tangential to the main area so that newspapers pressed for space can remove the top third of the cartoon if they wish; the rest of the strip is presented in a series of rectangles of different widths. In Watterson's opinion, this format limited the cartoonist's options of allowable presentation. After his sabbatical year in 1991 he managed to gain an exception to these constraints for Calvin and Hobbes, allowing him to draw his Sunday strip the way he wanted. In many, panels overlap or contain their own panels; in some, the action progresses diagonally across the strip.
- 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: AngoulÃªme International Comics Festival, Prize for Best Foreign Comic Book, for En avant tÃªte 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
- 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.
- "Reuben Award Winners 1946â€“Present". National Cartoonist Society. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
- Bill Watterson. "The Brief Tongue-in-Cheek Autobiography of Bill Watterson". Retrieved 2008-05-18.
- "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 â€˜Calvin and Hobbesâ€™ creator in 16 years, syndicate says", April 22, 2011.
- "Mental Floss Exclusive: Our Interview with Bill Watterson!". Mental Floss. October 17, 2013.
- Watterson, Bill (1995). Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book. Andrews and McMeel. p. 14. ISBN 0-8362-0438-7.
|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
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- Bill Watterson's commencement speech, Kenyon College, Calvin and Hobbes at Martijn's â€“ Bill Watterson, Bill Wattersonâ€™s Kenyon commencement speech Bill Watterson's Commencement Address to Kenyon College, May 20, 1990