Bill Watterson Speakson March 20, 2014 at 11:29 am
Just finished reading the Bill Waterson interview in Mental Floss. Honestly it’s more of a profile; if you really want to hear what Bill Waterson has to say in his own words, you’re better off reading the snippet they put online. Given that he gives so few public appearences or interviews, I felt it was a bit of a wasted opportunity on the part of Mental Floss. They asked him a lot of questions about why he quit Calvin and Hobbes and other stuff he’s already gone on the record about. It was nice to hear he enjoys Pixar movies but dude, ask him about contemporary graphic novels. Has he read Chris Ware or Chester Brown? The world may never know. Also they failed to ask him if he’s been making comics!!!
Anyway, the piece got me thinking about comics, strips and the business side of this industry. There’s so much to unpack about the guy, I could really go on all day.
Firstly, the strip only ran for 10 years!!! It’s been not running twice as long as it ran. I guess you could say the Beattles were only together 6 years but they were 6 very important years for a generation of baby boomers. The 10 years that Calvin and Hobbes ran covered my formative years: 5th grade through university. At age 10, they were the gateway drug that eventually got me into reading the newspaper. At age 20, when I made my first comic book, it served as a model to aspire towards. For a lot of cartoonists my age, Bill Watterson is one of their earliest and biggest influences.
Secondly, two of Bill Watterson’s hobbyhorses that I’ve always admired have been his anti-consumerist stance and his constant rallying against shrinking comics space in the newspaper. Given the influence on my generation of cartoonists, why the heck are 70% of webcomics black and white 3 panel gag strips held afloat by T-Shirt and coffee mug slaes? You don’t have to run some McCloudian infinite canvas funded by bitcoin micropayments. But c’mon, just a little splash of color, people!
Lastly, why the hell doesn’t Bill Waterson write a graphic novel or just print up a book of original Sunday strips? The collections do gangbusters. I can only imagine what a new book of original Sunday comics would do. For someone who doesn’t seem like he craves external validation, he’s really letting the newspaper syndicates torpedo his artistic ambition. As a cartoonist myself, it’s hard to imagine anything like a format adjustment causing me to throw up my hands, and say “I quit”, put down my pen forever and walk away. And I’m not even a great cartoonist; I don’t have a 10 year run of Calvin and Hobbes in my file cabinet. I’d like to think Bill Waterson has been secretly working on some magnum opus that he’ll drop on the world when he’s ready. But who knows. Maybe he’s just watching Pixar movies and calling it a life.