Bill Watterson: “No regrets” about ending ‘Calvin and Hobbes’
As the world says goodbye to one famous recluse (and starts the feast on his corpse), another pokes his head out of the shadows for a quick “Hi!” Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, tells the Cleveland Plain Dealer he has “no regrets” about ending the beloved comic strip.
“By the end of 10 years, I’d said pretty much everything I’d come there to say,” says the genius cartoonist, who is often compared to J.D. Salinger.
Can it really be 15 years since Calvin and Hobbes went away? Watterson ended the strip in 1995 at the height of its popularity, syndicated in more then 2,400 newspapers. In a brief note, he cited changing interests, the burden of deadlines and shrinking panels.
As reporter John Campanelli notes in an accompanying story, the demands of fame played a role in Watterson’s decision. He quotes a 1987 interview in which Watterson said he was “shell shocked” by the sudden attention: “The celebrity aspect of the job has taken me aback and I really can’t stand it.”
In another related story, Sun Newspapers executive editor Linda Kinsey remembers Watterson’s earlier career as a brilliant political cartoonist. It includes samples of the work.
Readers devoted to the strip took the loss personally (not me!). For some, the mourning hasn’t ended.
“Still, people come up to me, and they grieve the loss of Calvin and Hobbes,” says Lucy Caswell, curator of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University, where all but about a hundred of Watterson’s more than 3,000 original strips are housed.
Still living in the Cleveland area, Waterson agreed to an email exchange. Campanelli did not actually sit down with the artist for a traditional interview
Watterson’s wit comes through nonetheless. When Campanelli compares his fame to that of a rock star, Watterson replies, “Ah, the life of a newspaper cartoonist — how I miss the groupies, drugs and trashed hotel rooms!”
But Waterson says celebrity has faded, allowing him to go about his business — proud of the strip, grateful for its success, flattered that people still read it. “But I wrote Calvin and Hobbes in my 30s,” he says, “and I’m many miles from there.”
The USPS will issue a Calvin and Hobbes postage stamp later this year. Campanelli asks Watterson how soon he’ll send a letter with one
“Immediately,” Watterson replies. “I’m going to get in my horse and buggy and snail-mail a check for my newspaper subscription.”
If you’re like me, all this does is make you miss Calvin and Hobbes anew. Don’t you hate it when some sober adult puts things in perspective?
“It seems to me that any creative person has the right to decide if they are or they are not going to make their art,” Caswell says. “We on the outside can’t judge whether or not it was the right thing for him.”