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Elusive 'Calvin and Hobbes' Creator Bill Watterson Actually Gave an Interview

We've been living in a post-Calvin and Hobbes world for almost twice as long as the comic strip ran. On Dec. 31, 1995, Bill Watterson published the final Calvin and Hobbes strip and then disappeared from public life. He pops up every once in awhile for a gallery, but for the most part, Watterson has shun any spotlight.

This is why it was surprising to learn that Mental Floss snagged an interview with Watterson. The interview is short and was done over email, but there are still a few interesting tidbits in there. The most intriguing part was when Watterson talked about his battle to protect Calvin and Hobbes from being merchandised and for more space on the comics pages.

Just to be clear, I did not have incredible autonomy until afterward. I had signed most of my rights away in order to get syndicated, so I had no control over what happened to my own work, and I had no legal position to argue anything. I could not take the strip with me if I quit, or even prevent the syndicate from replacing me, so I was truly scared I was going to lose everything I cared about either way. I made a lot of impassioned arguments for why a work of art should reflect the ideas and beliefs of its creator, but the simple fact was that my contract made that issue irrelevant. It was a grim, sad time. Desperation makes a person do crazy things.

Watterson's fight to keep Calvin and Hobbes from being turned into a merchandising machine (think The Simpsons) is legendary. It's hard to even name another creative property in today's world that hasn't been turned into plush toys, greeting cards and (if you're unlucky) a DreamWorks Animated movie featuring pop songs and celebrity voice cameos. That never happened to Calvin and Hobbes.

Here's the weird part: The story surrounding this merchandising fight, to the best of my knowledge, was always that Watterson drew the line in the sand, that he said merchandising would never happen. To see him tell Mental Floss that he "had no legal position to argue anything" doesn't jive with the story we've been told for years. If his syndicate could do whatever they wanted, where did his fight come in?

If only Watterson wasn't so detached from Calvin and Hobbes now. I'm not saying he should dive back into the strip (of course, if he wanted to, I wouldn't protest), but it was be nice if he could open up more about it. As a cartoonist and creative person, Watterson inspired an entire generation of people with Calvin and Hobbes. We would love to hear more about his time on the strip.
Elusive 'Calvin and Hobbes' Creator Bill Watterson Actually Gave an Interview Reviewed by Bill Kuchman on 10/18/2013 Rating: 5

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