Dear Mr. Watterson

In my pantheon of comic strip artists, Bill Watterson is way up high in the lonely clouds.  He’ll probably be in the company of other insanely great cartoonists (Charles Schulz, Patrick McDonnell, Winsor McCay, George Herriman), but his chair will still be a little higher than the others.

Calvin And Hobbes, when I first read it, had already been running for a few years, and its universe and philosophy was fairly well established.  It immediately struck me how original and solipsistic this strip was, how unlike any other.  It may well have existed on a world of its own, like the Little Prince or, indeed, Spaceman Spiff.

The best part about the cartoon was the obvious self-evidence with which Calvin takes his view on the world as the real one.  His teachers are aliens, and he is Godzilla, barging through downtown Tokyo.   At the risk of sounding narcissistic, it helped me come to terms with my own feeling that the way I saw the world differed immensely from other people’s views.

And I’m not alone – ten years after Watterson decided to end Calvin and Hobbes with the most beautiful page of white ever (except for the “Where to look for him” scene in Tintin in Tibet, perhaps), four young filmmakers have created “Dear Mr Watterson“, a letter from fans to Calvin’s dad, thanking him for what he did, and expressing why his work was so important for them.  Among them many “ordinary” fans, but also cartoonists like Keith Knight, amazed at how Watterson got everything right.

And that’s the thing – Calvin and Hobbes may only have ran for about ten years, not one strip was below par.  That’s why Watterson’s chair will always be that little bit higher than the thrones my other heroes are sitting on.  Thank you, Mr. Watterson.

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One Response to Dear Mr. Watterson

  1. Bengo says:

    Pug gave me the deluxe, three volume hard bound collection for my birthday and I just finished it. I went to college with Watterson (we weren’t acquainted) and there is a trove of political cartoons from the school paper that embarrass him but which I saved for years and may still have.

    One thing that strikes me upon re-read is the incredible number of facial expressions he executed — more than most human faces. My specialty is the mouth, and I will be studying his art for the rest of my life to understand how he managed all those variations.

    I stood next to him in the lunch line a few times, and mutual friends got him talking. I could tell he preferred silence, though maybe he was just hungry. I can barely speak at meal time.

    One way I am grateful is he didn’t license merchandise. This took great restraint. Bill Watterson could have been a billionaire, but he had other ideas. I have no issue with licensing some quality toys, but so many authors (hello, JK Rowling) license rubbish and more rubbish.

    I hope he is happy. I hope he is loved by people who love him for something besides his art.


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