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Repetition is the death of magic.
October 17, 2013 10:08 AM   Subscribe

Mental Floss interview with Bill Watterson.
posted by asperity (109 comments total) 72 users marked this as a favorite

 
Holy crap.
posted by Napierzaza at 10:11 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


!!!!!!!!! I type and retype "What a scoop!" but the phrase is just not up to the task of conveying what it needs to.

Off to read more closely. And then to find myself a print copy so I can read the rest.
posted by erlking at 10:13 AM on October 17, 2013


Amazing. Really thoughtful questions too. My favorite:

Owing to spite or just a foul mood, have you ever peeled one of those stupid Calvin stickers off of a pickup truck?
I figure that, long after the strip is forgotten, those decals are my ticket to immortality.


Your ticket was punched long ago, Mr. Watterson.
posted by SpiffyRob at 10:14 AM on October 17, 2013 [28 favorites]


Wow, a rare treat.

To be honest though, I kinda wish the interviewer had moved away from the things we all already know - he's private! he doesn't license things! those peeing stickers! - and asked Bill about more current things. What comics does he read? What shows does he watch? etc.
posted by Think_Long at 10:21 AM on October 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


Why is there a reference to The Fountainhead in the interviewer's questions?
posted by graymouser at 10:23 AM on October 17, 2013 [21 favorites]


He took being compared to Howard Roarke very well.
posted by Gin and Comics at 10:23 AM on October 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


I was idly flipping through a Calvin and Hobbes collection at the bookstore the other day, and the first page or two didn't really hold up after all this time, I found. I was getting a bit depressed, thinking that maybe it was all going to be like that, and maybe I was overrating C&H in my fond memories of childhood. Then I came across this strip and I was hooting in the aisle and all was once again right with the world.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:24 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I want to see his paintings
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:24 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why is there a reference to The Fountainhead in the interviewer's questions?

Yeah, I thought that was fucking weird, too. But then again it would be really cool to do a Calvin & Hobbes adaptation of 2112.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:24 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Owing to spite or just a foul mood, have you ever peeled one of those stupid Calvin stickers off of a pickup truck?
I figure that, long after the strip is forgotten, those decals are my ticket to immortality.


That question-answer pair made me so happy. It's tempting to paint Watterson as an antisocial maladjusted recluse of the J.D. Salinger mode and, more than once, I've heard people mention how those pissing Calvin decals must drive him one step closer to the edge every time he sees them.

It's nice to be reminded that the guy who made Calvin and Hobbes must be well-grounded and have a good sense of humour.
posted by 256 at 10:25 AM on October 17, 2013 [13 favorites]


"As a comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes works exactly the way I intended it to."

I hear this said about the best comic strips -- Nancy and The Far Side (which was animated to arguable results) spring to mind -- and it's just so true. Some things can either be fit into an adaptation in another medium, or re-imagined, or in some way not butchered, but there's no reason to even attempt it with Calvin and Hobbes. It falls short in no aspect that animating would improve.
posted by griphus at 10:32 AM on October 17, 2013


I want to see his paintings

He doesn't want to show them to you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:32 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also the older I get, the more I wish to emulate Calvin's dad, which is a success of Watterson's I didn't even see on the horizon.
posted by griphus at 10:33 AM on October 17, 2013 [65 favorites]


I have less of a problem with Calvin evilly pissing on something than that he's doing it on a competitive product logo.

Watterson almost certainly would not have drawn the former aspect, but it's less atrociously inconsistent with his work than the latter.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:33 AM on October 17, 2013


Also this is exactly right in so many ways:
The visual sophistication of Pixar blows me away, but I have zero interest in animating Calvin and Hobbes. If you’ve ever compared a film to a novel it’s based on, you know the novel gets bludgeoned. It’s inevitable, because different media have different strengths and needs, and when you make a movie, the movie’s needs get served. As a comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:33 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow. It's hard to even process that Bill Watterson is still alive, much less actually giving interviews. It's like he set out to disappear after C&H, and he really did.
posted by Curious Artificer at 10:33 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the most amazing things about Watterson is how he managed to create an unrealistic 6-year-old and make him the focal point of the greatest comic strip ever written. By unrealistic, I mean: 6-year-olds don't operate like Calvin for the most part; sure, they misbehave, they pick on girls, they goof off in school, and all that, but Calvin is an entirely different beast. He's like no other 6-year-old ever conceived, unlike any other character in literature. So many books and movies depict kids of a certain age so poorly it's like they've never even met one; it's one of my great pet peeves as a reader and filmgoer, and yet Watterson broke my rule and did it so splendidly that I am constantly in awe.

Watterman managed to paint a picture of childhood that's full of adulthood as well, without it ever ringing false. It's amazing he did that.
posted by ORthey at 10:33 AM on October 17, 2013 [20 favorites]


I'd like to use this space to really apologize to Mr. Watterson for my never ending and insatiable demand for more Calvin and Hobbes strips.

Logically... I understand, honor, and have a deep seated agreement with his choices concerning the rights and continuation of his wonderful creation. But emotionally I'm pretty much consumed by "JUST RESUME WHAT YOU WERE DOING AND TAKE MY MONEY!!!!!".

That's not to say that I'm feaning for merch, adaptations, or movies. I just want more of the same amazing comic collections to line my walls. Regardless, apologies and well-wishes sir, thanks for the good times.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:35 AM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wish someone would ask Watterson what he thought of this:

Calvin on meds

And the follow-up
posted by King Sky Prawn at 10:36 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Calvin's Dad: Role Model
posted by griphus at 10:36 AM on October 17, 2013 [31 favorites]


I wish someone would ask Watterson what he thought of this:

Oh jesus the amount of sheer fury I have at that strip (the followup is just incomprehensible) is immeasurable with modern technology.
posted by griphus at 10:37 AM on October 17, 2013 [14 favorites]


I’m assuming you’ve gotten wind of people animating your strip for YouTube? Did you ever mimic cartoonists you admired before finding your own style?

Every artist learns through imitation, but I rather doubt the aim of these things is artistic development. I assume they’re either homages or satiric riffs, and are not intended to be taken too seriously as works in their own right. Otherwise I should be talking to a copyright lawyer.
In today's legal and political climate, that's pretty damn restrained.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:37 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


griphus: "Also the older I get, the more I wish to emulate Calvin's dad, which is a success of Watterson's I didn't even see on the horizon."

I notice this in myself all the time recently. I'll be thinking through something in my head, and the reasons why I want to do it, and then a little voice floats in from some region of my personality that isn't on any of the maps I have and it says: "...and because it builds character."
posted by invitapriore at 10:38 AM on October 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


Repetition is the death of magic.

except for the drumming of Jaki Leibezeit.

Now maybe I should RTFA.
posted by philip-random at 10:41 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've just got to figure out a way to convince my wife that assigning tasks or limits, even the ones that may seem (or actually be) pointless or mundane, will serve our still-in-the-womb child well. Because Calvin's dad can't be wrong.

I'm pretty serious here.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:42 AM on October 17, 2013


It's hard to even process that Bill Watterson is still alive...

Wait.
Wat?
posted by Thorzdad at 10:42 AM on October 17, 2013


Calvin on meds

That was the most fucked-up comic in the history of fucked-upness.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:44 AM on October 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


6-year-olds don't operate like Calvin for the most part

I suspect not, and I'm sad for them. (BTW Calvin's meant to be 7, I think.) But for me and a few of my friends it's a lot like that -- Calvin absolutely speaks to the preadolescent kid I remember being, and a few of my friends were like that too. But his world is that of Watterson's childhood, I don't think most middle-class kids have that kind of environment or liberty anymore.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:44 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I read these C&H comics so differently now as a parent because in many ways it hits home. We have a precocious and imaginative seven year old who pretty much sees the world like Calvin. It is freaky. Like a commentor above, I find that I'm relating to Calvin's dad more and more these days.
posted by dgran at 10:44 AM on October 17, 2013


I wish someone would ask Watterson what he thought of this:

Calvin on meds

And the follow-up


I know it's inevitable, but I really hate any and all attempts to hijack Calvin and Hobbes like this.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:44 AM on October 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


it would be really cool to do a Calvin & Hobbes adaptation of 2112.

Spaceman Spiff finds some kind of strange stringed artifact!
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:49 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also the older I get, the more I wish to emulate Calvin's dad, which is a success of Watterson's I didn't even see on the horizon.

For as long as I can remember, I have desperately wanted to tell my kids that the sun is as big as a quarter, or that we're going to wait for December 27th and then steal somebody's discarded Christmas tree. I still refuse to go biking at dawn, though.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:49 AM on October 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


On one hand, I very, very much appreciate Watterson's dedication to the integrity of his characters - I can't imagine what would happen to Calvin and Hobbes if it were animated, but I am sure at least one of the voices would be terribly, honkingly wrong and it would ruin everything. And that's the best case scenario.

On the other hand, I would love to see some character of his animated, because his draftsmanship is so fluid and kinetic it's practically moving already.

I recall as a kid, the first time I saw Calvin and Hobbes, I thought the drawing looked crummy, but.. not the second, maybe the fourth or fifth, it clicked that this was the best rendered strip in the funnies, perhaps one of the best of all - his style nods to Herriman in his effortless-feeling virtuosity.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:50 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also the older I get, the more I wish to emulate Calvin's dad, which is a success of Watterson's I didn't even see on the horizon.

Oh, yes -- Calvin's dad is the sort of casual liar-to-children that I strive everyday to be!

It challenges them to try to synthesize what I tell them and what they observe themselves and what they are told by others. More than "question authority," it's a prompt to pick explanations and opinions, and then test them.

I figure it's one of the best things I can do for my kids...besides sharing all the Calvin & Hobbes books, that is.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:52 AM on October 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


I wish someone would ask Watterson what he thought of this:

Calvin on meds

And the follow-up


I have expressed my own feelings about it before. I don't feel like looking up the full length piece, so here is the abstract:



RAGERAGERAGERAGERAGERAGERAGERAGERAGE*spit*
posted by louche mustachio at 10:52 AM on October 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


I can't imagine what would happen to Calvin and Hobbes if it were animated...

If you dare, check out the modern animated version of Curious George to get an idea. It is an abomination. I think C&H would fare just about as badly.
posted by dgran at 10:54 AM on October 17, 2013


For anyone who never caught The Whelk's C&H commentfic, enjoy!
posted by asperity at 10:56 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


recall as a kid, the first time I saw Calvin and Hobbes, I thought the drawing looked crummy

Yes! This is what I remember too - thinking the jokes didn't work right and the drawing wasn't nice and rounded and what is up with this strip? And he lives with a tiger but sometimes it's not a real tiger, and ... The unreliable narrator, the "messy" but perfectly expressive art, it is a great teaching strip.

I love his phrase in the interview that his paintings are "catch and release... not worth the trouble to clean and cook".
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:57 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: "For as long as I can remember, I have desperately wanted to tell my kids that the sun is as big as a quarter, or that we're going to wait for December 27th and then steal somebody's discarded Christmas tree. I still refuse to go biking at dawn, though."

Aw, that's the best part of Dad-ism, assuming you include the heaping bowl of plain oatmeal. Ah, the crazy hedonism of weekends!
posted by invitapriore at 10:57 AM on October 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


My first problem is that I don’t paint ambitiously. It’s all catch and release—just tiny fish that aren’t really worth the trouble to clean and cook.

What a marvelous little metaphor. It's hard to believe some of those fish wouldn't be good eating, though.
posted by straight at 10:58 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I put bananas and blueberries in the oatmeal. Acceptable break from dogmatism, or heresy?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:58 AM on October 17, 2013


the older I get, the more I wish to emulate Calvin's dad, which is a success of Watterson's I didn't even see on the horizon.

The following is absolutely true: We were at my mother's house, and she was showing my 7 year old son (who is very Calvin-like) her collection of old family photos, dating back to just prior to 1900. He turned to me and asked (really): "Why are those old pictures all one color? Is that what the world looked like back then?"

I about fell over laughing. It was all I could do to give him the real answer instead of the Calvin's Dad answer.
posted by anastasiav at 11:00 AM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sometimes I wish I could find anything as funny as when I first got The Essential Calvin and Hobbes - I think it was a Christmas present - and every comic was funnier than the last. I mean, I can reread them but it's never the same as that first time.
posted by graymouser at 11:01 AM on October 17, 2013


Watterson recently donated a painting to Team Cul de Sac (previously), a fundraising project for Parkinson's Research in honor of Richard Thompson, the strip's artist diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.

The painting sold for $13,145 at a charity auction last year. It's a portrait of neurotic Petey Otterloop and it's pretty cool.

I have the Team Cul de Sac book and it is fantastic; Watterson's painting is reproduced full-page an' everything.
posted by Spatch at 11:04 AM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I know it's inevitable, but I really hate any and all attempts to hijack Calvin and Hobbes like this.

I don't even like most homages that don't actually hijack Calvin and Hobbes, especially that Zen Pencil's maudlin feel-good piece from a few weeks ago spinning the man's words in ZP's own brand of schmaltz. (Though I don't quite so mind the very C&H-looking parody of said schmaltz by Shortpacked! cartoonist David Willis).

Honestly, C&H fandom has all of the cloying sentimentality and "I like smart alternative works!" attitude of Joss Whedon fans, crossed with the me-too nostalgia of '90s kids.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:05 AM on October 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


So many books and movies depict kids of a certain age so poorly it's like they've never even met one; it's one of my great pet peeves as a reader and filmgoer, and yet Watterson broke my rule and did it so splendidly that I am constantly in awe.

Watterman managed to paint a picture of childhood that's full of adulthood as well, without it ever ringing false. It's amazing he did that.


Bart and Lisa Simpson are the closest comparisons I can think of.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:07 AM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


(Though I don't quite so mind the very C&H-looking parody of said schmaltz by Shortpacked! cartoonist David Willis).

I think it works because it is a parody and is subversive.

And "schmaltz" is such an apt word to use about these rip-off homages!
posted by KokuRyu at 11:07 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Coincidentally (or not?), the trailer for Dear Mr. Watterson was posted recently.
posted by starman at 11:08 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the most amazing things about Watterson is how he managed to create an unrealistic 6-year-old and make him the focal point of the greatest comic strip ever written. By unrealistic, I mean: 6-year-olds don't operate like Calvin for the most part; sure, they misbehave, they pick on girls, they goof off in school, and all that, but Calvin is an entirely different beast. He's like no other 6-year-old ever conceived, unlike any other character in literature. So many books and movies depict kids of a certain age so poorly it's like they've never even met one; it's one of my great pet peeves as a reader and filmgoer, and yet Watterson broke my rule and did it so splendidly that I am constantly in awe.

The reason it works is because, well, you and I know that six-year-olds are just little kids who don't know anything, but they think of themselves like Calvin thinks of himself. He expresses those feelings in words adults can understand, but the feelings are completely genuine to the kind of kid Calvin is. (I know this because I found my parents' stash of Calvin and Hobbes collections when I was only a couple years older than Calvin!)
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:10 AM on October 17, 2013 [13 favorites]


showbiz_liz: "The reason it works is because, well, you and I know that six-year-olds are just little kids who don't know anything, but they think of themselves like Calvin thinks of himself. He expresses those feelings in words adults can understand, but the feelings are completely genuine to the kind of kid Calvin is. (I know this because I found my parents' stash of Calvin and Hobbes collections when I was only a couple years older than Calvin!)"

Yeah, this is totally true. There's a great line from the Tenth Anniversary collection from one of Watterson's notes on a comic where he says something like "I've always admired Calvin's ability to finely articulate stupid ideas."
posted by invitapriore at 11:14 AM on October 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


I like C+H a lot, it is very very good. But it isn't the greatest comic strip ever. It isn't even the greatest comic strip starring a weird boy and his ambiguously anthropomorphic animal. It's in the top 10, for sure. But come on y'all.

Anyway, this interview was decent, but all too brief. I want more! I guess that's his style.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:16 AM on October 17, 2013


I assume he's seen Hobbes & Bacon, and I wonder what he thinks about it.
posted by elizardbits at 11:17 AM on October 17, 2013


The Kickstartered film project "Stripped" (Not the Dear Mr Watterson one) has an interview with Watterson too. Maybe he's becoming more comfortable in his skin these days.

Stripped Film site

full disclosure: I backed it.
Before they had Watterson.
I also backed Dear Mr Watterson. Twice.
So my nerd e-peen is HUGE.
posted by DigDoug at 11:19 AM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've just got to figure out a way to convince my wife that assigning tasks or limits, even the ones that may seem (or actually be) pointless or mundane, will serve our still-in-the-womb child well. Because Calvin's dad can't be wrong.

I'm pretty serious here.


Honestly, this is a benefit. Go look at the Green sometime and see all the people who think of themselves as near-computer superbeings of otherworldly intelligence but just can't bring themselves to toil through a mundane task because it's beneath them. Learning how to deal with seemingly pointless bullshit for little to no reward at the end is pretty much an essential life coping skill and may wind up being their job. It's also a useful skill if they wind up being superbeings of otherworldly intelligence because, well, just look at the Green and see all the people of otherworldly intelligence who really want to do a thing but it's a lot of hard work and why can't it just be given to them. Much as I hate to invoke the name, Reddit and elsewhere on the internet is full of people with the "I'm smart but I also don't want to do any work so I never achieved anything, how can this be?" angst.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:20 AM on October 17, 2013 [20 favorites]


I have the original, cut from the local paper, of this strip thumbtacked to a shelf in my garage. It's been hanging there since the day it was published so I'm not sure how many years that would be now, but many. It's right where I can see it when I get out of the car when I come back muddy, berry-stained, scratched up, dusty, soaking wet, sunburned, windburned or all of the above, with a filthy, tired dog, from some happy outing. It's a weirdly large part of my life. I love it so much, and also the physicality of it--I worry that something might happen to it because it's really fragile now but ooohhhh symbolism!
posted by HotToddy at 11:24 AM on October 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


Thank you DigDoug, I was going to mention the "Stripped" megadocumentary myself, which did 'get' Watterson first but has been held up interminably by the filmmakers' insistence on including everything comic-strip-wise of the last hundred years AND getting full rights clearance for them all (the last delay right now involves the rightsholders for Flash Gordon or some such). And ironically, the "Dear Mr. Watterson" docu did NOT get to talk to him (but may have been pivotal in starting to wear down his resistance).

Also, as a follow-up to Watterson's participation in the Team-Cul-De-Sac event, he will be displaying some orignal art and maybe never-before-seen art in a 'two man show' with Cul-De-Sac creator Richard Thompson at Ohio State U.'s Cartoon Library & Museum next spring.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:37 AM on October 17, 2013


Honestly, this is a benefit....

Thanks for this.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:40 AM on October 17, 2013


I like the Dear Mr Watterson take on not talking to Watterson himself. It is probably rationalization, but as a fan letter, and a thank you. They really didn't need to talk to him.
posted by DigDoug at 11:41 AM on October 17, 2013


I think it's cool that C&H appeals to such a wide swath of youth readership (adults too, but that's another topic), yet remain estranged from commercial exploitation. How easy and profitable it would have been to use their likenesses to sell just about anything to kids, and it would have been especially appealing considering the limited financial opportunities presented by a daily comic. I wonder if that would have even been possible in today's market, where anyone can just upload an image to wherever and have it turned into a t-shirt or pack of stickers. Great interview - glad he was able to finish the strip on his own terms.
posted by antonymous at 11:41 AM on October 17, 2013


Calvin is an entirely different beast. He's like no other 6-year-old ever conceived

You haven't met my son, have you?

This is the boy who, on the walk to the school bus stop, had this conversation with me:
"Dad - how's that book you're reading?"
"Which one?"
"You know - the one with the girl with the two alien body guards."
(ah - Zoe's Tale by mefi's own jscalzi) "I already finished it."
"Was there any conflict in it?"

and then when I picked him up at the bus stop, I found out he had punched out a second grader.

Literary analyst and pugilist at age 6.

He and I have been reading C&H together. He doesn't get a lot of the really high-brow ones (but sometimes asks me to explain them). He loves the physical comedy, which unfortunately I feel he is taking as a manifesto.
posted by plinth at 11:52 AM on October 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: I put bananas and blueberries in the oatmeal. Acceptable break from dogmatism, or heresy?

You are obviously a debauched libertine, and irredeemable.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:00 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Get Rid Of Slimy frugivoreS
posted by cmfletcher at 12:07 PM on October 17, 2013


BRB, ordering new business cards.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:08 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Growing up for me has meant going from wanting to be like Calvin to wanting to be like his dad.
posted by Aizkolari at 12:10 PM on October 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


I like C+H a lot, it is very very good. But it isn't the greatest comic strip ever. It isn't even the greatest comic strip starring a weird boy and his ambiguously anthropomorphic animal. It's in the top 10, for sure. But come on y'all.

What is the point of saying this?
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:12 PM on October 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: "I put bananas and blueberries in the oatmeal. Acceptable break from dogmatism, or heresy?"

[spits]

Heretic.
posted by Samizdata at 12:13 PM on October 17, 2013


What is the point of saying this?

Potomac is just building up to a rousing defense of Cathy.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 12:15 PM on October 17, 2013 [28 favorites]


ACK!!
posted by griphus at 12:16 PM on October 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


I knew I was Calvin's Dad when I started biking in the snow, and I'm like "these tires are perfect for the terrain"
posted by hellojed at 12:17 PM on October 17, 2013


You know, I'd never connected Calvin's whimsy and independence to his father's.


Wow.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:19 PM on October 17, 2013 [16 favorites]


I don't think Calvin's mom gets enough love. She has to put up with Calvin AND his dad, and is still pretty cool, which is a good trick.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:23 PM on October 17, 2013 [25 favorites]


sandettie light vessel automatic: "What is the point of saying this?

Potomac is just building up to a rousing defense of Cathy.
"

Don't know how that would work. Cathy is pretty much indefensible.
posted by Samizdata at 12:25 PM on October 17, 2013


Well, Cathy was actually mild ground-breaking when it debuted - a working, single woman! That's crazy!

Of course, 1976 was some time ago now.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:27 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's crazy!

\ | / :SWEAT LINES!:
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:32 PM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


It must be noted that Cul-De-Sac was considered the "new Calvin and Hobbes" and/or "new Peanuts" by many until Thompson had to quit it due to health. And it did occasionally feature a 'classroom Guinea Pig' named Mr. Danders who talked, but only to the kids, not the teacher. And I REALLY am happy that Watterson and Thompson have become friends (and that may have also contributed to Watterson's opening up).
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:35 PM on October 17, 2013


I don't think Calvin's mom gets enough love.

Calvin's mam reminds me so much of my late aunt when I was a child. Not sure how to articulate it. Just... cool. This wonderful mix of laughingly interested in our foibles and generously dismissive of our antagonisms. And so funny, so quietly funny. These ironic, deadpan responses that I didn't get at the time, not until years later.

Another vote here for realising only recently that I am now Calvin's dad, and very happy to be so.

posted by distorte at 12:38 PM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thank you for posting this. What a great artist.
posted by effluvia at 12:44 PM on October 17, 2013


All this talk of biking and plain oatmeal made me realize that I'm dating Calvin's dad. That's.. a thing.
posted by bookwo3107 at 12:46 PM on October 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Considering your preference for privacy, an invasive profile sounds like anathema. Was this very early on in the strip’s run?
Boy, I barely remember this. I think that was the interview that ended up in The Comics Journal.


Interesting because I just last month bought some Calivn and Hobbes books at a garage sale for my son, who loves them, and stashed inside one of the books was a bunch of folded pages, which turned out to be the extensive, wonderful interview of Bill Watterson, in The Comics Journal.
posted by eye of newt at 12:56 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ooooohh! Thanks!
posted by Namlit at 1:01 PM on October 17, 2013


I know it's inevitable, but I really hate any and all attempts to hijack Calvin and Hobbes like this.
I sympathize with your opinion, but I've found myself forced to admit exceptions to it once or twice.

Or perhaps these just tug at the heartstrings because my four year old girl wants to read Calvin & Hobbes with me every night right now? YMMV.
posted by roystgnr at 1:08 PM on October 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


In my opinion, there's a right way and a wrong way to appreciate someone's artistic output by way of derivative (in the non-critical sense) works. It's just really, really hard to pull off right with C&H, especially because one of Watterson's master strokes was the ability to deal with the themes of the comic without embarrassing, wet-eyed nostalgia.
posted by griphus at 1:21 PM on October 17, 2013


"It isn't even the greatest comic strip starring a weird boy and his ambiguously anthropomorphic animal."

Ah, a Garfield fan. This explains so much.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:30 PM on October 17, 2013 [23 favorites]


Well, I really liked the Calvin on meds strip. I thought it was clever, sad and touching. And respectful to the original strip. The follow-up, however, was a lame-ass cop out.
posted by Decani at 2:36 PM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Don't get me wrong, I thought the strip was sad as well.

In fact, there are few things sadder than some ignorant schmuck using our fondness for a fictional child to create a false dichotomy between "medication compliance" and "imagination."
posted by griphus at 2:42 PM on October 17, 2013 [15 favorites]


I'm thrilled that I got to read an interview from one of the formative authors of my youth, but I too wish the questions worked harder to develop Bill as a person. The ones about the bumper sticker, the incident with Rolling Stone, and the box of Hobbes dolls are myth-making gossip suitable for a tabloid article. Sure they're interesting in a vacuum, but they add no interest to Bill as a person.

Ask him what he's reading (and more importantly, why he likes it), what he's working on now, what he does when he isn't working. That, to me, is more personal and would open avenues for further conversation. "Tell me about the one time you set a thing on fire" stops the line cold when the answer is "I set nothing on fire."

Of course, this assumes that the questions weren't pre-screened by an agent or syndicate to stay on-point. While I'm curious about Watterson's thoughts on writing and his painting, I'm not sure he wants that in the world. I think people get a weird thrill from hearing an idol name the same popular culture in which they're interested; I've witnessed more than one "What do you watch on TV?" question at an author's Q&A. The answer is always the same: The Wire, Breaking Bad, Mad Men. There's nothing new to be plumbed from a list of shows besides "Oh, this guy also has the taste of the upper-middle class! I will tell the world that Ira Glass likes my TV."

So, I guess I've come around on the line of questioning. I wish for something more than Calvin & Hobbes anecdotes, but it's really hard to ask something that is insightful yet non-intrusive.
posted by Turkey Glue at 3:28 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


One thing I'm wondering: Did C&H make Bill Watterson independently wealthy? Because, wow, it must be great to just quit your day job at age 37 and spend time in the woods painting. I have no idea how much money syndicated cartoonists made; while C&H was a very popular strip, I would imagine the real money is in all the licensed junk which Watterson never engaged in. I'm happy he managed to escape the daily grind.
posted by pravit at 4:13 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


6-year-olds don't operate like Calvin

Man, my kid turned 7 last Sunday, and apart from doing well in school, she operates nearly exactly like Calvin. You know that strip where he's hammering nails into the coffee table? For years, every time my husband and I saw that strip we would laugh until our laughter trailed off into sporadic hollow-eyed sobs.
posted by KathrynT at 5:43 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did C&H make Bill Watterson independently wealthy?

He's sold a LOT of books. I expect he still has some regular revenue coming in.

Has anyone read the entire interview? Are there more substantial questions in it that would make buying the magazine issue worthwhile?
posted by LooseFilter at 5:59 PM on October 17, 2013


Also, I have the original of this brilliant Sunday strip, clipped out of the newspaper when I was a teenager, framed on my wall. Along with a larger art piece I made out of eight other dailies.

That strip is just so brilliant, I read it at least once a week--and have for years--and still smile or shake my head or laugh or stop and think for bit every time that I do. Not much art does that for me, and no other art that does it is so concise and substantial.

(I mean, come on: "I call it 'The Torment of Existence Weighed Against the Horror of Nonbeing'. As he melts, the sculpture will become even more poignant." That's funny and satirical and actually philosophical all at once. And it's not even the punchline.)
posted by LooseFilter at 6:12 PM on October 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


I was a typical Calvin & Hobbes fan growing up. Bought the books the day they came out, have read them all multiple times. Huge influence, blah blah... And yet that "Dear Mr. watterson" preview REALLY pissed me off!
posted by ReeMonster at 6:35 PM on October 17, 2013


Man, I generally hate purists of any stripe, so it does cause me some conflict to say this, but in my view, pretty much any non-canonical C&H stuff is blasphemy. Ones where he's on meds, ones where he grows up, ones where he marries Suzie and/or has a kid, cloying fan service bullshit. BOO.
"All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
-Romans 3:12
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:41 PM on October 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


I have had a sudden insight: the only great Calvin & Hobbes film would have to be directed by Hayao Miyazaki and would feature Susie as the protagonist. She'd be chasing after Calvin, shouting, "stupid boy, grow up! Forget your crazy fantasies!"

Then, one rainy night, she'd be standing at a bus stop in the rain, depressed, and the Catbus would stop for her, she'd step on and Hobbes would be there, in the back seat.

He would grin. And she could glare at him the entire way home.
posted by SPrintF at 7:07 PM on October 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


As a kid, one time after reading a C&H strip where Spaceman Spiff narrates himself being missed by some sort of weapon by "mere micromips", I asked my Dad what a micromip was, and he deadpanned, "oh, about six inches".
posted by jcreigh at 7:26 PM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, I really liked the Calvin on meds strip. I thought it was clever, sad and touching. And respectful to the original strip. The follow-up, however, was a lame-ass cop out..

This was my thought, too. I read several reactions in this thread before seeing it, and so I was expecting something crass in the manner of all those, "Let's make Family Circus smutty!" drawings, or something that sort of gives off an "Eff you, Watterson and his fanboys!" scent, but that's not what I found.

If you plumbed the depths of my mind, I have no doubt that you'd find I have my own sacred cows that I feel are beyond any recreations/homages/riffs/ANYTHING. But, as much as I love C+H, this isn't one of them. And I'm happy that Watterson seems a lot more sanguine about the phenomenon than y'all, especially considering what a hardass he was/is about the sanctity of his work.
posted by mreleganza at 7:30 PM on October 17, 2013


The one about him being on meds doesn't upset me so much - I'm not against playing around with some source material, even if it is C&H - but it's the outright, cold dismissal of Hobbes that gets to me. Maybe that's the point of it all. But if we're going to go full-on heartbreaking, I'd prefer a strip where Calvin's meds help him say goodbye to a best friend, mentor, conscience, and soulmate, rather than cast him aside like a piece of junk.
posted by ORthey at 6:33 AM on October 18, 2013


I have ADHD. I was diagnosed as an adult, and the drug I was prescribed helped fix my completely broken and fucked-up life. I don't even have words for how offended I am by the "Calvin on meds" strip.
posted by my favorite orange at 7:53 AM on October 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


This isn't to say that there isn't a conversation to be had about the medical and ethical implications of prescribing psychiatric drugs to children, or the rising diagnosis rate of ADHD in America, or the use of drugs to make people conform socially.

I just hate the glib, unwarranted dismissiveness that people trot out in conversations like this. These drugs alleviate suffering. I think people tend to forget that.
posted by my favorite orange at 8:01 AM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


ANYWAY. Calvin and Hobbes is awesome, Bill Watterson is a delightful person, and this interview pretty much made my day.
posted by my favorite orange at 8:02 AM on October 18, 2013


That was the most fucked-up comic in the history of fucked-upness.

Never seen the series of Rule 34 Hobbes/Hobbes slash strips set on the same afternoon that Calvin had the bright idea to flip the Transmogrifier box into a time machine so that he could paradox a completed homework assignment into existence, I take it?

It's quite notorious; people have made reaction comics to it.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:01 AM on October 18, 2013


I'd prefer a strip where Calvin's meds help him say goodbye to a best friend, mentor, conscience, and soulmate, rather than cast him aside like a piece of junk.

Of course, Hobbes comes back. I remember the earliest C+H fan theory I read was how three decades later Hobbes resurfaces once again as imaginary friend, but takes on the more believable appearance of Tyler Durden.
posted by FJT at 2:11 PM on October 18, 2013


I remember as a kid being convinced that Hobbes was in fact real... There was a specific comic where Calvin ends up tied up to the point where he can't get out, and Hobbes did it... That was my proof positive! (I mean really, if you tie yourself up, you'll be able to get out of it)
posted by el io at 2:34 PM on October 18, 2013


In the Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book, Watterson writes:
I don't think of Hobbes as a doll that miraculously comes to life when Calvin's around. Neither do I think of Hobbes as the product of Calvin's imagination. The nature of Hobbes's reality doesn't interest me, and each story goes out of its way to avoid resolving the issue.
(Slightly modified version of the full quote can also be seen here, under the section for Hobbes)
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:36 PM on October 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Weapon Brown has what is probably my favorite derivation of Calvin and Hobbes. But I've long thought, although it would be fundamentally different, Wes Anderson's Calvin and Hobbes would be a sight to behold.
posted by wobh at 9:05 PM on October 18, 2013


I feel like if the question "Is Hobbes real or imaginary?" were to take hold in the public imagination right now it would eclipse the "Ralph Wiggum: literal or metaphorical Viking?" debate by several orders of magnitude.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:39 PM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Way back in the days when Usenet was king, the "Is Hobbes real?" debate was a major (and, in my view, quite uninteresting) mainstay of alt.fan.calvin-and-hobbes.

A smaller group mocked the debate by espousing the theory that Mr. Bun was the only real character in the strip, and everything else was a product of his imagination.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:53 AM on October 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


A smaller group mocked the debate by espousing the theory that Mr. Bun was the only real character in the strip, and everything else was a product of his imagination.

Can't tell if trolls or dada.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:02 PM on October 21, 2013


*checks Twitter*

There's a difference?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:16 PM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


griphus: "Also the older I get, the more I wish to emulate Calvin's dad"

It's all in the book you get when you become a father
posted by I am the Walrus at 1:47 PM on October 21, 2013


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