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Calvin & Hobbes on a Stamp
January 6, 2010 11:59 AM   Subscribe

Calvin & Hobbes will be put on a U.S. postage stamp, honoring "Sunday Funnies," along with Garfield, Beetle Bailey, Dennis the Menace, and Archie. Although there has been no end to the homages and unlicensed materials regarding his beloved characters, creator Bill Watterson, "the only cartoonist who resented the popularity of his own strip," has expressed his disapproval of third-party appropriation in detail:
A wordy, multiple-panel strip with extended conversation and developed personalities does not condense to a coffee mug illustration without great violation to the strip's spirit. The subtleties of a multi-dimensional strip are sacrificed for the one-dimensional needs of the product.
Even if Watterson hasn't approved, nothing in the USPS committee's selection criteria requires artist approval.

Of course, an obligatory Calvin & Hobbes comic archive, and, it being wintertime and all, an ancient angelfire site. And, previously, Watterson rarities, and other Calvin & Hobbes love.
posted by jabberjaw (99 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Can I buy just the C&H ones? Because it will be a cold day in hell before I put Beetle Bailey or Garfield on the timesheet I mail to my contracting agency.

...nothing in the USPS committee's selection criteria requires artist approval.

Really? What is this, some kind of Cartoon Universe Eminent Domain?
posted by DU at 12:02 PM on January 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


The ever-unchanging Dennis the Menace and Archie have always struck me as lacking in "subtleties of a multidimensional strip," but what do I know.

But I do like the description of them as "wordy."
posted by Gordion Knott at 12:03 PM on January 6, 2010


I'm sorry Bill, but I really want that stamp. I love the characters with or without context.

Come to think of it, I'd probably buy Issac Asimov stamps as well, even though he's famous for words rather than his face as well.

A stamp honors a piece of our culture. It's different from a coffee mug or t-shirt, as it's meant to briefly remind us of something we like, rather than to plaster it everywhere until it loses meaning (see Garfield circa 1995).
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:04 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm really glad to see he's not peeing on a UPS truck.
posted by bondcliff at 12:07 PM on January 6, 2010 [32 favorites]


It's always been interesting to me how the most visible unlicensed Calvin and Hobbes product, that is, the ubiquitous peeing Calvin, does exactly what Watterson always feared- it condenses the spirit of the strip in such a way that an intelligent, curious, mischievous boy filling a water balloon to throw on his best friend becomes the lowest of low-brow jokes.
posted by emilyd22222 at 12:08 PM on January 6, 2010 [11 favorites]


Really? What is this, some kind of Cartoon Universe Eminent Domain?

Watterson doesn't actually own the copyright/trademark on C&H, the syndicate does. In fact, they could have gone hog wild with merchandising and even brought in a new cartoonist if they'd wanted. They chose not to, presumably to avoid totally alienating the fans.
posted by delmoi at 12:08 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Note that there's nothing in the media suggesting that Watterson actually has or hasn't approved of the stamp. Then again, there's nothing from Watterson that expressly disapproves of the urinating Calvin.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:12 PM on January 6, 2010


I'm really glad to see he's not peeing on a UPS truck.

No, he's peeing on a stamp from Vanuatu.
posted by GuyZero at 12:13 PM on January 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


If a Calvin and Hobbes stamp is about to be released, it's been in the works for a while:
Subjects should be submitted at least three years in advance of the proposed date of issue to allow sufficient time for consideration and for design and production, if the subject is approved.
I somehow doubt that, given such a timeframe, the original artist or their estate would be wholly left out of the decision. Universal Press Syndicate, who own(ed) the Calvin and Hobbes image (and went after a t-shirt maker but not the small-time decal makers) probably would love a boost to the C&H nostalgia sales. Stamps are issued by the government (unless you print your own stamps) and carry with them a certain amount of prestige that car decals lack. Plus, there'll be displays in post offices, clarifying that the tiny image is that of Calvin and Hobbes.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:15 PM on January 6, 2010


Hold on, hold on.

This post strongly implies (though it seems to fastidiously avoid saying explicitly) that Watterson does not approve of the stamp. Is this actually the case? None of the links seems to say so.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:15 PM on January 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Any time Calvin peeing is mentioned I have to trot out this obligatory comic.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:15 PM on January 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


emilyd, I never made the connection between that strip and the ‘calvin peeing’ icon. I have some thinking to do now
posted by Think_Long at 12:16 PM on January 6, 2010


The Archie one is too racy for my tastes.
posted by ekroh at 12:17 PM on January 6, 2010


Note that there's nothing in the media suggesting that Watterson actually has or hasn't approved of the stamp.

OK; missed that on preview.

You really did a shitty job of framing this post, jabberjaw. It seems that you were intentionally trying to deceive us here.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:18 PM on January 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Then again, there's nothing from Watterson that expressly disapproves of the urinating Calvin.

You mean, other than the lawsuit against the main producers of the stickers by his syndicate, whom one would assume is acting on his behalf?
posted by emilyd22222 at 12:18 PM on January 6, 2010


Plus they could take any single image from this and have a perfectly wonderful, context free image.

Not all of the stuff had to be wordy or multi-paneled to have depth.
posted by quin at 12:19 PM on January 6, 2010


The thing about it is that a picture on a mug or a stamp can evoke the fond memories one has for the wordy, multiple-panel strip with extended conversation and developed personalities.
posted by Trochanter at 12:20 PM on January 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


IANBW, but of all the ways one could essentialize C&H, that stamp is not the worst.
posted by emilyd22222 at 12:21 PM on January 6, 2010


Then again, there's nothing from Watterson that expressly disapproves of the urinating Calvin.

Oddly, this implies that there's anyone who approves of those stickers.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:21 PM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


What I note is that C&H is the only one of the five not still running in some form. Its an interesting decision -- I wonder why they didn't go with five retired strips or five current strips, instead of one + four.
posted by anastasiav at 12:21 PM on January 6, 2010


It didn't seem intentionally deceitful to me, but it IS quite a stretch to take a quote that is pretty clearly about merchandising and try to extend it to a stamp.
posted by muddgirl at 12:22 PM on January 6, 2010


Plus they could take any single image from this and have a perfectly wonderful, context free image.

In the C&H 10th Anniversary Book, Watterson says that that strip is very popular for copyright infringement.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:22 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


What, no "Cathy" stamp? [ducks]
posted by orange swan at 12:23 PM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


A wordy, multiple-panel strip with extended conversation and developed personalities does not condense to a coffee mug illustration without great violation to the strip's spirit. The subtleties of a multi-dimensional strip are sacrificed for the one-dimensional needs of the product.

I, for one, would pay cash money for a coffee mug with anyone's rendition of Harvey Pekar on it.
posted by scratch at 12:24 PM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm holding out for Ziggy.

or maybe "Love is..."
posted by blue_beetle at 12:27 PM on January 6, 2010


Jabberjaw: Then again, there's nothing from Watterson that expressly disapproves of the urinating Calvin.

Shakespeherian: Oddly, this implies that there's anyone who approves of those stickers.

50 million rednecks can't be wrong.
posted by scratch at 12:27 PM on January 6, 2010


A wordy, multiple-panel strip with extended conversation and developed personalities does not condense to a coffee mug illustration without great violation to the strip's spirit. The subtleties of a multi-dimensional strip are sacrificed for the one-dimensional needs of the product.

I liked C&H, but...jeez, what a asshole.
posted by jonmc at 12:28 PM on January 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Somehow Calvin and Hobbes has always seemed way too subversive (even in its gentle way of doing it) to wind up on a stamp. I always associated US stamps with pictures of nuclear bombs going off, flags, or dead rich people.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:28 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


This page has bigger images of all the new stamps, including the hideous colorized Kate Smith one.
posted by smackfu at 12:29 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


In the C&H 10th Anniversary Book, Watterson says that that strip is very popular for copyright infringement.

Ha. My mom used to dabble in craft projects like painting glass ornaments and making personalized coffee mugs that she'd give away as gifts. Calvin and Hobbes strips were a very popular source for images (along with Peanuts) and the dancing strip definitely got a lot of play.
posted by muddgirl at 12:31 PM on January 6, 2010


>: I liked C&H, but...jeez, what a asshole.

Also. Not chopping down comic strips to the bare minimum was always a big deal with Watterson, who devoted at least one strip to just that topic. For what it's worth, I rather agree with him.
Bill Watterson an "asshole?" I strongly disagree.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:33 PM on January 6, 2010 [10 favorites]


A wordy, multiple-panel strip with extended conversation and developed personalities does not condense to a coffee mug illustration without great violation to the strip's spirit. The subtleties of a multi-dimensional strip are sacrificed for the one-dimensional needs of the product.
I liked C&H, but...jeez, what a asshole.
Eh. There are millions of people today for whom Calvin is nothing more than that kid who pees on things; I'd be a little ticked if I were Watterson, too.

Besides, generally speaking, I am willing to give Bill Watterson a large degree of slack.
posted by Flunkie at 12:33 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


This page has bigger images of all the new stamps, including the hideous colorized Kate Smith one.

That's a lot of stamps. Looks like it's easier to get on a stamp than it is to get into Arizona State.
posted by ekroh at 12:34 PM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Obligatory Lemon Demon link.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:35 PM on January 6, 2010


I liked C&H, but...jeez, what a asshole.

You know, I never really thought about this as a controversial position on his part except in the capitalist sense. I don't think his protectiveness over something he clearly put a ton of heart into is particularly assholish, but that's just me. Perhaps someone more objective than BW but with less of a money-driven lens than the syndicate would say that the strip probably needs a lot more careful selection of essentializations than, say, Beatle Bailey, given the complex themes that were present in many of his strips .
posted by emilyd22222 at 12:36 PM on January 6, 2010


I never realized that his objection to the commercialization was not because of the commercial aspect, but because his cartoon was too intelligent to be reduced to a coffee mug.
posted by smackfu at 12:39 PM on January 6, 2010


From the 'homages' link:

http://www.coffeeandcigarettes.com/2009/02/11/yea-verily-i-say-unto-thee-this/

I could do without the motivational poster framing, but what a great picture.
posted by Zaximus at 12:39 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Watterson doesn't actually own the copyright/trademark on C&H, the syndicate does. In fact, they could have gone hog wild with merchandising and even brought in a new cartoonist if they'd wanted.

While this was true at the start, I think that during contract negotiations Watterson got control of at least the merchandising. I'm not sure what else he owns.

I recently finished Looking for Calvin and Hobbes, which ends up a a rather disappointing book. It starts out ok, but gets pretty thin by the end. It has the feel of something that ought to have been a magazine article rather than a book, and it's a bit too breathless in spots. But the really disappointing thing is that Watterson comes out as a total prig by the time the book is done. I started out sympathetic to his desire for privacy, but ended up feeling like he was just a bit of an asshole, the kind who doesn't seem to understand that having human relationships puts you under some obligation, even if you'd rather it didn't. When he retired he simply dropped all the people he seemed to know from his days cartooning. And, yet, he never comes across as having any innate reason not to be able to interact with people. I appreciated his take on merchandising, but his pronouncements on the subject really put me off. (And I'm someone who thinks Ian MacKaye has got it pretty much right.)
posted by OmieWise at 12:41 PM on January 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think Bill Watterson has misinterpreted the function of that coffee cup he mentions. It's not that the coffee cup is supposed to directly instantiate the "spirit" of the strip. People would buy the cup precisely BECAUSE it reminds them of the strip, in particular what they liked about it, including its "spirit." Isn't that the way souvenirs work?

A better argument (which I gather he believes) would be that commercializing the strip is inconsistent with the spirit of the thing. Fine, don't commmercialize the stirp. But that's different from saying the cup is bad because it doesn't fully represent all aspects of what made the comic great.
posted by cogneuro at 12:45 PM on January 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


What, no "Cathy" stamp? [ducks]

Ack!
posted by chinston at 12:46 PM on January 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


Why the fuck is Archie included in the Sunday Funnies run? I think Calvin and Hobbes deserves their own run of stamps, envelope size, with full strips.

Cause that would be awesome.
posted by graventy at 12:46 PM on January 6, 2010


I see more Calvin praying stickers than Calvin peeing stickers. Just as stupid.
posted by notmydesk at 12:47 PM on January 6, 2010


I never realized that his objection to the commercialization was not because of the commercial aspect, but because his cartoon was too intelligent to be reduced to a coffee mug.

Pretty sure it was both, as is evidenced in Watterson's cartoon criticismof Berkeley Breathed.
posted by emilyd22222 at 12:48 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The stickers of Calvin peeing, or just as bad, praying in front of a cross, portray behaviors that are in no way representative of Calvin's character in the comic strip or the spirit of the comic strip. Instead the stickers are an obscene, classless violations of that spirit (and just plain obscene and classless by themselves).

I assume the people who display them were never fans of the strip, or at any rate obviously don't know or don't care about Watterson's very explicit distaste for licensing/merchandising of the characters.

I find the stickers infuriating. I can only imagine how painful they must be to Bill Watterson.

It's a shame the peeing stickers didn't use Garfield, because one gets the idea Jim Davis would license anything for a buck.
posted by Davenhill at 12:48 PM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I started out sympathetic to his desire for privacy, but ended up feeling like he was just a bit of an asshole, the kind who doesn't seem to understand that having human relationships puts you under some obligation, even if you'd rather it didn't. When he retired he simply dropped all the people he seemed to know from his days cartooning. And, yet, he never comes across as having any innate reason not to be able to interact with people.
And, of course, one of those obligations that people have is an obligation to interact with people in order to explain why you are unable to interact with people. Especially people who are unable to interact with people; they're especially under an obligation to interact with people in order to explain why they are unable to interact with people. And yet they don't! Jerks.
posted by Flunkie at 12:51 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know I'm all but ashamed to admit this, but I'm actually kind of pumped to put Bill Mauldin, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Calvin and Hobbes on my letters this year. I honestly haven't been this geeked out about stamps since I was 10.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:55 PM on January 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


If I ever start mailing letters again I might get some of these.
posted by Scoo at 12:56 PM on January 6, 2010


50 million rednecks can't be wrong.

I saw Calvin peeing on La Migra, which I thought was an interesting change of pace.
posted by electroboy at 1:01 PM on January 6, 2010


Somehow Calvin and Hobbes has always seemed way too subversive (even in its gentle way of doing it) to wind up on a stamp. I always associated US stamps with pictures of nuclear bombs going off, flags, or dead rich people.

I know there's a Malcolm X stamp, the making of which probably created a lot of fuss.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:09 PM on January 6, 2010


I've never really grokked the Pissing Calvin stickers, anyway. Why was Calvin chosen? It's completely against his character to be mean-spirited in that kind of way. And while I "get" the sentiment behind the stickers, even though I'm not the kind of person to actually purchase one, I still don't understand why that particular cartoon character was selected for denigrating behavior.

That aside, I think Watterson is completely missing the point of the coffee mug or whatever. Such items are modern icons, in the Eastern Orthodox sense of the term, meant to be representations of the entire spirit of the saint (or character) being depicted. The simple presentation allows the viewer to call forth the deeper, more complex truth based on the stories one has heard, leading to a full-fleshed manifestation within the mind and life of the viewer. It's not about the image on the coffee cup; it is about the full experience the owner of the coffee cup has with the subject of the icon.

That said, Calvin & Hobbes has been out of circulation for so long, it may not summon much forth anymore. Maybe they need to syndicate re-running the existing canon of strips in newspapers. More money for Watterson, renewal of the characters in public consciousness, and would improve most newspaper comics pages by about 1000%, even if the strips are 20 years old.
posted by hippybear at 1:10 PM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


The selection of Calvin and Hobbes makes me sad in a strange way. I'd almost prefer that it wasn't selected, because then at least I could completely write off this series of stamps as the cruft of the funnies page.

I'd much rather see Calvin and Hobbes sharing a sheet with Pogo, Krazy Kat, or other quality American comics icons. Instead, a comic with the admirable quality of ending when it was done is immortalized on stamps with 4 other comics that have been phoning it in for years or decades.
posted by explosion at 1:21 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


My fave is Calvin pissing on "La migra". Culture is weird.
posted by everichon at 1:22 PM on January 6, 2010


Calvin peeing on a Calvin peeing on a Calvin peeing on a Calvin peeing on a Calvin peeing on a Calvin peeing on a Calvin....

Honestly I doubt the people who buy the stickers appreciate any of the nuances of the strip. If anything they see Calvin as a kid who's BAD.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:23 PM on January 6, 2010


I may not be gratified by Bill Watterson's reclusiveness and obsessive concerns with privacy, but I'm not going to call him an asshole for it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:23 PM on January 6, 2010


The peeing/pray stickers really make me want to have a batch of small "This is stupid" stickers to paste on.... things.
posted by edgeways at 1:24 PM on January 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


The simple presentation allows the viewer to call forth the deeper, more complex truth based on the stories one has heard, leading to a full-fleshed manifestation within the mind and life of the viewer

Maybe. But couldn’t the sale of C&H images devoid of context lead to a disconnect between the image and what the image represents? To me, coffee mug sales of C&H seem no different than someone buying a cheap Monet print from Pier 1 or a handbag with a cross on it from the Mall. Calvin and Hobbes are gorgeously drawn, but they were never just about the images – and it seems like merchandise is always about the images.
posted by Think_Long at 1:25 PM on January 6, 2010


I wouldn't see this as merchandising. I'd see it as an honor. But that's just me.
posted by azpenguin at 1:26 PM on January 6, 2010


I think Bill Watterson has misinterpreted the function of that coffee cup he mentions. It's not that the coffee cup is supposed to directly instantiate the "spirit" of the strip. People would buy the cup precisely BECAUSE it reminds them of the strip, in particular what they liked about it, including its "spirit." Isn't that the way souvenirs work?

It seems to me that a few people here are approaching this thing from an odd perspective. Why is Watterson under any sort of obligation to make mugs and tshirts and calendars and so forth featuring C&H? He made the strip, made some books, the end. I don't think he needs to defend his decision not to make coffee cups anymore than he needs to defend his decision not to become an astronaut.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:27 PM on January 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


I wouldn't see this as merchandising. I'd see it as an honor. But that's just me.

The postage stamp or the coffee mug?

I was mostly talking about the coffee mug and other types of cheap merchandising. To me the stamp feels a bit different – maybe because it’s an honor, maybe because it’s not strictly commercial.
posted by Think_Long at 1:29 PM on January 6, 2010


I honestly haven't been this geeked out about stamps since I was 10.

I was extremely excited to get the Statler and Waldorf stamps a few years ago. But yeah, C&H would be pretty cool too.
posted by inigo2 at 1:31 PM on January 6, 2010


It's a very weird world at the USPS, which is neither business nor agency, and though having your creation on a stamp is supposed to be an honor or something, I still wonder -- how do they get away with it legally? I mean, the DOJ probably can't emboss Mickey Mouse on their gavels.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:35 PM on January 6, 2010


I'd much rather see Calvin and Hobbes sharing a sheet with Pogo, Krazy Kat, or other quality American comics icons.

Ah, but they did those back in 1995: Comic Strip Classics. Well, not Pogo, but everything else that was really old.
posted by smackfu at 1:37 PM on January 6, 2010


The Archie one is too racy for my tastes.

I agree. Referencing 2 girls 1 cup that way is just way over the top.
posted by delmoi at 1:37 PM on January 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


PVP Online just started an arc paying homage (with a twist) to Calvin & Hobbes.
posted by PenDevil at 1:41 PM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


BTW, this does seem to violate one of the USPS's guidelines:
Nor shall stamps be issued to honor commercial enterprise or products.
They seem to ignore that for movies/art/etc. though.
posted by smackfu at 1:42 PM on January 6, 2010


Can we get a sticker for Metafilter members with Calvin peeing on Cory Doctorow?
posted by Mcable at 2:05 PM on January 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


In the mashup age we live in, I'm surprised no one has done a Calvin Piss Christ. That would be like the trifecta of offense.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:08 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


And, of course, one of those obligations that people have is an obligation to interact with people in order to explain why you are unable to interact with people. Especially people who are unable to interact with people; they're especially under an obligation to interact with people in order to explain why they are unable to interact with people. And yet they don't! Jerks.

I think I wasn't clear enough. Watterson's history, presented throughout the interviews in the book, indicates that he knows how to interact with people, and that he's actually pretty good at it when he puts in the effort. He has friends, he had a history of corresponding with other cartoonists. However, the same history shows that when he had gotten what he needed, he simply turned away from people who considered themselves his friends. Many of those people express their pain at the loss of his friendship, and yet, during the course of talking about him and his friendship, they never talk about him doing anything that would suggest that he has a fundamental problem with relationships. In other words, to be as clear as I can, the interviews give no evidence that Watterson was mentally ill, or that he was anywhere on the autistic spectrum. Many people were quite surprised that he wouldn't answer their letters once he stopped the strip.

Similarly, his pronouncements re merchandising show a marked lack of sympathy or understanding for the many fans of his strip. That sympathy need not have extended to actually granting rights for merchandising, but many of his comments are quite harsh and, well, priggish.

But, if you have an actual different perspective, informed by something other than snark, feel free to share it.
posted by OmieWise at 2:14 PM on January 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


Hard to believe some opportunistic orthopedic supply company hasn't put christ on a crutch yet.
posted by Wolfdog at 2:16 PM on January 6, 2010


Why is Watterson under any sort of obligation to make mugs and tshirts and calendars and so forth featuring C&H?

He's not. The point is that the reason given (in the quote about condensing the spirit of the strip to an image on a cup) conflates a desire to avoid commercializing the work (his right) and the function of that kind of cup, which is to bring people some modest amount of enjoyment in virtue of reminding them about what the strip was about, including its values and "spirit." Which, combined with some nice freshly brewed coffee, might constitute a pleasant little moment.
posted by cogneuro at 2:19 PM on January 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Even if the boys in Washington don't "require artist approval" doesn't Watterson probably hold the copyright and potentially have the ability to limit usage of the images (despite what bootleg car decals of Calvin taking a whiz would indicate to the contrary)?
posted by bizwiz2 at 2:24 PM on January 6, 2010


Don't link to Calvin and Hobbes strips on the front page; some of us like having archives available so we don't have to get out our books.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:26 PM on January 6, 2010


I've never really grokked the Pissing Calvin stickers, anyway. Why was Calvin chosen?

'Cause Watterson is a god damned master at simple facial expressions. If you google-image search for "peeing sticker", you can see the original Calvin one, and a few others that companies came up with to replace it when copyright law demanded that they stop. The replacements don't communicate Calvin's simple, gleeful, mischeivous malice anywhere near as well as the original. The "Calvin pissing" stickers were never about Calvin himself -- they were just about a shockingly good representation of an emotional state.

Incidentally, I'm just about done with the book that OmieWise is talking about, and I kind of think it's a piece of crap, so if anyone's thinking about picking it up, I would advise against it. I also don't think Watterson comes off particularly badly, but then, I guess I'm willing to acknowledge that I tend to be a pretty fervent apologist for hermitry.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:32 PM on January 6, 2010


The point is that the reason given (in the quote about condensing the spirit of the strip to an image on a cup) conflates a desire to avoid commercializing the work (his right) and the function of that kind of cup, which is to bring people some modest amount of enjoyment in virtue of reminding them about what the strip was about, including its values and "spirit." Which, combined with some nice freshly brewed coffee, might constitute a pleasant little moment.

Sure, but that's you imposing your understanding of the purpose of Watterson's strip. As near as I can tell, Watterson wanted to make art in a particular medium, that medium being: comic strips. Translating that art into any other medium, even one that looks fairly similar (it's still printed images, for example), is doing something different from what he wanted to do. Put as much McLuhan into that as you'd like. The point is that a coffee cup is something different from a comic strip, and a day-by-day calendar is different from a comic strip, and a movie is different from a book, and a stuffed animal is different from a cartoon character. Watterson may or may not have any desire to bring people enjoyment or to provide pleasant little moments. It seems to me that all of the arguments for making C&H coffee cups comes back to 'people will buy it,' which isn't a very compelling argument for me.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:35 PM on January 6, 2010


A wordy, multiple-panel strip with extended conversation and developed personalities does not condense to a coffee mug illustration without great violation to the strip's spirit. The subtleties of a multi-dimensional strip are sacrificed for the one-dimensional needs of the product.
I liked C&H, but...jeez, what a asshole.
Yeah, f- that guy for not being sellout! :)

Gotta love Metafilter. While you always expect a wide range of opinions, it never ceases to amaze me what issues people will get angry or insulting about. I'm sure somewhere there's someone angry at Jim Davis for not licensing Garfield-brand adult toys.
posted by Davenhill at 2:43 PM on January 6, 2010


You mean this Nermal dildo I have is a bootleg?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:45 PM on January 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


...but then, I guess I'm willing to acknowledge that I tend to be a pretty fervent apologist for hermitry.

Yeah, this is something I've been thinking about. I am amazingly lazy about keeping in touch with people. If I ever retire, I suspect I will fall off the face of the earth exactly as Watterson has. No offense to my lovely coworkers and all my future supporters, but there'd have to be a pretty big incentive to overcome my general mysanthropy and social anxiety. I keep it at bay now, because I need to make a living and socializing has its benefits, but when that incentive is gone, so am I.
posted by muddgirl at 2:51 PM on January 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


I guess the Peanuts characters' work in the insurance industry disqualified them.
posted by longsleeves at 2:58 PM on January 6, 2010


You mean this Nermal dildo I have is a bootleg?

Not sure, but I have a cock ring made out of real Pink Panther leather, which is now illegal in 63 countries thanks to those sex-hating hippies at Greenpeace.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:26 PM on January 6, 2010


Snoopy got a stamp. They might do a Charles Shulz one too, since he died ten years ago.
posted by smackfu at 3:27 PM on January 6, 2010


Yeah,
May 17, 2001 First Day of Issue of the U.S. Postal Service Peanuts stamp at Charles Schulz’s Redwood Empire Ice Arena in Santa Rosa, California.
So that happened a while ago. Teh store near the ice rink has examples of Peanuts stamps from several countries.
posted by GuyZero at 3:31 PM on January 6, 2010


Pah, that's nothing.

Over here in the UK we're getting London Calling by the Clash on a stamp. Now that's rock.
posted by ciderwoman at 4:05 PM on January 6, 2010


So this post has added 'Calvin' to the stable of boy's names for the pending baby, narrowly edging out 'Muscles' and 'Killer' on the strength of not necessarily raising a psychopath.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:59 PM on January 6, 2010


You know I'm all but ashamed to admit this, but I'm actually kind of pumped to put Bill Mauldin, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Calvin and Hobbes on my letters this year. I honestly haven't been this geeked out about stamps since I was 10.

Being that this is the Year of the Tiger, I put this image on my new year's postcards (nengajou). Obviously the tiger motif was timely, but the simplicity of the scene and my fondness for the comic's winter-themed strips as contemplative essays on life made it most appropriate.

Unfortunately, this being Japan, no one had any idea what it was about, and had no real reaction except "cute." Oh well. At least there aren't any pissing Calvins stuck to car windows here.
posted by armage at 5:03 PM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Perhaps Watterson would have approved by a stamp designed as if designed by Calvin, rather than merely featuring Calvin.

A squished image, perhaps, indicating that he'd been flattened by the cancellation of the stamp.
posted by bingo at 5:45 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


That said, Calvin & Hobbes has been out of circulation for so long, it may not summon much forth anymore. Maybe they need to syndicate re-running the existing canon of strips in newspapers. More money for Watterson, renewal of the characters in public consciousness, and would improve most newspaper comics pages by about 1000%, even if the strips are 20 years old.

In fact, there are newspapers around here that still run C&H, so I suspect it is available for such re-syndication.

Unfortunately, this being Japan, no one had any idea what it was about, and had no real reaction except "cute."

At last, something to hold over Japan's collective heads in the field of awesome comics!
posted by JHarris at 5:52 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


As far as the stamp goes, the whole issue is non-starter, since Bill Watterson seemingly has no say in the matter anyway. Best thing he can do is accept the honor in the spirit it was given and move on.

Whether Watterson is a pretentious asshole misanthrope or not misses the point, in my half-assed humble opinion. What C&H exuded from the very beginning to the very end was soul. I think Watterson's decision to pass on the merch gravy train had as much to do with the fact regardless of how any of us may feel all warm & fuzzy with the idea of owning a C&H coffee mug, the process of mass production is inherently soulless and ersatz. I'd also like to think that's the reason why he walked away. He was done and had nothing genuine left to say.

You want a Calvin & Hobbes coffee mug to help you evoke the warm fuzzies of the comic strip? Go ahead and make one for yourself. 'Cause that's genuine and private and real and chock full of soul. I'd like to think Bill Waterson wouldn't particularly mind if any of us did that, actually. It's the commercial aspect that seems to bother him.

Also, Robocop, you can't go wrong with naming the boy Tracer Bullet, either.
posted by KingEdRa at 6:42 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


A few years from now I want webcomic stamps.
posted by beardlace at 7:08 PM on January 6, 2010


Fair enough, KingEdRa. Let's all go to Stamps.Com and make our own custom Calvin stamps! Won't Bill Waterson be proud of us!?

I call dibs on Calvin peeing on a Darwin fish.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:15 PM on January 6, 2010


the process of mass production is inherently soulless and ersatz.

Except that I'm pretty sure that not a single one of us has ever experienced a Calvin & Hobbes strip in a format that wasn't mass-produced, on newsprint or better paper or as a series of bits. It's not like we're talking about a live musical performance vs a Myspace streaming link - comics are an inherently mass-produced medium.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:24 PM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


A better argument (which I gather he believes) would be that commercializing the strip is inconsistent with the spirit of the thing. Fine, don't commmercialize the stirp. But that's different from saying the cup is bad because it doesn't fully represent all aspects of what made the comic great.
An even better argument is if he was saying the cup was bad because it sucks when someone takes your life's work, adds pee to it, and then makes money which you never see any part of off of it.
posted by tastydonuts at 9:03 PM on January 6, 2010


As near as I can tell, Watterson wanted to make art in a particular medium, that medium being: comic strips. Translating that art into any other medium, even one that looks fairly similar (it's still printed images, for example), is doing something different from what he wanted to do. Put as much McLuhan into that as you'd like. The point is that a coffee cup is something different from a comic strip, and a day-by-day calendar is different from a comic strip, and a movie is different from a book, and a stuffed animal is different from a cartoon character.

I'm not accusing anyone of hypocrisy, at least not specifically, but I wonder how many people who are sympathetic to this line of reasoning regarding artistic control also sympathize with musicians and the recording industry for their attempts to assert the same right.
posted by smorange at 3:45 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


And I thought the Simpsons stamps were awesome. OOOOHBOY.

It actually makes me want to send more mail, so I can also send the joy of C&H stamps. Though the rest of the "Sunday Funnies" stamps can bite me.

You know I'm all but ashamed to admit this, but I'm actually kind of pumped to put Bill Mauldin, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Calvin and Hobbes on my letters this year. I honestly haven't been this geeked out about stamps since I was 10.

ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONIST STAMPS TOO?!

*dies of joy*

What I got out of art school is being fussy about aesthetics to a fault. I refuse to use any stamp with the American Flag or the Liberty Bell, not because I hate America, but because they're tacky and over done. I'm one of those jerks who takes ten minutes at the counter holding up everybody in line fussing over my stamp selection. (Please don't get me started on the amount of time it takes to pick out a simple birthday card.)

Now, I just have to fight the battle of "Does the closest PO to me actually have these stamps or do I have to hunt for them?"
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:56 AM on January 7, 2010


Eh. There are millions of people today for whom Calvin is nothing more than that kid who pees on things; I'd be a little ticked if I were Watterson, too.

Considering that he no longer produces new work and merchandising is out, this association is as much a product of his desire to avoid merchandising as it is an example of why merchandising is bad.

If the dissemination of the cartoon is restricted then clearly the depth and understanding that seem important to BW are going to be missing. And yes, even limited dissemination (ie coffee cups etc) leads people to find out what its all about. Mostly though lots of images will clearly show that Clavin is more than a kid who pees on things.

I love C&H and I won't call BW an asshole (although I will note that there are many many assholes in the creative industries who produce the finest of work - it really isn't uncommon), although he might well be for all I know (I don't know the man and won't judge him on the little information in the public domain). I'll consider his right to behave as he has and concede that it is indeed his right.

I am dissapointed though. Here we have something that has considerable, artistic, philosophical merit and value, let alone its considerable ability to bring joy into people's lives - and in order to protect that merit and value we will restrict its dissemination.

He has every right to do it. Its still selfish though. If he's concerned about commercialisation then he should give the money to a deserving charity, and pick one that Calvin would have liked if he finds it incredibly important to pay homage to the depth of the creativity.

If he's concerned that some people won't get the 'depth' and complexity and cleverness - well sorry that surely comes with the territory of producing art ?

Anyway. I'm not going to insult the man who brought me so much joy. I'll just say its a shame to note that he has decided that I'm not allowed to have that joy extended (which surely would happen if I saw C&H t-shirts and mugs about the place - they would make me smile every time).
posted by Boslowski at 5:57 AM on January 7, 2010


You mean to tell me that those beautiful, color, full-page images of Calvin and Hobbes, inside that giant, multi-volume, massive, beautifully-bound set, don't capture the spirit of the strip? Why on earth did he put them there, then?

As for Calvin's character: Reading the earliest of the strips, I'm often surprised how far Calvin goes in the bad direction. I tend to think of him more as mischievous than bad, with a good streak of pure smart-assedness (I'm thinking of the polls of his father's approval ratings), more imagination than can easily remain contained in such a small boy, and a sense of adventure that rivals most adults.
posted by Goofyy at 5:58 AM on January 7, 2010


I wonder if C & H will survive like some of the other old cartoons, given that it's only in book form now and was never merchandised and isn't still running reruns in papers. It only ran for 10 years, and ended 15 years ago.
posted by smackfu at 6:10 AM on January 7, 2010


Well let's hope it's not this . There are enough bumper stickers around.
posted by stormpooper at 6:29 AM on January 7, 2010


What's the old phrase? Something like, "Publishing is suicide"?

Because Mr. Watterson spelled out his reasons, we can all chime in, agree or disagree, call him names, endlessly debate his essay, etc. etc.

The fact remains, though, that it comes down to this:

He is not in it for the money.

Respek.
posted by imneuromancer at 12:53 PM on January 7, 2010


Bill Watterson is interviewed by The Plain Dealer (2/1/10): Link

How soon after the U.S. Postal Service issues the Calvin stamp will you send a letter with one on the envelope?

Immediately. I'm going to get in my horse and buggy and snail-mail a check for my newspaper subscription.
posted by jabberjaw at 2:33 PM on February 1, 2010


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