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The collection of the rarest of Bill Watterson’s artwork

Drawn! had a link a couple of days ago pointing visitors to  “Bill Watterson’s Rarest” – a site dedicated to chronicling artwork produced by Bill before and during the Calvin and Hobbes years. They also point to another site Calvin & Hobbes: Magic on Paper which is much of the same, perhaps even more detailed.  If you’re a Calvin and Hobbes fan, these are great sites to check out.

Bill did quite a bit of drawings that are out in the wild if you’ve got some cash (lots) and are lucky to pick out the genuine article.  The Magic on Paper site has a list (with images) of known fakes out there (scroll to bottom).  I remember seeing one just last spring on eBay. I was tempted to bid on it, but when the seller couldn’t produce proof of authenticity, I let it go. Unfortunately someone else didn’t and it sold for over $900. Ouch.

Speaking of eBay and Calvin and Hobbes stuff, I just looked to see if there were any of the fakes available, and came across this “It’s a Magic World” book that is purported to be a genuinely autographed copy.  Nobody has bid (starting bid is $375) and it closes tomorrow at noon.  Buyer beware. That’s for sure.

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Community Comments

#1 Mark Buford
August/30/2006
@ 5:28 pm

My frustration over Wattersonâ??s licensing battles with Universal Press have been renewed. Never have I witnessed such egocentrism on the part of a cartoonist. Quite simply, he should have read his contract carefully before he signed it.

I developed a strip with Universal Press shortly after the aforementioned dispute took place. They were nice enough to fly me to Kansas City to show me around and meet their staff. As I toured the offices, the frustration and bewilderment was palpable. It was apparent that I was stepping through a still smoldering battlefield. I felt bad for them.

If Watterson had no intention of having his characters licensed, he shouldâ??ve went the self-syndication route. Perhaps then he wouldâ??ve had a better appreciation of all the things syndicates do for cartoonists.

#2 Mark Buford
August/30/2006
@ 11:28 am

My frustration over Wattersonâ??s licensing battles with Universal Press have been renewed. Never have I witnessed such egocentrism on the part of a cartoonist. Quite simply, he should have read his contract carefully before he signed it.

I developed a strip with Universal Press shortly after the aforementioned dispute took place. They were nice enough to fly me to Kansas City to show me around and meet their staff. As I toured the offices, the frustration and bewilderment was palpable. It was apparent that I was stepping through a still smoldering battlefield. I felt bad for them.

If Watterson had no intention of having his characters licensed, he shouldâ??ve went the self-syndication route. Perhaps then he wouldâ??ve had a better appreciation of all the things syndicates do for cartoonists.

#3 Alan
August/30/2006
@ 5:58 pm

I do have to commend Universal Press for not grinding Watterson into a legal pulp. The battle went on for years and it appears they did everything they could to keep a good relationship going. That takes character and integrity.

#4 Alan
August/30/2006
@ 11:58 am

I do have to commend Universal Press for not grinding Watterson into a legal pulp. The battle went on for years and it appears they did everything they could to keep a good relationship going. That takes character and integrity.

#5 Charles Brubaker
August/30/2006
@ 6:03 pm

Are you the same Mark Buford of “Meatloaf Night”? Whatever happened to that strip? I used to read it on comics.com

#6 Charles Brubaker
August/30/2006
@ 12:03 pm

Are you the same Mark Buford of “Meatloaf Night”? Whatever happened to that strip? I used to read it on comics.com

#7 Mark Buford
August/30/2006
@ 6:59 pm

To Charles: Yes, thatâ??s me. â??Meatloafâ? lasted a few years, and was a rollicking good time, but ultimately did not stay hot enough to keep a pulse. I now sell panel gags and illustrations to magazines and alternative weeklies.

To Alan: Good point. I suppose if Universal had made things unpleasant for Watterson we wouldâ??ve missed out on years of wonderful work.

#8 Mark Buford
August/30/2006
@ 12:59 pm

To Charles: Yes, thatâ??s me. â??Meatloafâ? lasted a few years, and was a rollicking good time, but ultimately did not stay hot enough to keep a pulse. I now sell panel gags and illustrations to magazines and alternative weeklies.

To Alan: Good point. I suppose if Universal had made things unpleasant for Watterson we wouldâ??ve missed out on years of wonderful work.

#9 Rick Stromoski
August/30/2006
@ 8:01 pm

Although I personally would’ve licensed the Hell out of a strip like C&H, I fully respect and support the rights of creators to control their creations and what is done with them. Watterson took an ethical stand in this regard and for whatever reasons he had not to license his work, it is fully his right to do so.

#10 Rick Stromoski
August/30/2006
@ 2:01 pm

Although I personally would’ve licensed the Hell out of a strip like C&H, I fully respect and support the rights of creators to control their creations and what is done with them. Watterson took an ethical stand in this regard and for whatever reasons he had not to license his work, it is fully his right to do so.

#11 Dave
August/31/2006
@ 3:37 pm

Actually, based on the standard syndicate contract (which is the one he signed), it was UPS’s right to license the hell out of it however they wanted. They only needed to give Watterson his 50% – they didn’t need his approval, input or anything else, and he had no legal way of stopping them. The only thing he could do was refuse to draw the strip, which would have killed it.

But as I understand it, he asked them not to, and they agreed because the strip was so popular, which is infinitely generous on their part, as they had no legal reason not to and lost millions, I’m told.

Then I read his rationale for not licensing in an interview, and I lost all respect for his side of the argument. Basically it’s his belief that the characters exist in comic strip form and to put them even on a mug or a t-shirt (or even a calendar – there was only one) was to fundamentally change their nature such that they were no longer what he had intended. Now, I can see that reasoning for animation or toys or illogical products like bubblebath and toothpaste, but I don’t see how taking an image from the strip and putting it on a T-shirt is fundamentally changing anything. How is it different from putting it on the cover or frontspiece of a book?

#12 Dave
August/31/2006
@ 9:37 am

Actually, based on the standard syndicate contract (which is the one he signed), it was UPS’s right to license the hell out of it however they wanted. They only needed to give Watterson his 50% – they didn’t need his approval, input or anything else, and he had no legal way of stopping them. The only thing he could do was refuse to draw the strip, which would have killed it.

But as I understand it, he asked them not to, and they agreed because the strip was so popular, which is infinitely generous on their part, as they had no legal reason not to and lost millions, I’m told.

Then I read his rationale for not licensing in an interview, and I lost all respect for his side of the argument. Basically it’s his belief that the characters exist in comic strip form and to put them even on a mug or a t-shirt (or even a calendar – there was only one) was to fundamentally change their nature such that they were no longer what he had intended. Now, I can see that reasoning for animation or toys or illogical products like bubblebath and toothpaste, but I don’t see how taking an image from the strip and putting it on a T-shirt is fundamentally changing anything. How is it different from putting it on the cover or frontspiece of a book?

#13 Alan
August/31/2006
@ 3:51 pm

I’ll agree that his position was rather extreme, but perhaps to keep any control over the licensing he had to draw a line at nothing, otherwise he’d risk the slippery slope of only calendars this year, then next year it was calendars plus t-shirts. With each year’s success and public demand for products it would be very difficult for him to have any control and harder to keep the syndicate from over-riding him. Just speculation on my part.

#14 Alan
August/31/2006
@ 9:51 am

I’ll agree that his position was rather extreme, but perhaps to keep any control over the licensing he had to draw a line at nothing, otherwise he’d risk the slippery slope of only calendars this year, then next year it was calendars plus t-shirts. With each year’s success and public demand for products it would be very difficult for him to have any control and harder to keep the syndicate from over-riding him. Just speculation on my part.

#15 Rick Stromoski
August/31/2006
@ 3:53 pm

Back in the day( pre 1995 or so) the only way to get a syndication deal was to sign these antiquated all rights grabbing boiler plate contracts. Most cartoonists had to sign away their own copyright to the syndicates in order to get published. The only way to fight this abominable practice was to either wait out the 20 years and jump to a new syndicate while requiring ownership of your creation or hope that your strip is a blockbuster and demand input on how your creation is marketed. The only leverage the creator had was to stop the feature altogether. Even then the syndicates could hire a salaried ghost and still produce the feature and cut out the creator altogether.

Say what you will about Watterson’s personality and unfriendliness to his peers and fans but in this instance he was a risk taker and started the change in how syndicates interacted with creators.

#16 Rick Stromoski
August/31/2006
@ 9:53 am

Back in the day( pre 1995 or so) the only way to get a syndication deal was to sign these antiquated all rights grabbing boiler plate contracts. Most cartoonists had to sign away their own copyright to the syndicates in order to get published. The only way to fight this abominable practice was to either wait out the 20 years and jump to a new syndicate while requiring ownership of your creation or hope that your strip is a blockbuster and demand input on how your creation is marketed. The only leverage the creator had was to stop the feature altogether. Even then the syndicates could hire a salaried ghost and still produce the feature and cut out the creator altogether.

Say what you will about Watterson’s personality and unfriendliness to his peers and fans but in this instance he was a risk taker and started the change in how syndicates interacted with creators.

#17 Dave
August/31/2006
@ 9:31 pm

Well, the fact that the syndicate didn’t do ANYTHING when they could legally have makes me think that they would have stopped at whatever he wanted. After all, they stopped at basically zero.

And as a result he ended up with NO control over the licensing because it invited every bootlegger and his sister to fill the void and make millions off of unofficial C&H merchandise. If he thought designing a T-shirt himself would bastardize his creation, I can’t imagine he thought someone else doing it (and not giving him any money for it) was such a great idea. But that’s what happened. He inadvertantly created a cottage industry in pirated C&H crap, cheating himself and the syndicate out of a ton of money and cheating his fans out of quality-controlled and well-executed merchandise.

#18 Dave
August/31/2006
@ 3:31 pm

Well, the fact that the syndicate didn’t do ANYTHING when they could legally have makes me think that they would have stopped at whatever he wanted. After all, they stopped at basically zero.

And as a result he ended up with NO control over the licensing because it invited every bootlegger and his sister to fill the void and make millions off of unofficial C&H merchandise. If he thought designing a T-shirt himself would bastardize his creation, I can’t imagine he thought someone else doing it (and not giving him any money for it) was such a great idea. But that’s what happened. He inadvertantly created a cottage industry in pirated C&H crap, cheating himself and the syndicate out of a ton of money and cheating his fans out of quality-controlled and well-executed merchandise.

#19 Charles Brubaker
August/31/2006
@ 10:18 pm

How is the syndication contract these days? Specifically, copyright.

Does creators own the copyright these days? I notice in comic-strips these days that the copyright line reads as a variation of “(C)2006 Name of cartoonist, distributed by A Syndicate”. Or is the copyright split?

I think some strips, like “Garfield”, is controlled entirely by creator (or Paws, Inc.), since I never see Universal Press’s name in any Garfield material except the strips themselves (older merchandise had United Features’ name, though).

#20 Charles Brubaker
August/31/2006
@ 4:18 pm

How is the syndication contract these days? Specifically, copyright.

Does creators own the copyright these days? I notice in comic-strips these days that the copyright line reads as a variation of “(C)2006 Name of cartoonist, distributed by A Syndicate”. Or is the copyright split?

I think some strips, like “Garfield”, is controlled entirely by creator (or Paws, Inc.), since I never see Universal Press’s name in any Garfield material except the strips themselves (older merchandise had United Features’ name, though).

#21 Alan
August/31/2006
@ 10:26 pm

My understanding is now-a-days the creator owns the feature outright (though I think there are stipulations that say if the contracts gets broken before its natural sunset, the creator can’t use the feature elsewhere). When you see copyright assigned to the syndicate, it usually means the strip is old and the syndicate has never relinquished the rights back to the creator OR the creator had a really bad lawyer going into the contract.

#22 Alan
August/31/2006
@ 4:26 pm

My understanding is now-a-days the creator owns the feature outright (though I think there are stipulations that say if the contracts gets broken before its natural sunset, the creator can’t use the feature elsewhere). When you see copyright assigned to the syndicate, it usually means the strip is old and the syndicate has never relinquished the rights back to the creator OR the creator had a really bad lawyer going into the contract.

#23 Rick Stromoski
September/1/2006
@ 12:28 am

Dave…almost every pop culture phenom will have it’s bootleg element…look at how the simpsons were ripped off and they were licensed to the hilt. Whenever any bootleg operations were discovered Universal shut them down.

The bottom line is, Watterson didn’t want to license his creation and as a fellow creator who believes that the last say about these things should lie with the guy who created it I respect that and don’t hold it against him. Sounds like some people are very upset that they never got a chance to wear a Calvin shirt or hug a stuffed Hobbes doll. Tough , life sucks…get a helmet.

#24 Rick Stromoski
August/31/2006
@ 6:28 pm

Dave…almost every pop culture phenom will have it’s bootleg element…look at how the simpsons were ripped off and they were licensed to the hilt. Whenever any bootleg operations were discovered Universal shut them down.

The bottom line is, Watterson didn’t want to license his creation and as a fellow creator who believes that the last say about these things should lie with the guy who created it I respect that and don’t hold it against him. Sounds like some people are very upset that they never got a chance to wear a Calvin shirt or hug a stuffed Hobbes doll. Tough , life sucks…get a helmet.

#25 Charles Brubaker
September/1/2006
@ 12:41 am

“Simpsons” were from FOX, not Universal, but your point stands.

Well said, Rick.

#26 Charles Brubaker
August/31/2006
@ 6:41 pm

“Simpsons” were from FOX, not Universal, but your point stands.

Well said, Rick.

#27 Rick Stromoski
September/1/2006
@ 11:06 am

I wasn’t very clear on that. I meant to say that whenever any bootleg Calvin merchandise was discovered, Universal was very quick to shut them down. Daves claim that bootleg Calvin merchandise made “millions” is a bit of an exagerration. More like “hundreds”…

#28 Rick Stromoski
September/1/2006
@ 5:06 am

I wasn’t very clear on that. I meant to say that whenever any bootleg Calvin merchandise was discovered, Universal was very quick to shut them down. Daves claim that bootleg Calvin merchandise made “millions” is a bit of an exagerration. More like “hundreds”…

#29 Gus Ackerman
September/1/2006
@ 1:42 pm

I respectfully disagree. When combined with spicy mustard and romaine lettuce, the roast beef will exude a zestiness that can do nothing but augment…oops, I’m sorry. I thought I was logged onto “The Daily Sandwich.”

#30 Gus Ackerman
September/1/2006
@ 7:42 am

I respectfully disagree. When combined with spicy mustard and romaine lettuce, the roast beef will exude a zestiness that can do nothing but augment…oops, I’m sorry. I thought I was logged onto “The Daily Sandwich.”

#31 Dave
September/1/2006
@ 2:35 pm

Well, that’s a very good point about the Simpsons. But, while Universal may have shut down what C&H it found, I’m sure it only “found” the tip of the iceberg. And I doubt adding together all the C&H bootleg stuff that was sold all over the world over all the years that it was hot enough to bootleg, that it amounted to “hundreds” of dollars. That’s just silly. Seeing as how Universal themselves estimate that they lost at least $300 million on plush toys alone, I’m guessing all those bootleggers made at least $1 million combined. Or, maybe just a couple hundred bucks. You could be right.

And while I agree that the creator should have the right to control his own creation (as a fellow creator myself) and I respect Watterson’s choice not to license C&H, I guess I just don’t respect his reasoning not to. It sounds like he could have controlled the output of licensing even though he didn’t have a legal leg to stand on. The syndicate wasn’t going to do anything he didn’t want to do – period.

I guess what I don’t respect is over-intellectualizing commercial art and making it into something it’s not. To say that putting an image of Calvin & Hobbes on a T-shirt makes it no longer a comic strip is overthinking it to the extreme. After all, people DID put it on T-shirts, and it actually DIDN’T stop being a comic strip, so he was effectively proven wrong anyway. Whatever, just a bete noir, I guess. I survived without a T-shirt because I wouldn’t on principle buy any bootlegged stuf (“Get a helmet”? Is that your little thing that you say? I’m guessing you’re from somehwere in between California and New York).

And as far as copyright goes, it’s basically meaningless. The contract states that the creator and the syndicate share the rights 50/50. As long as one of them is listed in the copyright line, it’s copyrighted. What it says in the contract means more than what it says in the copyright line.

#32 Dave
September/1/2006
@ 8:35 am

Well, that’s a very good point about the Simpsons. But, while Universal may have shut down what C&H it found, I’m sure it only “found” the tip of the iceberg. And I doubt adding together all the C&H bootleg stuff that was sold all over the world over all the years that it was hot enough to bootleg, that it amounted to “hundreds” of dollars. That’s just silly. Seeing as how Universal themselves estimate that they lost at least $300 million on plush toys alone, I’m guessing all those bootleggers made at least $1 million combined. Or, maybe just a couple hundred bucks. You could be right.

And while I agree that the creator should have the right to control his own creation (as a fellow creator myself) and I respect Watterson’s choice not to license C&H, I guess I just don’t respect his reasoning not to. It sounds like he could have controlled the output of licensing even though he didn’t have a legal leg to stand on. The syndicate wasn’t going to do anything he didn’t want to do – period.

I guess what I don’t respect is over-intellectualizing commercial art and making it into something it’s not. To say that putting an image of Calvin & Hobbes on a T-shirt makes it no longer a comic strip is overthinking it to the extreme. After all, people DID put it on T-shirts, and it actually DIDN’T stop being a comic strip, so he was effectively proven wrong anyway. Whatever, just a bete noir, I guess. I survived without a T-shirt because I wouldn’t on principle buy any bootlegged stuf (“Get a helmet”? Is that your little thing that you say? I’m guessing you’re from somehwere in between California and New York).

And as far as copyright goes, it’s basically meaningless. The contract states that the creator and the syndicate share the rights 50/50. As long as one of them is listed in the copyright line, it’s copyrighted. What it says in the contract means more than what it says in the copyright line.

#33 Jim Shelton
September/1/2006
@ 3:15 pm

I agree with Dave. Watterson’s specious reasoning concerning merchandising spawned a bootlegging ogre bigger than any dinasaur he ever inked. Sure, there’s bootlegging involved with any sucsessful character, but it certainly would’ve been diluted quite a bit with the introduction of legal merchandising. Universal had to play watchdog and shut down illegal bootlegging operations? Great. How much wasted time and money did that take?

#34 Jim Shelton
September/1/2006
@ 9:15 am

I agree with Dave. Watterson’s specious reasoning concerning merchandising spawned a bootlegging ogre bigger than any dinasaur he ever inked. Sure, there’s bootlegging involved with any sucsessful character, but it certainly would’ve been diluted quite a bit with the introduction of legal merchandising. Universal had to play watchdog and shut down illegal bootlegging operations? Great. How much wasted time and money did that take?

#35 Norm Feuti
September/1/2006
@ 9:51 pm

I have to disagree with the theory that Watterson was somehow to blame for the bootlegging. True, his refusal to license the characters spawned more illegal stuff than probably would have otherwise existed … but that doesn’t mean he should have comprimised his principles to prevent others from doing the wrong thing.

Whether you agree with him or not, you have to admit that in the end the strip remained pure. Calvin & Hobbes ended before it became stale and unfunny, and it never suffered the over-merchandising death that other strips have.

C&H was an extremely lucrative in those short 10 years even without merchandising … They may have MISSED OUT on millions … but they didn’t LOSE anything.

#36 Norm Feuti
September/1/2006
@ 3:51 pm

I have to disagree with the theory that Watterson was somehow to blame for the bootlegging. True, his refusal to license the characters spawned more illegal stuff than probably would have otherwise existed … but that doesn’t mean he should have comprimised his principles to prevent others from doing the wrong thing.

Whether you agree with him or not, you have to admit that in the end the strip remained pure. Calvin & Hobbes ended before it became stale and unfunny, and it never suffered the over-merchandising death that other strips have.

C&H was an extremely lucrative in those short 10 years even without merchandising … They may have MISSED OUT on millions … but they didn’t LOSE anything.

#37 Dave
September/5/2006
@ 3:25 pm

I’m not saying he should have done it only to stop bootleggers. Based on interviews I’ve read he didn’t want to license it because he felt it would be ruined even if it were licensed to death. All I was saying was that other people made relatively innocuous merchandise like t-shirts and mugs and posters (which were hack jobs) and the strip wasn’t destroyed and the chraracters didn’t die. That should have shown him that it was possible to do some classy stuff with restraint, and not compromise the integrity of the strip. That’s all. I respect his integrity, and I repect Universal Press for letting him make the call, because I think creators should have contorl of their creations. And I think you’re right that he stopped at the right time, and it definitely benefitted from not being over-merchandized. But it WAS merchandized, just not by him. All I’m saying is that if he had allowed SOME merchandizing it would have given the world GOOD t-shirts or posters, would have smoothed things over with the syndicate and taken money out of the hands of scummy bootleggers. I respect his integrity, but I don’t think his total freeze-out had a net positive result in the world.

#38 Dave
September/5/2006
@ 9:25 am

I’m not saying he should have done it only to stop bootleggers. Based on interviews I’ve read he didn’t want to license it because he felt it would be ruined even if it were licensed to death. All I was saying was that other people made relatively innocuous merchandise like t-shirts and mugs and posters (which were hack jobs) and the strip wasn’t destroyed and the chraracters didn’t die. That should have shown him that it was possible to do some classy stuff with restraint, and not compromise the integrity of the strip. That’s all. I respect his integrity, and I repect Universal Press for letting him make the call, because I think creators should have contorl of their creations. And I think you’re right that he stopped at the right time, and it definitely benefitted from not being over-merchandized. But it WAS merchandized, just not by him. All I’m saying is that if he had allowed SOME merchandizing it would have given the world GOOD t-shirts or posters, would have smoothed things over with the syndicate and taken money out of the hands of scummy bootleggers. I respect his integrity, but I don’t think his total freeze-out had a net positive result in the world.

#39 CRB
November/17/2006
@ 7:20 am

Rather than shoot from the hip, it might be beneficial to spend a few moments reading why Watterson refused to commercialize.

Please read his comments in the 10th Anniversery C&H.

#40 JM
June/6/2011
@ 9:55 pm

Anyone know what the Watterson signed and numbered Calvin and Hobbes lithograph (numbered 1 – 1000) that was sent to newspapers might be worth?

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