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The reclusivity of Bill Watterson

Salon looks at the reclusive nature of Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson:

Some say that the “recluse” is an endangered species, but to my knowledge, there’s still one artist who is keeping the idea of the private public figure alive: Bill Watterson, writer and illustrator of the beloved comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes.”

Depicting the adventures of a precocious six year old and his tiger best friend and syndicated by the Universal Press Syndicate in 1985, “Calvin and Hobbes” had a solid decade of unprecedented success, running a total of 3,160 strips long, collected into 18 books, and appearing in nearly 2,500 newspapers across the country. For Watterson, who from the very beginning was averse to the attention “Calvin and Hobbes” brought him, the personal triumph of writing a successful comic strip was at times overshadowed by the burdens that came with it.

If you’re in Cleveland tomorrow or Wednesday, be sure to check out the special screening of the documentary, Dear Mr. Watterson. Who knows? Maybe Bill, who is rumored to living in the Cleveland area, will slip into the back in disguise to view it. But don’t hold your breath.

Dear Mr. Watterson Teaser Trailer from Dear Mr. Watterson on Vimeo.

Community Comments

#1 Tom Racine
April/8/2013
@ 12:32 pm

He’s totally on my Bucket List Podcast Interviews. Can you imagine? What the hell would I ask him? I’d probably have to just end the show after that. Short of bringing Charles Schulz back from the dead, I’d never top that.

#2 Scott Metzger
April/8/2013
@ 12:44 pm

Tom – if anyone can pull that off, you can. Keep the dream alive!

#3 Mike Cope
April/8/2013
@ 12:49 pm

Looking so forward to watching this documentary. Apparently, they are finalizing the disc menus. This and Stripped will likely be on auto loop for a long time in the studio.

#4 Brian Fies
April/8/2013
@ 2:30 pm

Garry Trudeau once said, “America is the only country in the world where failing to promote yourself is regarded as being arrogant.” No doubt the documentary’s producers mean well, but from the first I heard of it I thought if they really respected Watterson and his work, they’d respect his wish to be left alone. All he owed us was his strip.

#5 Rich Diesslin
April/8/2013
@ 6:05 pm

Well said Brian.

#6 Rich Diesslin
April/8/2013
@ 6:08 pm

I’d still have to think that it would be somewhat flattering to him to know how much folks liked and appreciated his work, so it’s a fine line between that and invading his privacy. Still good luck Tom on your bucket list. ;)

#7 Donald Rex Jr.
April/8/2013
@ 10:08 pm

Many artists remember John Lennon’s fate, and see their priorities through that sad lens.

#8 Jeff Darcy
April/9/2013
@ 11:05 am

A few years ago Bill Watterson did a phone interview with a
feature writer for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. Hobbes could
be heard in the background coughing up hairballs.

#9 Stacy Curtis
April/9/2013
@ 11:45 am

Anyone talk to Harper Lee lately?
Bill Watterson is in good company:
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/harper-lee-hey-boo/interview-with-director-mary-murphy/2025/

#10 Rich Diesslin
April/9/2013
@ 9:16 pm

Stacy – interesting article. ;)

#11 Paul Tubb
April/10/2013
@ 9:52 am

Steve Ditko is also an example of a “private public figure”

#12 b.j. dewey
April/10/2013
@ 9:05 pm

What more could Watterson give us if he were back in the public spotlight? I’m not sure, but it might have been classics like the best of the Schulz TV shows such as “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” or “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” Maybe, with his intelligence and writing skills, a greater understanding of the future of comics. Maybe more fun, laughter, and happiness for his fans, especially the kids. Or maybe, as Brian said, he’s given us all that he owed.

#13 Anne Morse Hambrock
April/11/2013
@ 11:47 am

There are a lot of big time cartoonists who attend the Reubens and, while they are there with their colleagues, they are just regular people and it is very cool to see the comradarie. When you do a comic strip it is such a weird job and very few of your friends and family understand what it is like to do that job so mixing with the only people on the planet who can relate is a special thing. So it might have been nice if Watterson could have stayed involved with his fellow cartoonists in that way.

On the other hand, maybe there would have been too big a divide between him and new cartoonists coming up. Maybe there would have been so much fawning and “kissing the ring” that he would have been profoundly uncomfortable. And really, just because you are good at your job doesn’t mean you owe the rest of your profession anything. He has a perfect right to live in the way that most makes him happy. And perhaps the rest of us should just deal with it and get on with our lives

#14 JW Wills
April/14/2013
@ 4:19 pm

Leave the man alone. If he wanted the spotlight he would have sought it out. Busy bodies are so obnoxious.

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