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Bill Watterson grants first interview in decades

Plain Dealer reporter John Campanelli scores an email interview with Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson.

Readers became friends with your characters, so understandably, they grieved — and are still grieving — when the strip ended. What would you like to tell them?

This isn’t as hard to understand as people try to make it. By the end of 10 years, I’d said pretty much everything I had come there to say.

It’s always better to leave the party early. If I had rolled along with the strip’s popularity and repeated myself for another five, 10 or 20 years, the people now “grieving” for “Calvin and Hobbes” would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher, livelier talent. And I’d be agreeing with them.

I think some of the reason “Calvin and Hobbes” still finds an audience today is because I chose not to run the wheels off it.

I’ve never regretted stopping when I did.

Community Comments

#1 Dan Bielinski
@ 10:01 am

Bill is the man. Good to see he’s doing just fine.

#2 Jeff Pert
@ 11:05 am

Bill Watterson, the J.D. Salinger of comics.

#3 Alec Fritz
@ 11:10 am

And for those who haven’t read an interview conducted by Andrews Mcmeel in 2005, where they had fans email questions in for Bill Watterson, it’s pretty insightful as well:

#4 Charles Brubaker
@ 12:15 pm

Nice to see he’s doing fine. I wonder how they managed to get him for an interview.

And that link Alec gave; yes, that’s me asking one of the questions. It’s probably the only contact I’ll ever have with the reclusive cartoonist.

#5 Dan Reynolds
@ 12:20 pm

Calvin and Hobbes have Bill tied up in a bedroom closet. They’re feeding him saltines under the door as well as kool-aid through a crazy straw stuck in the key hole.

If you need more on this story, you can write me. I’ve been in contact with Bill telepathically for years.

#6 Stacy Curtis
@ 1:06 pm

Not much of an interview, same old questions and the same old answers, but he probably wanted it that way.

#7 Garey Mckee
@ 4:25 pm

It seems the interview was fishing for a much more emotional attachment to the strip than Watterson is willing to commit to. However, this line makes it all worth while:

“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.”

#8 Phil Wohlrab
@ 4:38 pm

He certainly feeds the legend by not publicly producing any new work. It makes the thing that much more special.

#9 Stephen Beals
@ 4:58 pm

And here I was all excited that he was announcing a Calvin theme park, toy line and series of animated specials. How disappointing.

#10 Woody Barlettani
@ 7:45 pm

…I don’t know I never been their yet,…but after all the sucess of a creation of mine, the size of a “Calvin & Hobbes” ,I think ,I would be a little bored after this many years off the stage, but maybe I’ll have a ten year run and….who my kid’n .I’d be lucky to be alive at seventy two…right on Bill, be nice if we all got’ta chance to see what yer going through…..

#11 Mike Cope
@ 8:32 pm

Wait a minute … Bill Watterson uses email???

I thought guys like him communicate via burning bushes :)

#12 john meyers
@ 10:35 pm

Eh; I just wish he would’ve jumped back into the striping world a few years after he ended Calvin & Hobbes, with a totally new strip; unrelated to the C&H one.

It would’ve been nice to see what other magical creativity was lurking around in his head.

But eh…have fun in retirement Bill..!!

Now if you’ll excuse me, gents; I have to get back on drawing up my own strip…


#13 Pedro Molina.
@ 12:16 am

I read somewhere that he was painting… I’d love to see some of that…

#14 Anne Hambrock
@ 7:31 am

Does anyone go looking for Gary Larson?

He pulled the plug in similar fashion and also is seldom heard from but I never hear the Salinger comparison.

#15 Pedro Molina.
@ 9:13 am

Yeah, you are right Anne.

#16 Chris Fournier
@ 9:47 am

Gary Larson was a voiceover on The Simpsons 20th Anniversary special. Did anyone catch that?
It was the episode when a headhunter was trying to persuade Homer, Carl, and Lenny to leave the nuclear plant for another facility.
The catch was that this new power plant had so much money that they could afford to hire Gary Larson to do employee caricatures to which Gary lends his voice to his ‘character’.

#17 Steve Greenberg
@ 10:39 am

Gary Larson is less reclusive than Watterson (who isn’t?) and he and Matt Groening share Puget Sound (Wash.) ties.

#18 Pedro Molina.
@ 12:19 pm

I must find that Simpsons episode!

#19 Joe Forrest
@ 12:20 pm

Nice to hear from him. It’s great to hear that he’s doing alright.

He was a great cartoonist, and I’ve got to say that I read calvin and hobbes everyday and it always reminds me of how wonderful life really is. It’s amazing what a cartoon is able to do.

I wonder if he’s reading any of these comments now.

#20 Garey Mckee
@ 3:54 pm

Okay, confess all of you! You all have one of those peeing Calvin decals on the back window of your cars! Admit it!

#21 Shane Davis
@ 4:00 pm

“Bill Watterson, the J.D. Salinger of comics.”

Or the Salman Rushdie. Did someone put a fatwah on him?
Maybe for that strip where he offed that bird…

#22 Les Taylor
@ 6:42 pm

How is it that the one cartoonist I look up to more than any other can drive me insane when I listen to him talk about his own work? I always find myself wishing he loved Calvin and Hobbes as much as I did/do.

#23 Mike Peterson
@ 8:12 pm

“It wouldâ??ve been nice to see what other magical creativity was lurking around in his head.”

Two words: Joseph Heller.

And I don’t mean the guy in Green Bay.

Sometimes, it’s best to take the one, shining magical piece and not keep demanding more. Nothing Joe Heller did after Catch-22 was worth a tinker’s dam.

But Catch-22 was certainly magic enough.

#24 Oliver Knörzer
@ 6:25 am

The questions were okay, but the interview is very short and Billâ??s answers are not really offering something new. Iâ??m slightly disappointed.

#25 Shane Davis
@ 11:45 am

In fairness to Bill Watterson, he’s probably sick to death of the same questions over and over.

Really, what ‘brilliant’ question could someone ask that hasn’t either already been asked 987 times or is one that’s too personal to answer to begin with.

We all want more C&H, but bugging the living crap outta the man with a quadrillion insipid questions isn’t going to make that happen.

If Harper Lee had another novel in her that she thought was up to the level of her first, then she would have written it. Likewise for Mr. Watterson.

Seriously, leave the dude alone. I figure when he has something new to say, he’ll say it.

#26 Shane Davis
@ 11:59 am

Hey, let’s bug Berke Breathed instead. He’s showing up at Comic Con’s and getting books made into movies now, so…

Since he’s coming out of his own Brian Wilson-type seclusion and sliding into mainstream, it may be a good time to stalk him like a wounded antelope until he does a new Bill the Cat swimsuit calendar or something.

Dang, I miss Steve Dallas…

#27 Don Smith-Weiss
@ 1:40 pm

Years ago, I wrote four songs for a proposed musical version of Calvin and Hobbes and mailed a cassette and outline, but Bill’s editor sent back the package and wrote that he wasn’t interested in any outside projects. I was disappointed (there were a couple of killer songs there), but respect his sticking to his convictions. The strip is still pure and a masterpiece…maybe the best one ever.

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