The Why of the Long Lost Bill Watterson

As two new books by Bill Watterson appear over the next two months – the all new The Mysteries and The Calvin and Hobbes Portable Compendium, a series collecting the comic strip in a new format – we are sure to see many articles about the secluded cartoonist.

“Work and home were so intermingled that I had no refuge from the strip when I needed a break,” Watterson recalls. “Day or night, the work was always right there, and the book-publishing schedule was as relentless as the newspaper deadlines. Having certain perfectionist and maniacal tendencies, I was consumed by Calvin and Hobbes.”

By reading various past interviews and news items by and about Bill Watterson Nic Rowan, for The American Conservative, thinks he knows why the cartoonist stopped doing the comic strip.

This much becomes clear in the last few weeks of the strip. It’s almost apocalyptic: the ancillary characters all disappear. There are no more elaborate flights of fancy. And by the last week of the strip, there is nothing left but Calvin and Hobbes themselves, trudging through a thick Ohio snow…

It is often said that “Let’s Go Exploring” ends Calvin and Hobbes on an upbeat note, exhorting readers to remember that life, after all, is a tabula rasa, and you can make it whatever you wish. But this gets it backward. The end of Calvin and Hobbes is not about filling a blank sheet. It is about taking a colored sheet and making it blank again.

One thought on “The Why of the Long Lost Bill Watterson

  1. Nic Rowan’s assessment of the last week of CALVIN AND HOBBES is terrific. I saw that last strip as Calvin and Hobbes disappearing into his imagination forever (the parents do not come with them.) Rowan has a better analysis.

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