Bill Watterson

Bill Watterson

Overview
William Boyd Watterson II (born July 5, 1958), known as Bill Watterson, is an American cartoonist
Cartoonist
A cartoonist is a person who specializes in drawing cartoons. This work is usually humorous, mainly created for entertainment, political commentary or advertising...

 and the author of the comic strip
Comic strip
A comic strip is a sequence of drawings arranged in interrelated panels to display brief humor or form a narrative, often serialized, with text in balloons and captions....

 Calvin and Hobbes
Calvin and Hobbes
Calvin and Hobbes is a syndicated daily comic strip that was written and illustrated by American cartoonist Bill Watterson, and syndicated from November 18, 1985, to December 31, 1995. It follows the humorous antics of Calvin, a precocious and adventurous six-year-old boy, and Hobbes, his...

. His career as a syndicated cartoonist ran from 1985 to 1995; he stopped drawing Calvin and Hobbes at the end of 1995 with a short statement to newspaper editors and his readers that he felt he had achieved all he could in the comic strip medium. Watterson is known for his views on licensing and comic syndication, as well as for his reclusive nature.

Watterson was born in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, where his father, James G.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Bill Watterson'
Start a new discussion about 'Bill Watterson'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
William Boyd Watterson II (born July 5, 1958), known as Bill Watterson, is an American cartoonist
Cartoonist
A cartoonist is a person who specializes in drawing cartoons. This work is usually humorous, mainly created for entertainment, political commentary or advertising...

 and the author of the comic strip
Comic strip
A comic strip is a sequence of drawings arranged in interrelated panels to display brief humor or form a narrative, often serialized, with text in balloons and captions....

 Calvin and Hobbes
Calvin and Hobbes
Calvin and Hobbes is a syndicated daily comic strip that was written and illustrated by American cartoonist Bill Watterson, and syndicated from November 18, 1985, to December 31, 1995. It follows the humorous antics of Calvin, a precocious and adventurous six-year-old boy, and Hobbes, his...

. His career as a syndicated cartoonist ran from 1985 to 1995; he stopped drawing Calvin and Hobbes at the end of 1995 with a short statement to newspaper editors and his readers that he felt he had achieved all he could in the comic strip medium. Watterson is known for his views on licensing and comic syndication, as well as for his reclusive nature.

Early years and education


Watterson was born in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, where his father, James G. Watterson (born 1932), worked as a patent examiner while going to George Washington University Law School before becoming a patent attorney
Patent attorney
A patent attorney is an attorney who has the specialized qualifications necessary for representing clients in obtaining patents and acting in all matters and procedures relating to patent law and practice, such as filing an opposition...

 in 1960.

In 1964, when Bill was six years old, the family moved to Chagrin Falls
Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Chagrin Falls is a village in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, United States. It is a suburb of Cleveland in the Northeast Ohio region, the 14th largest Combined Statistical Area nationwide. The village was established and has grown around a natural waterfall on the Chagrin River. As of the 2010 census,...

, Ohio
Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

, where his mother, Kathryn Watterson, became a city council
City council
A city council or town council is the legislative body that governs a city, town, municipality or local government area.-Australia & NZ:Because of the differences in legislation between the States, the exact definition of a City Council varies...

 member. James was elected as a council member in 1997, holding that position for 12 years before retiring on August 31, 2009 to pursue some artistic "projects and goals".

Watterson, who drew his first cartoon at the age of eight, spent a lot of time in childhood alone, occupying his time with drawing and cartooning. This continued throughout his primary and secondary schooling years when he drew cartoons for the school newspaper and yearbook. During this time he discovered comics strips like Pogo, Krazy Kat
Krazy Kat
Krazy Kat is an American comic strip created by cartoonist George Herriman, published daily in newspapers between 1913 and 1944. It first appeared in the New York Evening Journal, whose owner, William Randolph Hearst, was a major booster for the strip throughout its run...

, and Charles Schulz
Charles M. Schulz
Charles Monroe "Sparky" Schulz was an American cartoonist, whose comic strip Peanuts proved one of the most popular and influential in the history of the medium, and is still widely reprinted on a daily basis.-Early life and education:Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Schulz grew up in Saint Paul...

' Peanuts
Peanuts
Peanuts is a syndicated daily and Sunday American comic strip written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz, which ran from October 2, 1950, to February 13, 2000, continuing in reruns afterward...

which subsequently inspired and influenced his desire to become a professional cartoonist. His parents recall him as a very quiet and unassuming child, who would spend hours drawing in his room:
While attending Chagrin Falls High School
Chagrin Falls High School
Chagrin Falls High School is located in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, a suburb in the Greater Cleveland metropolitan area. The high school's mascot is Mortimer the Tiger .-Awards and recognition:...

, Bill drew a representation of the school mascot, Mortimer the Tiger, for the school newspaper. This tiger was said to be the early inspiration behind Hobbes and the rendering can still be found on school merchandise.

College


From 1976 to 1980, Bill Watterson attended Kenyon College
Kenyon College
Kenyon College is a private liberal arts college in Gambier, Ohio, founded in 1824 by Bishop Philander Chase of The Episcopal Church, in parallel with the Bexley Hall seminary. It is the oldest private college in Ohio...

 and completed a degree in political science, all the while developing his artistic skills and contributing cartoons for the college newspaper. Many of the cartoons and pieces of artwork Watterson created at Kenyon can now be found online. These comics were the original "Spaceman Spiff" cartoons.

Jim Borgman
Jim Borgman
James Mark Borgman is an American cartoonist. He is known for his political cartoons and his nationally syndicated comic strip Zits.-Personal:...

 had graduated from Kenyon just before Watterson arrived, but his work as a political cartoonist so impressed Bill that he decided to pursue a career as one himself. Borgman worked at The Cincinnati Post
The Cincinnati Post
The Cincinnati Post is a discontinued afternoon daily newspaper that was published in Cincinnati, Ohio. Distributed in Northern Kentucky as The Kentucky Post, it was owned by the E. W. Scripps Company. Since the 1980s, its editorial stance was usually conservative. The Post published its final...

and gave Watterson encouragement and advice throughout his time as a student.

In his 1990 speech to Kenyon College graduates, Watterson revealed that during his final year he had painted a copy of Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

's Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel
Sistine Chapel
Sistine Chapel is the best-known chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope in Vatican City. It is famous for its architecture and its decoration that was frescoed throughout by Renaissance artists including Michelangelo, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Pinturicchio...

 on the ceiling of his dorm room:
Later, when Watterson was coming up with names for the characters of his comic strip, he decided upon Calvin (after the Protestant reformer John Calvin
John Calvin
John Calvin was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church around 1530...

) and Hobbes (after the social philosopher Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury , in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy...

) as a "tip of the hat" to the political science
Political science
Political Science is a social science discipline concerned with the study of the state, government and politics. Aristotle defined it as the study of the state. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics, and the analysis of political systems and political behavior...

 department at Kenyon, though since he has never directly cited this inspiration publicly, the reference is usually considered to be apocryphal. In "The Complete Calvin And Hobbes," Watterson does not explicitly name the inspiration for Calvin's character, but he does state that Calvin is named for "a sixteenth-century theologian who believed in predestination
Predestination
Predestination, in theology is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God. John Calvin interpreted biblical predestination to mean that God willed eternal damnation for some people and salvation for others...

." For those who are familiar with John Calvin and the principles of Calvinism
Calvinism
Calvinism is a Protestant theological system and an approach to the Christian life...

, there seems to be little doubt as to who this theologian might be.

Early career


In 1980, Watterson graduated from Kenyon with a B.A.
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 in political science
Political science
Political Science is a social science discipline concerned with the study of the state, government and politics. Aristotle defined it as the study of the state. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics, and the analysis of political systems and political behavior...

. Immediately, The Cincinnati Post offered him a job drawing political cartoons
Editorial cartoon
An editorial cartoon, also known as a political cartoon, is an illustration containing a commentary that usually relates to current events or personalities....

 for a six-month trial period:
During the early years of his career he produced several drawings and additional contributions for Target: The Political Cartoon Quarterly. He designed grocery advertisements for four years prior to creating Calvin and Hobbes.

Inspiration


Watterson has said he works for personal fulfillment. As he told the graduating class of 1990 at Kenyon College, "It's surprising how hard we'll work when the work is done just for ourselves." Calvin and Hobbes was first published on November 18, 1985. In Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book, he wrote that his influences included Charles Schulz
Charles M. Schulz
Charles Monroe "Sparky" Schulz was an American cartoonist, whose comic strip Peanuts proved one of the most popular and influential in the history of the medium, and is still widely reprinted on a daily basis.-Early life and education:Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Schulz grew up in Saint Paul...

 for Peanuts
Peanuts
Peanuts is a syndicated daily and Sunday American comic strip written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz, which ran from October 2, 1950, to February 13, 2000, continuing in reruns afterward...

; Walt Kelly
Walt Kelly
Walter Crawford Kelly, Jr. , or Walt Kelly, was an American animator and cartoonist, best known for the comic strip, Pogo. He began his animation career in 1936 at Walt Disney Studios, contributing to Pinocchio and Fantasia. Kelly resigned in 1941 at the age of 28 to work at Post-Hall Syndicate,...

 for Pogo and George Herriman
George Herriman
George Joseph Herriman was an American cartoonist, best known for his classic comic strip Krazy Kat.-Early life:...

 for Krazy Kat
Krazy Kat
Krazy Kat is an American comic strip created by cartoonist George Herriman, published daily in newspapers between 1913 and 1944. It first appeared in the New York Evening Journal, whose owner, William Randolph Hearst, was a major booster for the strip throughout its run...

. Watterson wrote the introduction to the first volume of The Komplete Kolor Krazy Kat.

Watterson's style reflects the influence of Winsor McCay
Winsor McCay
Winsor McCay was an American cartoonist and animator.A prolific artist, McCay's pioneering early animated films far outshone the work of his contemporaries, and set a standard followed by Walt Disney and others in later decades...

's Little Nemo in Slumberland
Little Nemo
Little Nemo is the main fictional character in a series of weekly comic strips by Winsor McCay that appeared in the New York Herald and William Randolph Hearst's New York American newspapers from October 15, 1905 – April 23, 1911 and April 30, 1911 – July 26, 1914; respectively.The...

.

Like many artists, Watterson incorporated elements of his life, interests, beliefs, and values into his work—for example, his hobby as a cyclist, memories of his own father’s speeches about ‘building character’, and his views on merchandising and corporations. Watterson's cat, Sprite, very much inspired the personality and physical features of Hobbes
Hobbes (Calvin and Hobbes)
Hobbes is a character in the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. He is Calvin's stuffed tiger, and is depicted with two distinct identities.-Hobbes Personality:...

.

Watterson spent much of his career trying to change the climate of newspaper comics. He believed that the artistic value of comics was being undermined, and that the space they occupied in newspapers continually decreased, subject to arbitrary whims of shortsighted publishers. Furthermore, he opined that art should not be judged by the medium for which it is created (i.e., there is no "high" art
High culture
High culture is a term, now used in a number of different ways in academic discourse, whose most common meaning is the set of cultural products, mainly in the arts, held in the highest esteem by a culture...

 or "low" art
Low culture
Low culture is a term for some forms of popular culture. Its opposite is high culture. It has been said by culture theorists that both high culture and low culture are subcultures....

—just art
Art
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

).

Fight against merchandising the cartoon characters


Watterson battled against pressure from publishers to merchandise his work, something he felt would cheapen his comic. He refused to merchandise his creations on the grounds that displaying Calvin and Hobbes images on commercially sold mugs, stickers, and T-shirts would devalue the characters and their personalities.

Reuben


Watterson was awarded the National Cartoonists Society
National Cartoonists Society
The National Cartoonists Society is an organization of professional cartoonists in the United States. It presents the National Cartoonists Society Awards. The Society was born in 1946 when groups of cartoonists got together to entertain the troops...

's Humor Comic Strip Award in 1988 and the society's Reuben Award in 1986; he was the youngest person ever to receive the latter award. In 1988, Watterson received the Reuben Award a second time. He was nominated a third time in 1992.

Watterson wrote a brief, tongue-in-cheek autobiography in the late 1980s.

From September 10, 2001, to January 16, 2002, Ohio State University
Ohio State University
The Ohio State University, commonly referred to as Ohio State, is a public research university located in Columbus, Ohio. It was originally founded in 1870 as a land-grant university and is currently the third largest university campus in the United States...

's Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, a research library of American comic art, is affiliated with the Ohio State University library system in Columbus, Ohio...

 exhibited 36 of his Sunday strip
Sunday strip
A Sunday strip is a newspaper comic strip format, where comic strips are printed in the Sunday newspaper, usually in a special section called the Sunday comics, and virtually always in color. Some readers called these sections the Sunday funnies...

s.

End of Calvin and Hobbes


Watterson announced the end of Calvin and Hobbes on November 9, 1995, with the following letter to newspaper editors:
The last strip of Calvin and Hobbes was published on December 31, 1995.

Since the end of Calvin and Hobbes


Since the conclusion of Calvin and Hobbes, Watterson has taken up painting, at one point drawing landscapes of the woods with his father. Watterson has kept away from the public eye and has given no indication of resuming the strip, creating new works based on the characters, or embarking on other projects, though he has published several anthologies of Calvin and Hobbes strips.

He will not sign autographs or license his characters, staying true to his stated principles. In previous years, he was known to sneak autographed copies of his books onto the shelves of the Fireside Bookshop, a family-owned bookstore in his home of Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Chagrin Falls is a village in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, United States. It is a suburb of Cleveland in the Northeast Ohio region, the 14th largest Combined Statistical Area nationwide. The village was established and has grown around a natural waterfall on the Chagrin River. As of the 2010 census,...

. However, after discovering that some people were selling the autographed books online for high prices, he ended this practice as well. Valuing privacy, he is very reluctant to give interviews or make public appearances. His lengthiest interview was featured as the cover story in The Comics Journal #127 in the late 1980s. He drew a new Calvin and Hobbes cover for that issue of the magazine as well.

In the years that followed the end of Calvin and Hobbes, there were many attempts to locate Watterson in his home town of Chagrin Falls. Both The Plain Dealer and the Cleveland Scene
Cleveland Scene
The Cleveland Scene is an alternative weekly newspaper based in Cleveland, Ohio. The newspaper includes highlights of Cleveland-area arts, music, dining, and films, as well as classified advertising...

sent reporters in 1998 and 2003 respectively but were unable to locate him. In 2005, Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist known for both his serious and humorous work...

 from The Washington Post
The Washington Post
The Washington Post is Washington, D.C.'s largest newspaper and its oldest still-existing paper, founded in 1877. Located in the capital of the United States, The Post has a particular emphasis on national politics. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia editions are printed for daily circulation...

was sent with a gift of a first edition Barnaby book as an incentive for Watterson's cooperation. He passed this, along with a message, to Watterson's parents and declared he would wait in the hotel for as long as it took Watterson to contact him. The next day, Watterson's editor Lee Salem called to tell him that the cartoonist would not be coming.

In 2005, Watterson and his wife Melissa moved from Chagrin Falls to Cleveland
Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and is the county seat of Cuyahoga County, the most populous county in the state. The city is located in northeastern Ohio on the southern shore of Lake Erie, approximately west of the Pennsylvania border...

. In 2009, Nevin Martell, who had written about Watterson and Calvin and Hobbes, did succeed in locating Watterson, now living in Cleveland; however, he chose not to confront him directly and instead sent a letter expressing his wish to meet and interview him. Watterson did not respond.

On December 21, 1999 a short piece, written by Watterson to mark the forthcoming end of the comic strip Peanuts
Peanuts
Peanuts is a syndicated daily and Sunday American comic strip written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz, which ran from October 2, 1950, to February 13, 2000, continuing in reruns afterward...

, was published in the Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times is a daily newspaper published in Los Angeles, California, since 1881. It was the second-largest metropolitan newspaper in circulation in the United States in 2008 and the fourth most widely distributed newspaper in the country....

.
In October 2005, Watterson answered 15 questions submitted by readers.
In October 2007, Watterson wrote a review of Schulz and Peanuts, a biography of Charles Schulz, in The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal is an American English-language international daily newspaper. It is published in New York City by Dow Jones & Company, a division of News Corporation, along with the Asian and European editions of the Journal....

.
In 2008, he provided a foreword for the first book collection of Richard Thompson's
Richard Thompson (cartoonist)
Richard C. Thompson is an illustrator and cartoonist best known for his syndicated comic strip Cul de Sac and the illustrated poem "Make the Pie Higher". He was given the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year in 2011....

 Cul De Sac
Cul de Sac (comic strip)
Cul de Sac is a comic strip created by Richard Thompson and distributed by Universal Press Syndicate to 150 worldwide newspapers.The central character is four-year-old Alice Otterloop, and the strip depicts her daily life at pre-school and at home...

comic strip.

In early 2010, Watterson was interviewed by The Plain Dealer on the 15th anniversary of the end of Calvin and Hobbes. Explaining his decision to discontinue the strip, he said,
In April 2011, a representative for Andrews McMeel received a package from a "William Watterson in Cleveland Heights, Ohio", which contained a 6" x 8" oil-on-board painting of Cul de Sac character Petey Otterloop, done by Watterson for the Team Cul de Sac fundraising project for Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson's disease
Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system...

. His syndicate, which since become Universal Uclick
Universal Uclick
Universal Uclick is an American entertainment company owned by Andrews McMeel Universal. Universal Uclick is the world's largest independent press syndicate and provides syndication in print, online and on mobile devices for a number of lifestyle and opinion columns, comic strips and cartoons and...

, has said that the painting was the first new artwork from Watterson that the syndicate has seen since Calvin and Hobbes ended in 1995.

Changing the format of the Sunday strip


Watterson opposed the structure publishers imposed on Sunday newspaper cartoons: the standard cartoon starts with a large, wide rectangle featuring the cartoon's logo or a throwaway panel tangential to the main area so that newspapers pressed for space can remove the top third of the cartoon if they wish; the rest of the strip is presented in a series of rectangles of different widths. In Watterson's opinion, this format limited the cartoonist's options of allowable presentation. After his sabbatical year in 1991 he managed to gain an exception to these constraints for Calvin and Hobbes, allowing him to draw his Sunday strip the way he wanted. In many, panels overlap or contain their own panels; in some, the action progresses diagonally across the strip.

Awards

  • 1986: Reuben Award, Cartoonist of the Year
  • 1988: Reuben Award, Cartoonist of the Year
  • 1988: National Cartoonists Society
    National Cartoonists Society
    The National Cartoonists Society is an organization of professional cartoonists in the United States. It presents the National Cartoonists Society Awards. The Society was born in 1946 when groups of cartoonists got together to entertain the troops...

    , Newspaper Comic Strips Humor Award
  • 1988: Sproing Award
    Sproing Award
    The Sproing Award is awarded by Norsk Tegneserieforum , an organisation to promote interest and understanding for comics in Norway. Since 1987, the award has been presented for the Best Norwegian Strips, a comic strip or comic book by a Norwegian, and Best Translated Strips, an international comic...

    , for Tommy og Tigern (Calvin and Hobbes)
  • 1989: Harvey Award
    Harvey Award
    The Harvey Awards, named for writer-artist Harvey Kurtzman and founded by Gary Groth, President of the publisher Fantagraphics, are given for achievement in comic books. The Harveys were created as part of a successor to the Kirby Awards which were discontinued after 1987.The Harvey Awards are...

    , Special Award for Humor, for Calvin and Hobbes
  • 1990: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
  • 1990: Max & Moritz Prize, Best Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
  • 1991: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
  • 1991: Adamson Award
    Adamson Awards
    Adamson Awards is a Swedish award awarded to notable cartoonists, named after the famous Swedish comic strip "Adamson" .They have been presented by the Swedish Academy of Comic Art at the annual Gothenburg Book Fair since 1965...

    , for Kalle och Hobbe (Calvin and Hobbes)
  • 1992: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
  • 1992: Eisner Award
    Eisner Award
    The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, commonly shortened to the Eisner Awards, and sometimes referred to as the Oscar Awards of the Comics Industry, are prizes given for creative achievement in American comic books. The Eisner Awards were first conferred in 1988, created in response to the...

    , Best Comic Strip Collection, for The Revenge of the Baby-Sat
  • 1992: Angoulême International Comics Festival
    Angoulême International Comics Festival
    The Angoulême International Comics Festival is the largest comics festival in Europe. It has occurred every year since 1974 in Angoulême, France, in the month of January.The four-day festival is notable for awarding several prestigious prizes in cartooning...

    , Prize for Best Foreign Comic Book, for En avant tête de thon!
  • 1992: Eisner Award, Best Comic Strip Collection, for Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons
  • 1993: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
  • 1994: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
  • 1995: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
  • 1996: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes

External links