Sign up FAST! Login

Mental Floss Interview with Bill Watterson

Stashed in: Creativity, Calvin and Hobbes!, Pixar, Stories

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

Any part in particular or all of it?

I love his answers to these two questions:

Years ago, you hadn’t quite dismissed the notion of animating the strip. Are you a fan of Pixar? Does their competency ever make the idea of animating your creations more palatable?

The visual sophistication of Pixar blows me away, but I have zero interest in animating Calvin and Hobbes. If you’ve ever compared a film to a novel it’s based on, you know the novel gets bludgeoned. It’s inevitable, because different media have different strengths and needs, and when you make a movie, the movie’s needs get served. As a comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes works exactly the way I intended it to. There’s no upside for me in adapting it.

Your fight over protecting Calvin and Hobbes from licensing deals, and your battle to increase the real estate for your Sunday page comic, were notable—partially because they indicated your incredible autonomy over your work. Had you "lost" those battles, it appears you would have ended the strip. It reminds me of Howard Roark and his desire to blow up his building rather than see it molested by other hands. Was there a critical moment in your career that instilled such unwavering creative integrity?

Just to be clear, I did not have incredible autonomy until afterward. I had signed most of my rights away in order to get syndicated, so I had no control over what happened to my own work, and I had no legal position to argue anything. I could not take the strip with me if I quit, or even prevent the syndicate from replacing me, so I was truly scared I was going to lose everything I cared about either way. I made a lot of impassioned arguments for why a work of art should reflect the ideas and beliefs of its creator, but the simple fact was that my contract made that issue irrelevant. It was a grim, sad time. Desperation makes a person do crazy things.

Where do you think the comic strip fits in today’s culture?Personally, I like paper and ink better than glowing pixels, but to each his own. Obviously the role of comics is changing very fast. On the one hand, I don’t think comics have ever been more widely accepted or taken as seriously as they are now. On the other hand, the mass media is disintegrating, and audiences are atomizing. I suspect comics will have less widespread cultural impact and make a lot less money. I’m old enough to find all this unsettling, but the world moves on. All the new media will inevitably change the look, function, and maybe even the purpose of comics, but comics are vibrant and versatile, so I think they’ll continue to find relevance one way or another. But they definitely won’t be the same as what I grew up with.

I’m assuming you’ve gotten wind of people animating your strip for YouTube? Did you ever mimic cartoonists you admired before finding your own style?Every artist learns through imitation, but I rather doubt the aim of these things is artistic development. I assume they’re either homages or satiric riffs, and are not intended to be taken too seriously as works in their own right. Otherwise I should be talking to a copyright lawyer.

Homages. No one satires Calvin and Hobbes.

You May Also Like: