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Ever Wished That Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson Would Return to the Comics Page?
Pearls Before Swine ^ | 7JUN2014 | Stephan Pastis

Posted on 06/08/2014 12:08:10 PM PDT by Jack Hydrazine

Bill Watterson is the Bigfoot of cartooning.

He is legendary. He is reclusive. And like Bigfoot, there is really only one photo of him in existence.

Few in the cartooning world have ever spoken to him. Even fewer have ever met him.

In fact, legend has it that when Steven Spielberg called to see if he wanted to make a movie, Bill wouldn’t even take the call.

So it was with little hope of success that I set out to try and meet him last April.

I was traveling through Cleveland on a book tour, and I knew that he lived somewhere in the area. I also knew that he was working with Washington Post cartoonist Nick Galifianakis on a book about Cul de Sac cartoonist Richard Thompson’s art.

So I took a shot and wrote to Nick. And Nick in turn wrote to Watterson.

And the meeting didn’t happen.

Bill apparently had something to do. Or more likely, wanted nothing to do with me.

Which is smart.

But Nick encouraged me to send an email to Bill anyways. I said I didn’t want to bother him.

But a week or so later, this Pearls strip ran in the newspaper: (see link for comic strip shown.)

And I figured this was as good of a time to write to him as any.

So I emailed him the strip and thanked him for all his great work and the influence he’d had on me. And never expected to get a reply.

And what do you know, he wrote back.

Let me tell you. Just getting an email from Bill Watterson is one of the most mind-blowing, surreal experiences I have ever had. Bill Watterson really exists? And he sends email? And he’s communicating with me?

But he was. And he had a great sense of humor about the strip I had done, and was very funny, and oh yeah….

…He had a comic strip idea he wanted to run by me.

Now if you had asked me the odds of Bill Watterson ever saying that line to me, I’d say it had about the same likelihood as Jimi Hendrix telling me he had a new guitar riff. And yes, I’m aware Hendrix is dead.

So I wrote back to Bill.

“Dear Bill,

I will do whatever you want, including setting my hair on fire.”

So he wrote back and explained his idea.

He said he knew that in my strip, I frequently make fun of my own art skills. And that he thought it would be funny to have me get hit on the head or something and suddenly be able to draw. Then he’d step in and draw my comic strip for a few days.

That’s right.

The cartoonist who last drew Calvin and Hobbes riding their sled into history would return to the comics page.

To draw Pearls Before Swine.

What followed was a series of back-and-forth emails where we discussed what the strips would be about, and how we would do them. He was confident. I was frightened.

Frightened because it’s one thing to write a strip read by millions of people. But it’s another thing to propose an idea to Bill Watterson.

The idea I proposed was that instead of having me get hit on the head, I would pretend that Pearls was being drawn by a precocious second grader who thought my art was crap. I named her “Libby,” which I then shorted to “Lib.” (Hint, hint: It’s almost “Bill” backwards.)

(The introduction of Libby can be found HERE and HERE).

At every point in the process, I feared I would say something wrong. And that Bill would disappear back into the ether. And that the whole thing would seem like a wisp of my imagination.

But it wasn’t that way.

Throughout the process, Bill was funny and flexible and easy to work with.

Like at one point when I wanted to change a line of dialogue he wrote, I prefaced it by saying, “I feel like a street urchin telling Michelangelo that David’s hands are too big.” But he liked the change. And that alone was probably the greatest compliment I’ve ever received.

I don’t want to say any more about our exchange because to do so would probably be to compromise the privacy he so zealously guards. But I will offer you this one biographical tidbit:

Technology is not his friend.

I found that out when it came to the logistics of the artwork. I drew my part first and then shipped him the strips. I wanted him to fill in the panels I left blank, and simply scan and email me back the finished strips.

I asked him to do this because I did not want to be responsible for handling his finished artwork. Partly because I knew it would be worth thousands of dollars. Partly because I knew he wanted to auction it off for charity. And partly because my UPS driver has a tendency to leave my packages in the dirt at the end of our driveway. (I could just imagine the email I’d have to write the next day: “Dear Mr. Watterson – The first comic strip you’ve drawn in 20 years was ravaged by a squirrel.”)

So this left doing it my way. Digitally.

And this is when I found out that Bill Watterson is not comfortable with scanners or Photoshop or large email attachments. In fact, by the end of the process, I was left with the distinct impression that he works in a log cabin lit by whale oil and hands his finished artwork to a man on a pony.

So I proposed working out our technological issues over the phone. But he didn’t want to.

At first I thought it was because he didn’t own one. Or have electricity. But then I remembered we were emailing.

And so I soon came to the sad realization that he probably just didn’t want me to have his phone number. Which was smart. Because I would have called that man once a week for the rest of his life.

And so we worked through the technological problems via email.

And unlike every other technological problem I’ve ever had, it was not frustrating.

It was the highlight of my career.

The only thing Bill ever asked of me was that I not reveal he had worked on Pearls until all three of his strips had run. (And if you haven’t yet seen those three strips, they can be found HERE, HERE, and HERE.)

And so I did not reveal his participation until now. And it was the hardest secret I’ve ever had to keep.

Because I knew I had seen something rare.

A glimpse of Bigfoot.


TOPICS: Arts/Photography; Books/Literature; Humor
KEYWORDS: bill; calvin; hobbes; watterson

1 posted on 06/08/2014 12:08:11 PM PDT by Jack Hydrazine
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To: Jack Hydrazine

Full title: Ever Wished That Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson Would Return to the Comics Page? Well, He Just Did.


2 posted on 06/08/2014 12:08:36 PM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (Pubbies = national collectivists; Dems = international collectivists; We need a second party!)
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To: Jack Hydrazine

Yes. Nearly every day.


3 posted on 06/08/2014 12:10:46 PM PDT by null and void (Fascists never think they're fascists. They just think everybody should obey them.)
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To: Jack Hydrazine

Comics are as good as dead along with the newspaper business.


4 posted on 06/08/2014 12:10:54 PM PDT by Bullish (You ever notice that liberalism really just amounts to anti-morality?)
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To: Jack Hydrazine

There was a different thing posted about this yesterday. Imagine a comic strip that stopped 20 years ago still being so popular.


5 posted on 06/08/2014 12:12:34 PM PDT by GeronL (Vote for Conservatives not for Republicans)
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To: Bullish

Bill Watterson should have a web or blog site where he can post anything he wants bypassing the newspapers. He would have a big following.


6 posted on 06/08/2014 12:14:00 PM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (Pubbies = national collectivists; Dems = international collectivists; We need a second party!)
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To: GeronL

My two favorite cartoon strips are The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes.


7 posted on 06/08/2014 12:16:18 PM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (Pubbies = national collectivists; Dems = international collectivists; We need a second party!)
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To: Jack Hydrazine

Ditto. I have mixed emotions about both stopping at their peak.


8 posted on 06/08/2014 12:18:32 PM PDT by null and void (Fascists never think they're fascists. They just think everybody should obey them.)
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To: Jack Hydrazine

Mine too ...
only on the same line equally. Best of the best.

Thanks for the thread.


9 posted on 06/08/2014 12:19:59 PM PDT by geologist ("If you love me, keep my commands" .... John 14 :15)
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To: GeronL

“Imagine a comic strip that stopped 20 years ago still being so popular.”

The creator was worried the strip would get old as his creativity waned. A friend of mine said he would volunteer to check each new edition of Calvin and Hobbs and pull the plug the moment he word “Zamboni” showed up. I’d add to that an additional caution that it should be pulled when one of the characters comes out as gay. Also, if one of the characters dies.


10 posted on 06/08/2014 12:32:05 PM PDT by Gen.Blather
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To: null and void

Yup.

My dad, who was constantly enraged by my Calvinesque childhood adventures, loved the cartoon.

Go figger.


11 posted on 06/08/2014 12:32:12 PM PDT by Salamander (He ain't heavy, he's my Boa.)
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To: Jack Hydrazine

Thanks for posting. Enjoyed seeing and hearing the likes of respect, funniness, making fun of oneself, even a little honor and a dash of brotherly love.

Ha ha ha, and a little tear in the eye. Where did that come from?


12 posted on 06/08/2014 12:39:28 PM PDT by shineon
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To: Jack Hydrazine

For some reason he doesn’t want money or attention even though he did some brilliant work. In other words he’s the exact opposite of Al Gore.


13 posted on 06/08/2014 12:45:37 PM PDT by GrandJediMasterYoda (Hitlery: Incarnation of evil.)
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To: Jack Hydrazine
That... Was... Totally...

Wicked

14 posted on 06/08/2014 12:53:59 PM PDT by HangnJudge
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To: Jack Hydrazine

My grandson has a child’s book of Kalvan and Hobbs. He wants me to read it everytime I baby sit. It wasn’t till then did I realize how funny they were. The comics have quit being funny a long time ago. They would be politically incorrect now.


15 posted on 06/08/2014 12:57:13 PM PDT by Vinylly (?%)
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To: HangnJudge

did you ever see the awesome homage to Calvin and Hobbs from last year or was it the year before that?

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/bloggers/2933120/posts


16 posted on 06/08/2014 12:57:52 PM PDT by GeronL (Vote for Conservatives not for Republicans)
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To: Jack Hydrazine

17 posted on 06/08/2014 12:59:43 PM PDT by shove_it (long ago Orwell and Rand warned us of Obama's America)
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To: Jack Hydrazine

Really wonderful story. Watterson’s cartooning (and to a slightly lesser extent Breathed’s) shaped and forever changed my life, my outlook on life, and my view of other life. I will pay more attention to Pastis in the future, as he has been deemed worthy.


18 posted on 06/08/2014 1:03:24 PM PDT by dayglored (Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is...sounding pretty good about now.)
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To: GeronL

Thanks for the Ping

What a great tribute...


19 posted on 06/08/2014 1:07:33 PM PDT by HangnJudge
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To: dayglored

I forgot about Bloom County. I’d make that number three on my favorites list.


20 posted on 06/08/2014 1:28:13 PM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (Pubbies = national collectivists; Dems = international collectivists; We need a second party!)
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To: dayglored
I will pay more attention to Pastis in the future, as he has been deemed worthy.

"Pearls Before Swine" is pretty much the most consistently funny comic strip I have ever read.

21 posted on 06/08/2014 1:36:58 PM PDT by JennysCool (My hypocrisy goes only so far)
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To: JennysCool

Lost cash is hard to recover!


22 posted on 06/08/2014 1:44:34 PM PDT by DocJhn
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To: Jack Hydrazine

Calvin and Hobbes and Bloom County were my favorites.

Bill Watterson and Berkely Breathed both perfected the art of “leave ‘em wanting more.”


23 posted on 06/08/2014 1:49:00 PM PDT by EricT. (Everything not forbidden is compulsory.)
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To: Jack Hydrazine

I will have to add Pearls before Swine to my reading list.


24 posted on 06/08/2014 1:55:48 PM PDT by BuffaloJack (Unarmed people cannot defend themselves. America is no longer a Free Country.)
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To: dayglored

bloom county affected my drawing too. for the better.


25 posted on 06/08/2014 2:16:02 PM PDT by Secret Agent Man (Gone Galt; Not averse to Going Bronson.)
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To: Jack Hydrazine

26 posted on 06/08/2014 3:27:57 PM PDT by BBell (The Blue Dog is Stupid)
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To: Jack Hydrazine

Gary Larson and Bill Watterson are actually friends. A few years back I watched a lecture where Gary Larson showed some of the cartoons he and Bill used to send back and forth to each other. They were funny.


27 posted on 06/08/2014 3:45:06 PM PDT by BBell (The Blue Dog is Stupid)
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To: null and void

Pastis must be insane..............

28 posted on 07/01/2014 9:51:38 AM PDT by Red Badger (I've posted a total of 2,748 threads and 84,975 replies..)
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To: Jack Hydrazine

29 posted on 07/01/2014 9:57:48 AM PDT by Red Badger (I've posted a total of 2,748 threads and 84,975 replies..)
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To: Bullish

I would start buying a paper again, just for Calin and Hobbs!

I miss that strip.


30 posted on 07/01/2014 9:58:31 AM PDT by AFreeBird
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To: Red Badger

LOL!!!


31 posted on 07/01/2014 10:01:54 AM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (Pubbies = national collectivists; Dems = international collectivists; We need a second party!)
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