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Bill Watterson

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William B. "Bill" Watterson II (born July 5, 1958) is the author of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. Born in Washington, D.C., the shy Watterson moved at the age of six to Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Growing up, he lived with his father, a patent attorney, and his mother, a city council member. He also has a younger brother.

In 1980, Watterson graduated from Kenyon College in Gambier with a degree in political science. Immediately the Cincinnati Post offered him a job drawing political cartoons for a six-month trial period:

The agreement was that they could fire me or I could quit with no questions asked if things didn't work out during the first few months. Sure enough, things didn't work out, and they fired me, no questions asked.
My guess is that the editor wanted his own Jeff MacNelly (a Pulitzer winner at 24), and I didn't live up to his expectations. My Cincinnati days were pretty Kafkaesque. I had lived there all of two weeks, and the editor insisted that most of my work be about local, as opposed to national, issues. Cincinnati has a weird, three-party, city manager-government, and by the time I figured it out, I was standing in the unemployment lines. I didn't hit the ground running. Cincinnati at that time was also beginning to realize it had major cartooning talent in Jim Borgman, at the city's other paper, and I didn't benefit from the comparison. [1] (http://home.no.net/uffen/calvin/interview.htm)

Calvin and Hobbes was first published on November 18, 1985. Watterson was awarded the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year from the National Cartoonists Society in 1986, the youngest person to win the award. In 1988 he won this award again, and was nominated in 1992.

Watterson spent a huge portion of his career trying to change the climate of comics. He believed that the artistic value of comics was being undermined, and that the space they occupied in newspapers continually decreased and was subject to arbitrary whims of publishers (on one occasion, Watterson has said "I am a cartoonist, not the leader of a commercial Calvin and Hobbes factory.") Watterson believes that art should not be judged by the medium for which it is created (i.e., that there is no "high" art or "low" art, just art).

Watterson is also known for battling against the arbitrary structure publishers imposed on newspaper cartoons: the standard cartoon starts with a large wide rectangle featuring the cartoon's logo, and the strip is presented in a series of rectangles of different widths, limiting the cartoonist's options of allowable presentation. Watterson managed to get an exception to this constraint for Calvin and Hobbes, allowing him to draw his Sunday cartoons the way he wanted. In many of them the panels overlap or contain their own panels; in some of them the action takes place diagonally across the strip.

Moreover, Watterson battled constantly against the many things that he felt cheapened his comic. He felt that pasting Calvin and Hobbes images on commercially-sold coffee mugs, stickers and t-shirts devalued the characters and their personalities. This might also explain his refusal to allow the strip to become an animated series. Watterson fought this uphill battle against the pressure from publishers with success, until and beyond the end of his career.

Watterson took two extended breaks from writing new strips, from May 1991 to February 1992 and from April through December of 1994.

In a brief letter newspaper editors made public November 9, 1995, Watterson announced his retirement:

Dear Editor:
I will be stopping Calvin and Hobbes at the end of the year. This was not a recent or an easy decision, and I leave with some sadness. My interests have shifted however, and I believe I've done what I can do within the constraints of daily deadlines and small panels. I am eager to work at a more thoughtful pace, with fewer artistic compromises. I have not yet decided on future projects, but my relationship with Universal Press Syndicate will continue.
That so many newspapers would carry Calvin and Hobbes is an honor I'll long be proud of, and I've greatly appreciated your support and indulgence over the last decade. Drawing this comic strip has been a privilege and a pleasure, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity.
Sincerely,
Bill Watterson

The last strip of Calvin and Hobbes was published on December 31, 1995. Since retiring, Bill Watterson has taken up painting, often drawing landscapes of the woods with his father. He has also published several anthologies of Calvin and Hobbes strips.

Living in relative seclusion in Chagrin Falls[2] (http://www.clevescene.com/issues/2003-11-26/feature.html/1/index.html), Watterson refuses to sign autographs or give interviews, emerging only occasionally into the public eye. On December 21, 1999, a short piece called "Drawn Into a Dark But Gentle World," written by Watterson to mark the forthcoming end of the comic strip Peanuts, was published in the Los Angeles Times. [3] (http://ignatz.brinkster.net/cpeanuts.html)

Bill Watterson has given two speeches:

  • "The Cheapening of the Comics," a speech delivered at the Festival of Cartoon Art at Ohio State University (October 27, 1989) [4] (http://hobbes.ncsa.uiuc.edu/comics.html)
  • "Some Thoughts on the Real World by One who Glimpsed It and Fled," a commencement speech delivered at Kenyon College (May 20, 1990) [5] (http://home3.inet.tele.dk/stadil/spe_kc.htm)

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