Watterson stood firm against publishers’ efforts to treat children’s comic strips like commodities; he held to his belief that cartoons should be respected as works of art.
Over three decades after Calvin and Hobbes first debuted in newspapers, their celebrated artist has returned out of retirement to publish a book for grown-up readers. Watterson and John Kascht create a more realistic world than in past work together.
Early Life and Education
Bill Watterson was born in Washington D.C in 1958 and moved with his family to Chagrin Falls, Ohio when he was six. His father worked as a patent attorney while his mother served on the village council.
Watterson attended Kenyon College in Ohio, becoming well-known for his cartoons in its campus newspaper. He majored in political science before graduating in 1980.
After graduation, he received an editorial cartoonist position at the Cincinnati Post. Unfortunately, his work did not receive recognition immediately and felt discouraged about its failure.
Watterson lives an independent life, rarely appearing publicly. However, he collaborated with Stephan Pastis on creating “Pearls Before Swine” comic strip and co-published a book with caricaturist John Kascht.
As a student at Kenyon Collegian college newspaper, Watterson began drawing political cartoons. While studying political science to prepare himself for editorial cartooning career. After graduation in 1980 he was offered a trial basis position by Cincinnati Post newspaper but due to their unfamiliar political system he felt uncomfortable and left before his contract had concluded.
Watterson came under pressure from his syndicate after the success of Calvin and Hobbes to produce and sell merchandise related to it, but he declined as this would lower its artistic value and lessen the impact of his work.
Since Calvin and Hobbes ended in 1995, Watterson has mostly kept to himself. In 2011, however, he created an oil painting of Petey Otterloop from Richard Thompson’s Cul de Sac comic strip in order to support Team Cul de Sac’s fundraising project for Parkinson’s disease research.
Achievement and Honors
Watterson continues to create art but keeps most of it private. In 2011, however, he did take part in a public art exhibition by creating an oil portrait of Petey Otterloop from Richard Thompson’s comic strip Cul de Sac to benefit Team Cul de Sac fundraiser for Parkinson’s disease research.
In 1986, this bestselling cartoonist won the National Cartoonist Society’s Reuben Award – one of many accolades bestowed upon him during his distinguished career.
In 2018, he was honored to receive the Angouleme Grand Prix, the highest honor at an international comics festival, becoming one of the few reclusive cartoonists ever to receive this recognition. Held at Angouleme in France, this prize was bestowed in recognition of his lifetime achievements.
Watterson has contributed his illustrations to many products, such as calendars, clothing graphics, educational books, magazine covers and posters. Additionally he has designed cover art for several musical albums as well as contributing to Cul de Sac comic strip.
Watterson made headlines at Kenyon College by creating cartoons for The Keyon Collegian campus newspaper and, during his sophomore year, painting Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam on his dorm room ceiling.
After Calvin and Hobbes ended, Watterson took a brief sabbatical before returning to painting in 2011 — mostly landscapes of Ohio woods. In 2011, one of his paintings publicly displayed was an oil portrait of Petey Otterloop from Calvin and Hobbes; Watterson has an 8-year-old daughter named Violet whom she named after an 8-year-old character from his strip; Watterson published The Mysteries (written with caricaturist John Kascht). It deals with human understanding beyond human comprehension as told from two perspectives of creator and cartoonist respectively.
Watterson is perhaps best known for creating the iconic comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, which ran from 1985-1995 and received two Reuben Awards from the National Cartoonists Society – 1986 and 1988 respectively.
Since the end of Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson has published two books. Rather than responding to many interview requests and licensing his characters for merchandise sales, he has taken steps against the merchandising machine and declined a few interview requests himself.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer sent reporters to interview Watterson, but he did not respond to their attempts. Following Calvin and Hobbes’s cancellation in 2007, he began painting again; Nevin Martell published a humorous book in October 2009 detailing his unsuccessful efforts at interviewing Watterson; however, since that time he has mostly kept out of public view.