Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Jawbone #81: In Search of Bill Watterson

On this episode of Jawbone, I go in search for an American cartooning icon, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson. Out of the public spotlight for a decade, Watterson remains incredibly elusive and private. With my Sony mic and IRiver in tow, I travel to Chagrin Falls, Ohio and try to track down one of the most influential comic artists of the 20th century. And what I get is more than I ever expected. Listen in now! RUNNING TIME: 16:03 SHOW NOTES: Chagrin Falls, Ohio The Complete Calvin and Hobbes RSS feed. Download now. ON EDIT: The host for our podcast is having some serious issues and you may have had some problem getting this file. I have a temporary link up until their issues are resolved. I'm also looking for better, more reliable long term hosting plans. So if you have any tips, please send em along. Sorry for the inconvenience, folks. ON EDIT: This podcast just also got Boing Boinged by none other than Cory Doctorow himself. Hello to all you Boing Boing readers! Hopefully, my server will be able to handle all your requests. :) (Thanks for being down, Libsyn -- that's sarcasm, in case you were wondering.) ON EDIT: The file is now updated to point to our original host. Hopefully all of you who were trying to get it earlier and dealing with time outs and 404s can now get the file. (fingers crossed)


  1. You sound so awestruck in your interview. And i can picture you looking at the lines on the originals...just like you did in the Rembrandt house in Amsterdam. I'm glad you got to go on your adventure.

  2. Though I live in Chicago now, I grew up in Chagrin Falls, and I remember when Bill Watterson moved there. I was 14, and a huge fan of the comics, so when my mom saw in the local newspaper the name of the woman Watterson had bought his home from, my mom looked up the woman's name in the phone book, and got an address. As a result, I staked out his home once or twice, and was rewarded with a couple glimpses.
    So, I could show you his house.
    Also, the Popcorn Shop you were in is featured on the back of one of the collections (I believe - either it was a collection that I owned all the books in, or it was a book I already owned in a collection), there is an illustration of a giant sized Calvin tromping through downtown Chagrin Falls, uprooting the Popcorn Shop and dumping it into his mouth. Cool huh? You were there.

  3. Wow...I think it would be a fantastic opportunity to visit the birtplace of Watterson's genius. I bet if you ran through the hills and forests you would find images you could lift up and put side by side with the world of Calvin and Hobbes. I grew up reading Calvin and Hobbes, got a new book every birthday, and spent hours on my own adventures in the backyard, on the sled and in my little red cart. Your interview brought back a lot of fond memories. Thank you.

  4. Dave:

    Yes, the little ditty about Chargin Falls being trashed by Calvin is mentioned near the end of the cast.

    I live about 45 minutes away from "The Falls" so it's not really in my backyard. But it is a beautiful town and it holds a special place in my heart now.

    What is the coolest about the entire podcast that I didn't really mention is that I just woke up yesterday thinking "I'm going to do a segment for the show about Calvin and Hobbes." I never expected I would get anything more than just some locals chatting about not really knowing him. So it was a very pleasant surprise to actually get to talk to his mother.

    She is a charming woman. And I feel incredibly honored to have been able to chat with her.

  5. I too am a huge Calvin and Hobbes fan, but I think if Bill Watterson wants to be alone, then we, the public, should not stalk him. Dave, it's great that you know where he lives, but also a little creepy.

  6. I miss Calvin & Hobbes. Though there are a few decent strips out there today, none has ever compared with Watterson's offering.

    I'm a bit disappointed in him though. When he announced his retirement, I distinctly remember that he was stopping C&H only because he felt that he had done all he could with it and wanted to step it up with other projects.

    To date, I don't see any other projects coming from him. Regardless I thank him for the many wonderful memories. I still have the original cutout of his last strip hanging in my room.

  7. You say photos of him are non-existant, but they're actually not too difficult to find online.

    And he looks uncannily just like Calvin's dad in the strip...only wih a large mustache.

  8. Len, thanks for the email're too generous.

    I just crack up at the number of people who are obsessed with Bill Watterson...I'm one of them. (enclosed is my comic art that is often compared to Watterson...

    I actually feel humiliated having my work compared to Watterson's because I know enough about art to know how short my work comes compared to his...this guy was a crazy perfectionist, who wrote and drew until he got it right. I used to compare his age to mine and say, "When he was 30, he was so much better than me!"

    I'm sure he's happy being a hermit, but I still think he could just pop up with some new creation, some new big thing...perhaps fine art.

  9. Len, This was truly an amazing, entertaining and creative podcast. This is what podcasting is all about. You did an amazing job. I'm not even a comic fan but I really just loved the story. Great job and thanks.

  10. excellent work!

    in addition to being really well produced, you managed to capture and express the feel of the town.
    and in turn, explore one of watterson's large influences.

    well done!

  11. Calvin & Hobbes rocks... and now that I have my own little panel of Jawbone Art, I can see it with a whole new meaning.

    Thanks for giving us some great insight to the creator of a strip that influenced me... and my parenting...


  12. Wow. That was really cool to hear. I agree with dc though, Watterson said he wanted to work on other projects, yet, what has he done? Even if it's not Calvin & Hobbes or even cartooning related, I still like his artistry and it would be nice to see his work.

    What's our compensation prize? Berke Breathed re-returing?! Pff! Gary Larson at least did that worm book. Art is meant to be shared not hoarded, especially when you're actually good. He could at least do an "Art of..." book collection C & H stuff, his paintings, other misc. drawings, etc.

    Does he even have a job? We know he can't have made that much money off C & H since he didn't license (a move I do applaud.) Is he just sitting on his butt collecting book royalties? Cute.

    I'm not much of a people person myself, but even I can't imagine being so much of a hermit that I wouldn't at least take in fan mail. At least there was a forward from him in the "Complete" collection, not that it revealed any more than we already knew from the 10th Anniversary Book.

  13. Danny B. Get over yourself!!
    Wattterson said he wanted to work on other projects, he never said he was working on public projects. Why do we deserve a "prize"? We did nothing to "deserve" such a great strip in the first place. We were the very luck recipiants of a very gifted and imaginative man who chose to share himself with the world for the time he wanted. I personally am greatful and thankful for what we got. He doesn't owe us anything!

    Art is the product of the artist to do with as they wish, share it whatever audiance they care to, or none at all. Not shareing a piece of one's self with the world isn't "hoarding."

    "Does he even have a job? We know he can't have made that much money..." Maybe he doesn't need to make $100k (or even $50k) a year to be happy. I don't know what you "do" or see the results of your job, but I don't need to question if you have one. That is your problem, not mine or the rest of the public world. I would not presume to make judgments about him "just sitting on his butt collecting book royalties [?] Cute." He could be doing all sorts of things with his time and/or money that we as the public have no position to derail or question. It is his life to live as he pleases, not ours.

    I rather doubt that most of us have had enough fan mail in our lives to make judgements about weather or not we want to take in more. By now, Watterson must have a pretty good idea of how the majority of the world feels about his work and probably doesn't need to be inundated every day with letters telling him the same things over and over again. He may also want to avoid the complaints of people that want to tell him what work to do and how to distribute it. He might even want to not have paper wasted on repetive letters.