‘Calvin & Hobbes’ Creator Bill Watterson Speaks in Rare Interview
In 1995, “Calvin and Hobbes” creator Bill Watterson retired his beloved comic strip about a creative young troublemaker named Calvin and his toy tiger, and quickly removed himself quickly from the public eye, refusing to participate in interviews, merchandising, autographs, and any further creative ventures, and reportedly took up landscape painting instead. Now, following the 15th anniversary of his retirement, the reclusive Watterson has given an extremely rare interview with a local reporter in his native Ohio.
Asked about why “Calvin and Hobbes” had such resonance with readers, both while it was in papers and in the decades that followed, Watterson seems to shrug and compartmentalize his role as something separate: “The only part I understand is what went into the creation of the strip. What readers take away from it is up to them. Once the strip is published, readers bring their own experiences to it, and the work takes on a life of its own… my part in all this largely ended as the ink dried.”
He also attributes much of the fan-favorite strip’s continued popularity to the decision to end it while it was still on top (and potentially lucrative), rather than milking it into tedium and irrelevance, like countless other strips that continue to whirr pointlessly after decades on the funny pages.
This isn’t as hard to understand as people try to make it. By the end of ten years, I’d said pretty much everything I had come there to say. It’s always better to leave the party early. If I had rolled along with the strip’s popularity and repeated myself for another five, ten, or twenty years, the people now “grieving” for Calvin and Hobbes would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher, livelier talent. And I’d be agreeing with them. I think some of the reason Calvin and Hobbes still finds an audience today is because I chose not to run the wheels off it. I’ve never regretted stopping when I did.
The 51-year-old creator also reminds fans that “Calvin and Hobbes” was a work that he produced in his 30s — “I’m many miles from there now” — and that while the strip itself may stay frozen in time, he has moved on. And though the legacy of the strip “is not a subject that keeps [him] up at night,” he does offer a suggestion for the way he’d like his famous duo to be remembered: “I vote for ‘Calvin and Hobbes, Eighth Wonder of the World.’”