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To answer a question that many people have been speculating on: Yes, Bill Watterson did contribute to Pearls Before Swine this week.
The creator of the comic strip, Stephan Pastis, confirmed on his blog what many people have been speculating — the Calvin & Hobbes creator did indeed return to the comic strip page and teamed with Pastis on three strips this week.
Comparing the experience to searching for Bigfoot, Pastis describes how the collaboration came about. It started with a comic strip tribute to Watterson (see above) and Washington Post cartoonist Nick Galifianakis, who worked with Watterson on The Art of Richard Thompson, giving Pastis Watterson’s email address. Pastis didn’t think he’d get a response.
“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 …” Pastis wrote, “…He had a comic strip idea he wanted to run by me.”
Watterson gave his side of the story to Michael Cavna at the Washington Post, and as it turns out, Watterson already had the idea to team with Pastis before he received that email.
“Several years ago, when Stephan did one of his strips that mocked his own drawing ability and mentioned my strip in comparison, I thought it might be funny for me to ghost Pearls sometime, just to flip it all on its head,” Watterson told Cavna. “It was just a silly idea, and I didn’t know Stephan, so I never pursued it, and years went by.”
That email led to Watterson drawing the middle panel in Pearls Before Swine Wednesday through Friday this past week, “ghost drawing” the artwork provided by the character Libby. Libby, or “Lib” for short (which is almost “Bill” backwards) filled in for Pastis, a character in his own strip, after he was hit on the head. “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,” Pastis wrote. “But it wasn’t that way. Throughout the process, Bill was funny and flexible and easy to work with.”
To wrap up the week, Pastis paid tribute to Watterson and his most famous creation once again in today’s strip:
Artwork from the collaboration will be on display at HeroesCon in Charlotte, North Carolina June 20-22, and the artists plan to auction it off to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research at some point in the future.