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Bill Watterson talks readership, digital and more in new interview

calvin and hobbes

Bill Watterson has granted so few interviews in the 18 years since Calvin and Hobbes ended that when the rare one does surface, it certainly deserves attention. Such is the case with this new, if brief, Q&A released this morning by The Ohio State University’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

The chat centers on Exploring Calvin and Hobbes, an exhibit of original strips and specialty pieces opening Saturday, but broadens to include topics like Watterson’s process, the digital arena, and the decreasing likelihood another comic strip will resonate with so many people the way his did.

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Bill Watterson draws poster for ‘Stripped’ documentary

WebCalvin & Hobbes creator Bill Watterson has stayed out of the public eye since he ended the popular strip in 1995, but he’s back this week with a rare new piece of art: the poster for the documentary Stripped. It’s his first published cartoon in nearly two decades.

Watterson also did a rare audio interview for the film about comic strips that features interviews with more than 60 creators. Stripped is being made by webcomics creator Dave Kellett and filmmaker Frederick Schroeder, and it was Kellett who asked Watterson if he would make the poster. “Dave sent me a rough cut of the film and I dusted the cobwebs off my ink bottle,” Watterson told Michael Cavna of The Washington Post.

“Given the movie’s title and the fact that there are few things funnier than human nudity, the idea popped into my head largely intact,” the cartoonist said. “The film is a big valentine to comics, so I tried to do something really cartoon-y. I had thought of having it colored with off-registered printing dots like newspaper comics, but Dave asked if I’d paint it instead, and I think he made the right call.”

This is Watterson’s second publicly released work of art since 1995; in 2011 he created a painting of Richard Thompson’s character Petey Otterloop, which was sold for $13,000 at the benefit auction for Team Cul de Sac, which supports research into Parkinson’s disease.

An exhibit of original work by Watterson and Thompson will open in March at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

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‘Calvin and Hobbes’ makes surprise appearance in courtroom

calvin and hobbes

We’ve seen cartoonist Bill Watterson’s advice transformed into words of inspiration, but this may be the first time one of his strips has been used in a courtroom.

The Rochester, Minnesota, Post Bulletin reports that when it came time last week to give instructions to a jury considering the case of 20 silica sand protesters charged with trespassing, Winona County Judge Jeffrey Thompson turned to a classic Calvin and Hobbes comic.

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Best of 7 | The best in comics from the last seven days

bestof7-feb9

Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about, as it says above, “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out. Looks like I’m flying solo this week, so without further ado, let’s get to it …

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Bill Watterson wins Grand Prix at Angouleme

ANDREWS MCMEEL PUBLISHING CALVIN AND HOBBESCalvin & Hobbes creator Bill Watterson received the Grand Prix award this weekend in France at the 41st annual Angoulême International Comics Festival, honoring his lifetime achievement.

The prize is awarded to a living comics creator, and traditionally the winner serves as president of the jury for the following year’s festival; previous honorees have included Robert Crumb and Art Spiegelman. Watterson, Alan Moore and Katsuhiro Otomo (who incidentally received a lifetime achievement award of his own this weekend) were the three finalists this year, with Alan Moore stating late last week that if he won, he would decline the prize. It will be interesting to see if Watterson accepts the prize or attends next year. Tom Spurgeon has some additional commentary on the win.

Other winners, also courtesy of the Comics Reporter and as noted on the Angouleme site, include:

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Best of 7 | The best in comics from the last seven days

bestof7-jan26

Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about, as it says above, “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out. So without further ado, let’s get to it …

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Comics A.M. | British Library to stage largest exhibit of UK comics

The Trials of Nasty Tales

The Trials of Nasty Tales

Events | The British Library is staging a “long overdue” exhibit on comics, called “Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the U.K.,” which will feature comics in a variety of genres from the 19th century to the present. Featured items include The Trials of Nasty Tales, which chronicles the 1972 obscenity trial of the editorial staff of Nasty Tales. “I went to a very traditional school where they would raid desks and take comics off to the orchard to burn them,” said Dave Gibbons, one of the contributors to The Trials of Nasty Tales. “Fast forward 40 years and they now invite me to the school to lecture on graphic novels.” The exhibition runs May 2-Aug. 14. [The Guardian]

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Comics A.M. | Rare comic goes on display at Ohio store

Detective Dan: Secret Operative No. 48

Detective Dan: Secret Operative No. 48

Comics | Rupp’s Comics in Fremont, Ohio, will display a rare comic this weekend as part of the store’s 22nd-anniversary celebration: Detective Dan: Secret Operative No. 48, published in 1933, is the first comic book to contain a single original story (as opposed to several strips, or a compilation of reprints from newspapers). The new format was not an immediate success, and the series was canceled after just one issue. [The News-Messenger]

Creators | It’s old but it’s good: The Comics Journal dips into the archives for a 1989 interview with Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson. [The Comics Journal]

Creators | John Porcellino reflects on 25 years of King-Cat Comics. [du9]

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Comics A.M. | WonderCon confirms return to Anaheim in 2014

WonderCon

WonderCon

Conventions | WonderCon organizers have announced that next year’s show, set for April 18-20, will again be held in Anaheim, California. This will be the third year for the event at that location, after having been uprooted from its longtime home at San Francisco’s Moscone Center first because of remodeling and now because of scheduling conflicts. [Los Angeles Times]

Publishing | Nick Barrucci, CEO and publisher of Dynamite Entertainment, looks back on 10 years in the business, and discusses some upcoming comics, including J. Michael Straczynski’s Twilight Zone and the new kids’ line Li’l Dynamites. [Previews World]

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Comics A.M. | Watterson & Thompson discuss their art exhibit

Bill Watterson's tribute to "Cul de Sac"

Bill Watterson’s tribute to “Cul de Sac”

Creators | Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson and Cul de Sac cartoonist Richard Thompson discuss their mutual admiration and their excitement about exhibiting their work together next spring at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at the Ohio State University. [Comic Riffs]

Legal | Chinese cartoonist Wang Luming, who uses the nom de plume “Rebel Pepper,” was arrested Wednesday, one day after he posted an online cartoon critical of police who were facing off with protestors rather than helping flood victims in the city of Yuyao. Residents have been critical of the government response to the flood, which put 70 percent of the city underwater, but a recently passed law suppressing online commentary has muted the criticism on social media. The Beijing Times (part of of the traditional media, which is heavily controlled by the Chinese government) claimed that Wang was arrested not because of the cartoon but because he spread a false rumor online (Reuters reports the police told his girlfriend it was because he forwarded a post about a woman and her child who starved to death in the floods). He was released Thursday and tweeted, “When I have time, I’ll tell you about the interesting night I spent at the police station.” [Foreign Policy]

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Quote of the Day | Bill Watterson sets the record straight on “Calvin & Hobbes” ownership

billwatterson“Just to be clear, I did not have incredible autonomy until afterward. I had signed most of my rights away in order to get syndicated, so I had no control over what happened to my own work, and I had no legal position to argue anything. I could not take the strip with me if I quit, or even prevent the syndicate from replacing me, so I was truly scared I was going to lose everything I cared about either way. I made a lot of impassioned arguments for why a work of art should reflect the ideas and beliefs of its creator, but the simple fact was that my contract made that issue irrelevant. It was a grim, sad time. Desperation makes a person do crazy things.”

– “Calvin & Hobbes” creator Bill Watterson, during a rare interview with Mental Floss covering his career and the direction of comics moving forward.

‘Calvin and Hobbes’ collections to make e-book debut

ANDREWS MCMEEL PUBLISHING CALVIN AND HOBBESLess than six months after bringing Calvin and Hobbes, Pearls Before Swine and others to mobile phones and tablets with its GoComics app, Andrews McMeel Publishing and Universal Uclick have announced they’ll release three collections of Bill Watterson’s beloved comic strip as e-books.

It’s another digital first for Calvin and Hobbes, which made its (legal) debut on mobile devices in April with GoComics.

The three collections, The Essential Calvin and Hobbes (1988), The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes (1990) and The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes (1992), will go on sale for tablet format only on Nov. 12 for $12.99 each. The hardcover and paperback editions have sold a combined 10 million copies.

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Bill Watterson’s words of advice turned into loving comic tribute

watterson quote

For the past year and a half, cartoonist Gavin Aung Than has been adapting inspirational quotes from famous people into comics form on his website Zen Pencils, garnering plenty of readers and media coverage along the way. But Tuesday’s installment struck a particular chord within the comics community, as it’s been making the rounds on blogs and Twitter and in email.

Mimicking Bill Watterson’s style, Than turns the Calvin and Hobbes cartoonist’s words of wisdom into a love tribute to “my biggest creative influence and someone I admire greatly as an artist.” The text below the comic is wonderful, too.

‘Dear Mr. Watterson’ documentary to arrive in theaters Nov. 15

dear mr wattersonGravitas Ventures has acquired the North America distribution rights to Dear Mr. Watterson, the Kickstarter-funded documentary that explores the influence of cartoonist Bill Watterson and his beloved comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. It will be premiere in theaters on Nov. 15.

“Mr. Watterson has inspired and influenced millions of people through Calvin & Hobbes,” the documentary’s website explains. “Newspaper readership and book sales can be tracked and recorded, but the human impact he has had and the value of his art are perhaps impossible to measure. This film is not a quest to find Bill Watterson, or to invade his privacy. It is an exploration to discover why his ‘simple’ comic strip made such an impact on so many readers in the 80s and 90s, and why it still means so much to us today.”

The documentary began in 2007 as a passion project for director Joel Allen Schroeder, who turned to Kickstarter in 2010 to raise $25,000 to enable him, producers Christopher Browne and Matt McUsic, and cinematographer Andrew P. Waruszewski to film interviews with cartoonists Bill Amend, Berkley Breathed, Keith Knight, Stephan Pastis and Dan Piraro, Charles Schulz’s widow Jean Schulz, Watterson’s editor Lee Salem and others. They then returned to Kickstarter last year, where they generated another $96,772 in pledges.  Dear Mr. Watterson had its festival premiere in April at the Cleveland International Fan Festival.

According to Deadline, Gravitas and Submarine Deluxe will make the documentary available On Demand the same day as its theatrical debut.

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Now you can read ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ on your mobile phone

calvin and hobbes-mobile

Comic strip fans, rejoice! Universal Uclick’s GoComics has debuted a free app that enables you to read comics on your mobile phone or tablet. While Doonesbury, Peanuts, Pearls Before Swine and The Boondocks are among the offerings, it’s Calvin and Hobbes that undoubtedly will generate the most excitement.

Slate.com‘s Will Oremus notes that it appears to be the first time Bill Watterson’s beloved strip has appeared (legally) on mobile devices; presumably it’s with the cartoonist’s blessing. However, while Gary Larson’s Far Side would seem perfect for phones, he’s yet to make the leap to digital.

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