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Calvin & 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.
“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 & Hobbes cartoonist Bill Watterson is notoriously reclusive, and original pieces of art from his long-running strip are just as rare. That’s why recent news by Heritage Auctions that a piece of his is going up for sale is worth perking your ears up about.
The watercolor illustration (seen at right) was a piece done by Watterson for a 1989-90 calendar cover. The piece comes from the collection of comic historian Rick Marschall, to whom Watterson inscribed it to in the lower right corner.
The current highest bid is at $26,000, but the auction house expects it to top $50,000 by the time the live floor auction starts on Feb. 23. I expect to see a vast array of comics art collectors come out for this, and perhaps even a few comic artists who are fans of Watterson’s work.
If you’re still a little deflated by the absence of Community from NBC’s midseason lineup — it will return … sometime — then this may pick you up: Megan Lara’s adorable Calvin & Hobbes-inspired illustration “Troy and Abed’s Dope Adventures” is available as a T-shirt from RedBubble.
If the season has you missing Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes — particularly, Calvin’s scenes of snowman carnage — you’re not alone. Jim Frommeyer and Teague Chrystie have created a wonderful short film called “A Very Calvin & Hobbes Christmas” that pays homage to those fondly remembered strips and delivers a touching message to their creator. For the curious, Frommeyer even walks us through the process.