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Bill Watterson (briefly) Returns To Comics 119

Posted by Soulskill
from the bats-aren't-bugs dept.
New submitter amosh writes: 'Bill Watterson was the author of the immensely popular "Calvin and Hobbes" comic strip in the 80s and 90s, until he retired and removed himself entirely from the public eye. Since his retirement in 1995, he has become a recluse, and has not drawn a published daily comic strip — until now. This week, Watterson came out of exile to draw the 2nd panel of three of Stephan Pastis' "Pearls Before Swine" strips. Watterson has lost none of his style or talent, and a fourth strip — drawn by Pastis alone and published today, June 7 — is a lovely homage to Watterson's ending of Calvin and Hobbes. The Washington Post has the story of how it all happened.'
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Bill Watterson (briefly) Returns To Comics

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  • His art sucks. I mean "Libby" drawing in a style reminiscent of "Bill Watterson?" It couldn't actually be that loser Pastis. It had to be the real Bill Watterston.

    And I must have known it was Watterson the whole time, because i just said so on the internet.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by Penguinisto (415985)

      Nah - Watterson's style was definitely there (that, or someone was awfully damned good about it...)

      • I honestly thought it was the latter. I thought it was Pastis himself. When he started he had virtually no art skills at all, so the characters are not much more advanced then stick figures. Since the strip's established he doesn't want to mess with the style. But after years of practice he'd gotten much better and wanted to show off, so he drew it in the style of Bill Watterson.

        Doing three or four panels "In the style of" isn't nearly as hard as doing an entire strip. Pastis seems to have actually drawn on

  • by Vellmont (569020) on Saturday June 07, 2014 @07:32PM (#47188021)

    To stop cartooning. Beatle Baily, Hagar the Horrible, Garfield and yes... I'll even go far as Dilbert (I'm sure blasphemy to geeks around here) are worn out strips that are recycling the same dumb gags and phone-it-in art over and over. I actually respect Waterson for quitting in his prime.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Threni (635302)

      I don't. Not that I rate those other artists, but because - like the Simpsons post series 7 - he'd have done some great, great work. I don't think less of someone because they peaked and went downhill; it detracts nothing from the best stuff.

    • To stop cartooning. Beatle Baily, Hagar the Horrible, Garfield and yes... I'll even go far as Dilbert (I'm sure blasphemy to geeks around here) are worn out strips that are recycling the same dumb gags and phone-it-in art over and over. I actually respect Waterson for quitting in his prime.

      Sadly I have to agree. All the strips that have been around for a while are on auto-pilot, coasting along on their fame. The creators are putting zero effort into them.

      • Its hard to find a consistently funny comic strip. I'm stuck with a few on-line ones. "The Duplex" is the only classic style strip that makes me really chuckle. "Randolph Itch" has some gems between the misses. I've found nothing else that suits me.

        So tired of the "cute kid" said something funny strips.

        For something really different... check out Santa vs. Dracula.
        • by Old97 (1341297)
          Get Fuzzy! Enough said.
        • Because the new artists are ditching poorly-inked shredded forest syndication in favor of mediums where they have real control. For instance web and self-published books. (the latter really needs the former, I suspect, in order to get enough exposure to be viable, though.)

          Interestingly, there is a lot more specialization. For example, I suspect that a lot of people won't find Dr McNinja [drmcninja.com] amusing, but those who do will not be able to avoid archive binging. There is something for everyone, and everyone's so

      • Don't forget that Peanuts isn't even new strips of the same old same ol'. They are printing comics that were drawn 40 years ago.

      • by _Ludwig (86077)

        Look how many papers are giving space to eternal Peanuts reruns. They're not even selected from the whole opus; I don't know if that's because Schulz didn't want older strips rerun or the syndicate doesn't want to introduce discontinuity by printing strips from when the characters looked different (Snoopy walking on all fours and not suffering macrocephaly, for instance.)

      • by Penguinisto (415985) on Sunday June 08, 2014 @12:26AM (#47188841) Journal

        Sadly I have to agree. All the strips that have been around for a while are on auto-pilot, coasting along on their fame. The creators are putting zero effort into them.

        I'm not sure if it's just recycling gags, or if it's just that the gags were mind-blowingly awesome in the time and culture of their prime, but have since faded right along with the times and culture in which they were spawned.

        Take Dilbert for example. When it came out (in the 1990s, y'all), it was a badass tour-de-force that ripped right into the buzzword bullshit culture that corporate America was at the time. As long as that culture was prevalent**, the overall meme was fully relevant, and it resonated deeply with the cubicle-dwelling audience. Fast forward to today, where much of that has faded - and with it, the whole basis of humor behind Dilbert has sort of faded with it.

        Beetle Bailey (mentioned way earlier) is similar - it's based on frickin' army humor from what - maybe WWII? When it rocked the funny pages, most of the audience was either in the military or a veteran thereof, so the gags and storylines instantly resonated. All the gags and storylines in Bloom County resonated with the Reagan era, and would be way non-relevant today.

        ** in many cases it still is relevant today, but really - not nearly as much as it was back then, when every fiscal quarter brought the employees a new mandatory box that we were forced by policy to think outside of.

        • Which is funny, because "army" culture shouldn't mean anything to him but I guess everything old is new to somebody.

        • by Quirkz (1206400)

          Take Dilbert for example. When it came out (in the 1990s, y'all), it was a badass tour-de-force that ripped right into the buzzword bullshit culture that corporate America was at the time. As long as that culture was prevalent**, the overall meme was fully relevant, and it resonated deeply with the cubicle-dwelling audience. Fast forward to today, where much of that has faded - and with it, the whole basis of humor behind Dilbert has sort of faded with it.

          Last year when I had a batch of sleepless nights I reread the first 10 or so years of Dilbert online. One thing I miss is the puns. Scott used to not be afraid to use them, but they're rare now. I actually laughed out loud at one strip this year not because of the joke, but because it was the first pun I'd seen in ages.

          I was also dismayed to realize my all-time favorite Dilbert strip, one which I printed out and had taped to my desk for years, was from something like 1998. Stumbling into it so "early" in th

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Sadly I have to agree. All the strips that have been around for a while are on auto-pilot, coasting along on their fame. The creators are putting zero effort into them.

        Probably an effect of the decline of newspapers - comic strips were often syndicated and a chunk of payment. Because newspapers are in trouble (which I find sad - there's something to be said of glancing at the news you didn't bother caring about to at least broaden one's horizone), they're cutting their comics. And reduced circulations mean

      • Gary Trudeau kept Doonesbury [washingtonpost.com] going daily until last year. Now it's only weekly, but still great, and has been consistently great since the seventies. He only dropped the frequency to give time for his new main job writing for Alpha House.
      • I don't know if you were intentionally recalling Bill Watterson's comments on this, but as published in The Complete Calvin and Hobbes: The voluntary ending of successful comic strips is something new. More typically, a strip ceases production only when it's such an anachronistic, formulaic, and irrelevant shadow of itself that readers abandon it. Aiming for the widest possible audience, comics have traditionally relied on broad characters, stock situations, and fairly predictable gags and stories. Once e
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ShaunC (203807)

      Not to mention "Law & Order," they've done way too many spin-offs and the whole thing is just played out. Watterson should have quit that, too, and moved to selling robot insurance full time.

      • for me I was done with L&A when what's his name left the show then passed away. You know, the guy? and then the DA guy left, and I was double done. then the captain woman left? forgettaboutit. L&A SVU is still enjoyable. ise T is awesome! but the other guy left so that takes a lot of fun away. the other guy is like an awesome bruce willis. its a shame eh never did action movies.
    • I'd submit that those strips were never as thoughtful or funny as Calvin and Hobbes. When I was a kid, I loved Garfield, Dilbert, and Calvin and Hobbes. I bought their books and read them a lot. Why? Well, kids have poor tastes, which is why they think cut up hot dogs are awesome every day for dinner for years on end. I still find myself gorging on webcomic archives even if I don't find them that entertaining. I read through most of "Ctrl alt del"'s archive before getting sick of it, and I think of Ct
      • how come nobody has mentioned xkcd yet? it seems very relevant to this conversation.
        • by vux984 (928602)

          xkcd has a lot of great moments but this week is not one of them:

          xkcd.com/1378/

          Even Garfield would be ashamed. (They'd still do it, but they'd know deep down it was bad.)

          • by oji-sama (1151023)
            Yet XKCD keeps producing great moments, which is why I keep reading it. And the wordplay and the naivety in the 1378 was at least smile worthy. (Personally I didn't enjoy the previous one.)
            • I disagree. His first year was pretty great to me. His second year started a soft decline, and it got pretty bad as we got to 2008. Now, good comics (in my opinion) are the exception, rather than the rule. This lines up to when he graduated and then went to xkcd full-time (after a short contract at NASA, which I'm given to understand ended because of budget, not because of problems with him).

              His target audience seemed to shift from upper-level physics students with a more-than-passing interest in comput

            • by vux984 (928602)

              Yet XKCD keeps producing great moments, which is why I keep reading it.

              Agreed.

              And the wordplay and the naivety in the 1378 was at least smile worthy.

              Its not 'wordplay'; its a cheap pun. A big fan says its not a big fan. I really like XKCD, but that was terrible.

              Even 1377 which you claim you didn't enjoy was at least a joke on a science level: creating a metaphor of the universe as an ecosystem and then noting that in ecosystems where the inhabitants are well camouflaged (explaining why we haven't found ot

              • by oji-sama (1151023)

                Its not 'wordplay'; its a cheap pun. A big fan says its not a big fan. I really like XKCD, but that was terrible.

                Windmills do not make great fans.

                • by vux984 (928602)

                  Windmills do not make great fans.

                  Right so ...

                  "A thing that looks like but is technically not a big fan says that its not a big fan"? (literally) and doubles that up with the meaning that its not enthusiastic about the idea either (ie 'not a fan').

                  So its 'not a fan' and 'not a fan'. I got it. Its really not that funny or clever.

                  What's next week? A guinea pig goes on a diet and says its "not a pig"? :groan:

                  • by oji-sama (1151023)

                    Technically it is an opposite of a fan. Not that that really changes your point. I believe I smiled because of the absurdity. Perhaps because I had just been reminded of the world of Calvin and Hobbes. The person in the strip has a fantastic idea which is then shot down by a stupid pun by a talking windmill. Could be that partial reason for the smile is the appearance of the windmill itself, as windmills have made several appearances in xkcd in different contexts.

                    But yes, you disliked it, I enjoyed it, XKCD

                    • by vux984 (928602)

                      a talking windmill.

                      For that matter, I don't usually associate xkcd with randomly talking inanimate everyday objects to deliver punchlines. And stooping to one solely to deliver a bad pun... that's really why i didn't like it. It was just... lazy.

                      If Calvin and Hobbes had done the joke, it probably wouldn't have involved Calvin talking to a windmill either.

                      But yes, you disliked it, I enjoyed it, XKCD hopefully goes on.

                      For sure.

          • But it follows this: http://xkcd.com/1377/ [xkcd.com] which is more than balances it.
    • by fermion (181285)
      I am not going to complain when someone wants to make a reasonable honest living. Some people like to work, and some people have talent but don't like to do the day to day grind. It is a unique type of job to have to produce a few hundred different creative products a year. Berke Brethed is another one who had a lot of talent but did not like having to fit everything into a commercial format. So he tried to break the format by doing an awesome Sunday only strip, but that did not last long. But when you
      • The Simpon's for instance could have been cancelled a few years ago, but the actors realized they could be replaced, and I guess having work at half the rate of sitcom actors was better than having no work at all.

        could have? More like should have. That poor shark probably has Matt Groening's footprints all over its back in multiple paths by now...

        • by geekoid (135745)

          Just because you only find depreciated women and choking a child the height of humor doesn't mean the rest of us don't enjoy the subtle humor and story change that the Simpsons have grown up to become.

          • Nice assumption of what you think I saw in the show, but no dice for you. But, in the interest of making burger out of your sacred cow...

            My big complaint with the Simpsons is that the characters have become flat stereotypes. For instance, Lisa went from uber-precocious idealist little girl down to the very model of a hipster liberal douchebag - the same kind that I see (and occasionally work with) every day in downtown PDX. The rest have similarly flattened down to the same two-dimensional ultra-predictable

        • It's the hip thing to lament the Simpsons still being on past its prime. I find it pretty annoying because however the show now compares to its golden years I can't imagine it ever being replaced by something better. I don't find any of MacFarlane's shows to be more enjoyable than the Simpsons at their absolute worst, and some of the Adult Swim stuff barely qualifies as animation. I'd prefer not to see Simpsons cancelled and MacFarlane given another half hour to further explore the themes of misogyny, ho
          • MacFarlane's shows have Simpsons'd themselves too though. I'd absolutely put the first few seasons of Family Guy up against most of the Simpsons. I have to admit I haven't watched much new Simpsons in the past...ummm...since that movie, anyway -- so it's conceivable that it's experienced a renaissance, but the last 5 minutes of it that my DVR picks up before the next show hasn't been a convincing ad for it. I watched some old episodes beside some new ones a while back to see if I'd just grown out of it -

            • by Quirkz (1206400)

              The Simpsons disappeared into its own massive character base. It would probably be very reinvigorated if they did had the family move, and were disciplined about NOT bringing old characters back to cameo

              I've often suggested they should do an entire season set 6 or 8 years in the future, where Bart and Lisa are in high school and Homer and Marge are getting older, to explore a different slice of life's issues. Sure, they've worked in a few things that are rightly an older kid's story by trickery (Bart getting a driver's license, Lisa "smoking" via second hand, several slightly out of place romances) but there's a lot more teenage material it's not easy to cover.

              Also, I just think it would be hilarious if th

    • by M1FCJ (586251)

      Occassionaly I look at 90s Dilbert cartoons - those are really funny, these days, a constant stream of "meh"...

  • hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld.gmail@com> on Saturday June 07, 2014 @08:17PM (#47188153) Homepage
    Are you sure he's a recluse? You can be out of the public eye and not be a recluse.
    • Re:hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by binarstu (720435) on Saturday June 07, 2014 @09:18PM (#47188399)
      I wish I had mod points to give you. From what I've read, Watterson simply values his privacy and his family's privacy, and he has virtually no interest in publicity for its own sake. Apparently, any former celebrity who doesn't so desperately long for attention that they appear on Dancing With the Stars or jump at every chance for an interview or public appearance is so incomprehensible to most people that the only way to make sense of it is to label them a "recluse".
      • by SeaFox (739806)

        Apparently, any former celebrity who doesn't so desperately long for attention that they appear on Dancing With the Stars or jump at every chance for an interview or public appearance is so incomprehensible to most people that the only way to make sense of it is to label them a "recluse".

        I don't think being a celebrity has anything to do with it. In today's over-marketed society anyone who likes to live a quiet life where they keep to themselves, and doesn't constantly spill out the details of their business via social networking (read as: anyone introverted) gets labeled as "strange" by the rest of town and feared as potential serial killer or terrorist-making-plans-in-their-basement.

      • by nmb3000 (741169)

        From what I've read, Watterson simply values his privacy and his family's privacy, and he has virtually no interest in publicity for its own sake. Apparently, any former celebrity who doesn't so desperately long for attention that they appear on Dancing With the Stars or jump at every chance for an interview or public appearance is so incomprehensible to most people that the only way to make sense of it is to label them a "recluse".

        I agree with you 100%, with two small exceptions.

        First, it does appear that Watterson is a bit more removed from society [time.com] than even your average author.

        Second, I think there's a kernel of reason in the idea that someone of renown -- someone who has made a lot of money and become a familiar name in the process -- is expected to give a little bit back to their "fans" in return for benefiting them so much financially. In no way to do mean that Watterson should be on Celebrity Jeopardy (he'd probably never beat

        • by binarstu (720435)

          ...I think there's a kernel of reason in the idea that someone of renown -- someone who has made a lot of money and become a familiar name in the process -- is expected to give a little bit back to their "fans" in return for benefiting them so much financially.

          That's a good point, for sure. I can certainly understand why Calvin and Hobbes fans might wish that he were more accessible.

          • by oji-sama (1151023)

            I don't agree with this. I don't think he is personally all that famous, rather his work is famous.. And while I am not a huge fan, I am a fan nevertheless, and personally got rather good value (enjoyment, joy) for my money... Good enough that I consider the idea that Watterson should give a little back kind of offensive towards the man himself.

        • Re:hmmm (Score:4, Interesting)

          by zippthorne (748122) on Sunday June 08, 2014 @12:19PM (#47190455) Journal

          He doesn't owe us anything. He already gave us the art, and it was great. And it's still around.

          Contrast this with other artists who have altered their work so that you can only get bootleg copies of the original anymore, and who we pray will not alter it further.

          Personally, I think there ought to be a copyright exemption for a work that an author refuses to publish. Copyright is supposed to encourage publishing.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        TIL accepting fat stacks of cash == "desperately long[ing] for attention"

        As of 2010: They get paid $125,000 just for three weeks of rehearsals and the first two episodes. If they don't get cut, they make an extra $10k on the 3rd episode, $10k, $20k, $20k, $30k, $30k, $50k and $50k for the 10th episode.

        If someone offered you a guaranteed paycheck of $125,000 for 5 weeks of your time, and a possibility of $345,000 for 13 weeks if you make it to the finals, what would you do? Hint: Audience votes decide who go

        • by binarstu (720435)

          If someone offered you a guaranteed paycheck of $125,000 for 5 weeks of your time, and a possibility of $345,000 for 13 weeks if you make it to the finals, what would you do? ... Do the math. You'd whore for the camera too.

          Watterson could have made a lot more money than that, doing a lot less. All he'd have needed to do was agree to commercial licensing deals for his Calvin and Hobbes characters, but he always refused because he felt doing so would cheapen his creations. Even now, such deals would probably still be lucrative. And he could no doubt make plenty of money off of speaking engagements. For some people (who, I admit, are very rare), accumulating large amounts of money really is less important than their pride in

          • by swb (14022)

            You mean all those stickers on (mostly) trucks that show Calvin pissing on something aren't licensed?

            • Re:hmmm (Score:5, Informative)

              by binarstu (720435) on Sunday June 08, 2014 @01:02PM (#47190625)

              You mean all those stickers on (mostly) trucks that show Calvin pissing on something aren't licensed?

              Nope. Watterson never allowed his characters to be licensed for any merchandise beyond his books and a few calenders. Those stickers you see on trucks are all unlicensed ripoffs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org].

              • I've read that the syndicate looks the other way with regard to copyright infringement as a fuck you to Watterson for his refusal to license merchandise at the height of C&H's popularity.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      He shuns all media attention for interviews, for somebody as well known as he is, that qualifies as reclusive. For most people not being in the public eye would just be normal, but for somebody as well known as he is, that's being reclusive. It's really the shunning of the interest that makes him a recluse.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Hmmm ... I'm not in the public eye, I hope that doesn't make me a recluse.

      I'll have to ask the guys I play golf with.

    • by iroll (717924)

      Being reclusive doesn't make you a recluse. A recluse withdraws from society; Watterson is just largely withdrawn from participating in the popular media. For someone as famous as he is, who is actively sought by writers and interviewers, that's reclusive behavior.

    • by eagee (1308589)
      He lives about two blocks away from us and actually donates to a local arts organizations I volunteer with. I've seen his email and address in the members database; I wouldn't even dream of taking advantage of that information though. I'd heard he lived here for years; and it was just cool to see it there and know he was a real tangible person donating to the arts.

      Even though he lives so close I've never seen him once. That's ok though; I feel lucky just knowing that he's around (and it gives our much
  • by aekafan (1690920) on Sunday June 08, 2014 @12:08AM (#47188807)
    In the 80s, I preferred Gary Larson anyways.
  • by TigerPlish (174064) on Sunday June 08, 2014 @11:52AM (#47190335)

    I miss Brethead as well.

    If there was ever a decade that needed Watterson's whim and Brethead's grit, it is this one.

IF I HAD A MINE SHAFT, I don't think I would just abandon it. There's got to be a better way. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.

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