Bill Watterson gave his first interview in 15 years to the Cleveland Plain Dealer yesterday. The reclusive creator of Calvin & Hobbes grew up near Cleveland and has been living there quietly ever since (you might remember the Cleveland Museum of Natural History's stegosaurus statue from Calvin's dinosaur visits).
The interview is a bit awkward--poor Bill seems like he didn't want to be bothered and he answers the interviewer's questions with the same kind of snarky humor that made Calvin & Hobbes so special. When asked when he'll use his first commemorative Calvin & Hobbes postage stamp (to be released in July, along with far panels from lesser strips like Archie and Garfield...yawn), Watterson says:
"Immediately. I'm going to get in my horse and buggy and snail-mail a check for my newspaper subscription."
If you, like me, were more interested in newspaper design as a kid than in the embarrassingly juvenile comic strips that made up the Sunday funnies, you probably loved Calvin & Hobbes. Why? Watterson's contract gave him more room to play with on Sundays than most cartoonists, and he milked it, stretching and bending the panels a la Krazy Kat (right) or cutting them out altogether:
"Comics are a visual medium. A strip with a lot of drawing can be exciting and add some variety. Proud as I am that I was able to draw a larger strip, I don't expect to see it happen again any time soon. In the newspaper business, space is money, and I suspect most editors would still say that the difference is not worth the cost. Sadly, the situation is a vicious circle: because there's no room for better artwork, the comics are simply drawn; because they're simply drawn, why should they have more room?"
Newspapers are dead and dying. Is that a good thing for cartoonists? There's endless space on the iPad. But what are we losing when comics artists don't have a system to fight against anymore? When they're not fenced in by page widths and editorial concerns? All I know is, Watterson doesn't really care.
"An artwork can stay frozen in time, but I stumble through the years like everyone else. I think the deeper fans understand that, and are willing to give me some room to go on with my life."
Read the rest of the interview here.