Calvin and Hobbes Creator Returns To Draw Pearls Before Swine

The Sunday comics page of your childhood is one you never forget. Growing up as a godless heathen, there was little to stand between me and those six pages of glory. I’d get up, bound downstairs and hope that my parents were done with it. If not, I’d cling and whisper like the most obnoxious barnacle.

“Are you done yet? Can I just have the outside pages? Are you done yet? I just want to read Calvin and Hobbes.

That’s what it really came down to. Fuck the further adventures of that diabetic orange cat. The saccharine lessons of Peanuts were weird to me even then. And Foxtrot and The Far Side, while awesome, had nothing on the best comic strip ever created.

Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes.

I got my first collection of strips in second grade and read it until every single page was dog-eared and I had it memorized. I didn’t care. Watterson’s perfect humor, beautiful artwork and occasional moments of gravitas touched me even then.

My obsession and collection grew from there. Dinosaurs in fighter jets, aliens who bought the Earth for a binder full of leaves, Spaceman Spiff and Stupendous Man, Susie and Mrs. Wormwood, and of course our titular heroes became as important to me as my real circle of friends.

And then, with a call to go exploring, it was all over.

The man behind the legend, Bill Watterson, has always been reclusive, but it seemed in the years since the strip ended, he only got more so. Clothing, toys, movies, cartoons; all were turned down. Calvin’s image has been sullied by his ubiquitous pissing-on of logos. New art sneaked out occasionally, most notably a piece of fan-art for comic strip Cul de Sac.

It seemed he’d never return to the comics page.

Then, last week, he quietly did.

Stephan Pastis’ Pearls Before Swine is an acerbic strip following the exploits of a variety of animal characters. Pastis, well aware of the fact that his art style is, shall we say, less accomplished, appears in the strip as well, mostly to be denigrated by his own creations. In a recent strip, to seduce a woman and make up for these inadequacies, he claimed to be Watterson.

And having gotten Watterson’s email address from a friend years before, he decided to pass along the strip and a brief fan letter. 

So I emailed him the strip and thanked him for all his great work and the influence he’d had on me. And never expected to get a reply.

And what do you know, he wrote back.

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….

…He had a comic strip idea he wanted to run by me.

Apparently Watterson had noticed that Pastis often took the piss out of his own artwork, remarking on its simplicity, so the two cooked up a scheme. After some emails, they planned a Pearls arc where the strip would be taken over by a second grader named Libby, whose own art would turn out to be far superior to Pastis’ own.

They did. It ran last week. Pastis had to promise not to say anything until all of the strips had run. And looking at these few brief panels, it’s like my childhood walked back in the door.

 

 

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  • justamakanik

    I gave my daughter my Calvin collection, she in turn has given it to my grand son. Broke my heart when he just up and quit. Way too many favorites to list.

  • Helene Logan

    I agree with so much here, except the stab at Peanuts. That strip was mindblowingly ahead of its time (during its initial run) and influenced damn near any good strip that came out after.

  • NationalGalleryofClipArt

    Around the turn of the Willenium, I grew partial to Get Fuzzy. But, a decade & an half on, I feel bad about that since the same hipster-ironist streak that yielded the funny two times “Garfield w/o Garfield” could be applied to hipster fave Fuzzy. Rob WILCO, after all, was conversing with a dog & cat, who outside comics land, cannot suchwise communicate. It was Garfield for people in post-rock bandsLikewise, Calvin & Hobbes drew its audience from that same indie-contrarian population, who invested way more philosophy in a Sunday panel series than should be. So, even though 7th grade ClipArt used his paper route money to buy C&H collections, by age 20, I was over it, the moment ruined by fetishization.So, too, I was glad Watterson went into hiding. & I wish he would have remained there.