Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bill Watterson- Calvin and Hobbes

In the spirit of halloween, I have chosen to write about my costume inspiration for this halloween, not to mention one of my favorite comics/comic illustrators ever, Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes. This year I'm going as Calvin, the lead character in what remains one of the most popular syndicated comic strips ever.

This famous strip was first published on November 18, 1985. Prior to this, Watterson had worked as a designer creating grocery advertisements. Calvin and Hobbes was met with praise almost immediately, and within a short time was being printed in such publications as the Los Angeles Times. By the end of its run in 1995, Calvin and Hobbes had won Watterson numerous awards including the prestigious Reuben Award from the National Cartoonists Society in the Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year category in 1986 and 1988.

But what makes Calvin and Hobbes so special? For me, as a kid it was the accessibility of the comic. Watterson's sense of humor is such that it appeals to children as well as adults. The illustrations are exquisite, and you really see a wide range of emotions expressed through Calvin. This is why I chose the image I did, for its humor and emotion. It also didn't hurt that the main character was a little blond troublemaker from the Midwest, not unlike myself as a kid.

One final note, I didn't realize until reading up on Watterson that he turned down several offers to merchandise the characters of Calvin and Hobbes. But rather than make a fortune off Calvin mugs and Hobbes t-shirts, he chose not to merchandise them as he felt they would lose their integrity that way. Just another reason to admire Bill Watterson.


  1. ive never read the comic but i know these characters SO well and i dont know how...

    as the technical skill whore of class not only are these fantastic and expressive cartoon characters, but i can tell from his lines he is extremely technical skilled.

    it reminds me of cartoons in the late 80s and 90s before they started cutting budgets and using "style" as an excuse to make a wave of just circles with eyes and shit.

    and as far as humor i think spongebob was the resurgence (well technically shrek) of this style of cartooning that was physically zaney and crazy enough to amuse kids but anybody over 16 could read obvious undertones and references only older crowds would understand.

  2. Sounds pretty selfish to me... Just kidding!!! Great choice for Halloween and blog. One thing that I need to educate myself more on is the true comic illustrators. I know of Calvin and Hobbes but have not explored it too much. I appreciate the passion and introduction to what will be a very interesting exploration of Bill Watterson.

  3. I grew up reading those comics! You're right, Bill Watterson has a really accessible style and he's a master of facial expressions. I remember one Sunday strip in particular where Calvin is forced to eat some gross green food and he goes through like 15 expressions as he's swallowing!

  4. Yes! Calvin is one of the first cartoons I taught myself how to draw on my own. I just gave my little brother a bunch of their books in hopes that he would take it as a visual inspiration like I did.

    My favorite comic strips are when he would create the giant snowman scenes.

  5. I hate to break up the fan-person committee, but how exactly does anything you have written about relate to the illustration of Bill Watterson? You could just as easily be speaking of the writing of Bill Watterson. What makes the illustrations "exquisite?" Is it the drawing or the writing that is expressive and humorous? It may well be both. Were his drawings done with a brush or a pen? How would it change the look/feel of the comic if it were done photoshop/flash/illustrator? What about Composition, panel sequence, page layout? All effect the Illustration, what do you like or dislike about them?

  6. I remember getting two of his books as a kid. I was not much of a reader, but I loved looking at the stories still. Two weeks ago I found one of the books. I sat down to look at it again. I still loved it. He does an incredible job illustrating his characters' expressions. If he didn't draw the comics like he did, then I don't think I would care for them as much. Most of my enjoyment comes from looking at the visuals he puts in each panel. I remember as a kid loving “Calvin and Hobbes: Human Slinky”. The panels of Calvin falling down the stairs would crack me up every time.

  7. @ Joe: As I and others have said, what makes the illustrations so successful is Watterson's ability to capture emotion in the drawings of his characters. Many of his strips, such as the one posted in the comment above, rely heavily on Watterson's ability to draw an array of expressions. This expressive nature combined with excellent writing is what draws me to his work. I'm sure if the comic were done digitally, it would be just as successful, though Watterson seems to be cut from the cloth of the purist cartoonist, and I doubt he'd abandon the old ways of making a comic for integrity's sake.

    As far as layout and composition, Watterson was once criticized and deemed arrogant for demanding changes be made for the Sunday layouts. He eventually earned himself a larger space to work in which allowed for more illustrations. He experiments with layouts throughout Calvin and Hobbes, and the size and shape of the boxes depends on the narrative of the story.