|Exploring Calvin and Hobbes: An Exhibition Catalogue|
Watterson created the strip in 1985. Wanting to keep his life private, and to maintain his relentless pace of dailies and Sunday strips, with a few exceptions, he has always been reticent about interviews.
So the mind behind the comics has always been a bit of a mystery. Who were his influences, and what was he thinking while he was writing and drawing?
Watterson retired the strip in 1995, after only 10 years. His art had kept getting better, and the quality of the strip was at its zenith when he ended it. Since then he hasn't done any new Calvin and Hobbes work.
Other than the Tenth Anniversary Book, there isn't much published about his life or choices or approach or philosophy. So without new cartoons, what could the new book possibly offer?
The book is an exhibition catalogue, instigated by Watterson's donation of 3,000 originals to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at the Ohio State University. The book reproduces a lot of his artwork from the originals so that you can see the rare bits of white-out, pencil lines, and paste-up.
The book also includes a display of his tools, which were pretty simple and straightforward
1. Strathmore bristol board 3-ply
2. Circle template
3. Red mechanical pencil with 2H lead
4. Rapidograph #2
5. Ames lettering guide (which Watterson calls "clear plastic thing with holes")
6. Crow quill pen
7. Small sable brush
But the real core of the book is a 35-page interview with Watterson where he opens up about his beginnings as an artist, his influences, his travails with deadlines, his thinking about character and story, and his musings about comics on the Internet. This will surely stand as the definitive Watterson interview.
As an interviewee, he is everything you would have hoped for: funny, honest, self-deprecating, intelligent, and perceptive.
Here's just one example: Comparing doing coming strips and easel painting (which he has been pursuing in recent years for his own pleasure), he says:
"Since leaving the strip, it's been strange. In painting, there are virtually no constraints at all, and that leaves me completely flummoxed. I could paint something fifteen feet high or six inches high. I could blend and glaze and make it look like a photograph, or I could apply the paint with a trowel. I could work on a picture for a year, or I could finish it in two hours. I could paint what I see, or paint from my imagination, or paint abstractly. I can do anything I want, and the more I learn, the more possibilities I have. That much choice incapacitates me. Every option has some benefit and some drawback, and I change my mind every half hour. In hindsight, then, I have a lot more appreciation for the severe limitations of newspaper comics. It's going to be black and white, it's going to be ink on paper, it's all got to fit in this teeny little space, and it has to be done by yesterday. Okay, thank you, now I can get to work!"
Online article in the Washington Post with more quotes from the interview:
"Bill Watterson talks: This is why you must read the new ‘Exploring Calvin and Hobbes’ book"Book
Book on Amazon: Exploring Calvin and Hobbes: An Exhibition Catalogue