On December 31st, 1995 Bill Watterson ripped my world apart. That was the day that he stopped writing his ingenious comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. And then he did something even more stunning, he just disappeared.
Calvin and Hobbes was a journey through the daily life of a six-year old boy (Calvin) and his best friend, an anthropomorphic stuffed tiger (Hobbes). It premiered on November 18th, 1985 and the timing couldn’t have been better for me.
I grew up on Doonesbury, but Ronald Reagan’s first term had turned its creator Gary Trudeau into a total dick, and once launched, Calvin and Hobbes quickly replaced it as my comic addiction of choice.
Watterson’s brilliance was in taking complex and often controversial subjects and finding the humor in them through the innocent yet clever eyes of Calvin. For example, check out this Sunday strip that takes on economics, corporate culture, and government intervention.
However one of the most amazing things about the strip is how Watterson, at the height of its popularity, just walked away from it. Not “walked away” in a Jordan-esque way, hanging around the periphery, and then making comeback after comeback in successively watered down forms.
No, Watterson pulled a “Garbo” and dropped off the planet. Fifteen years later he explained his decision in an oddly sensical way;
This isn’t as hard to understand as people try to make it. By the end of ten years, I’d said pretty much everything I had come there to say. It’s always better to leave the party early. If I had rolled along with the strip’s popularity and repeated myself for another five, ten, or twenty years, the people now “grieving” for Calvin and Hobbes would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher, livelier talent. And I’d be agreeing with them. I think some of the reason Calvin and Hobbes still finds an audience today is because I chose not to run the wheels off it. I’ve never regretted stopping when I did
Not only did Watterson disappear, but he refused to license out his characters for merchandising, literally giving up hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. Since Watternson’s retirement, the only “new” Calvin and Hobbes products have been anthologies.
Though Calvin and Hobbes only ran for ten years, its impact has been immeasurable, and a group of dedicated fans are trying to raise funds through Kickstarter to finish up a documentary that illustrates that impact. Its called Dear Mr. Watterson and you can see the teaser below…
You can help complete the project by visiting the “Dear Mr. Watterson – A Calvin & Hobbes Documentary” page on Kickstarter.
What bclund is, is the intersection of markets, trading, and life (with some punk rock, pop culture, and off-beat humor mixed in).