Bill Watterson returns to comic strips (as a prank)

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The creator of Calvin & Hobbes draws once again, all as a joke for another comic strip…

The comic page in this item we used to call newspapers was one of my favorite things as a kid. Being a very precise and nerdy child, I read the daily set of strips in a particular order, starting at the bottom with Cathy, moving up through Hagar and Beetle Baily, getting near the top with faves like Garfield and Peanuts, and then arriving at the main event that I’d been saving for the end: Calvin & Hobbes. Each new strip was another slice of pure black and white bliss, and the Sunday comics were astounding artistic adventures. And when I wasn’t reading new Calvin & Hobbes in the papers, I was continually flipping through collections like There’s Treasure Everywhere and Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat. I couldn’t get enough of them… until there was no more to get.

Creator Bill Watterson retired the strip in 1995 and pretty much vanished from the public eye. He’d answer questions or write some letter to fans every few years, but that was pretty much it. After absorbing every image of his I could get my eyes on, I had grown accustomed to the fact that I would never see a new Bill Watterson drawing ever again. After almost 20 years I figured I was fine with that situation. Then Watterson had to ruin it all with a devilishly funny joke in this week’s comic page.

I didn’t read much of it, but I had a good impression of Pearls Before Swine, a currently popular strip in the dying medium of newspapers. Still, i was shocked to hear that Watterson chose to stealthily return to three panel funnies via a weeklong in-joke within Pearls. I don’t think Pearls creator Stephan Pastis expected it either based on his description of the events. You can read his whole blog on how it happened here, but the short version is Watterson liked Pastis’ strip and thought it would be funny to ghostwrite Pearls Before Swine for a few days. Pastis of course said yes, and so we ended up with three new comic strips drawn by the man himself.

That second one is my favorite, probably because it fills me with the most heartache and desire to see Watterson make a lengthier return to imaginative character strips like Calvin & Hobbes. Also, you can’t help but chuckle at Bill’s stand-in saying she’s quitting as she knows the medium is dying. Such a great, caustic joke to end on. And sadly, that does seem to be the end, and Pastis mentions in his blog that he only revealed Watterson’s involvement after all the strips were finished. Just as quickly as he returned, it would seem that Watterson is fading away once more.

But now that I’ve had this taste of new work, I can’t go back to the way things had been since 1995. Clearly, this is an artist that’s getting the itch to create again, right? Am I just being insanely hopeful that this is the first step in return from an artist that needed to retire for two decades to wipe away the stink of the commercialism that tried to ruin his vision? Or is this really just a fun joke for Watterson before he returns back to doing whatever the fuck he wants away from the public eye because he’s an artist that doesn’t owe anyone shit? All I know is that Bill Goddamn Watterson drew something new for the world and that I couldn’t be happier.

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5 thoughts on “Bill Watterson returns to comic strips (as a prank)

  1. Aw man, I feel the longing for more Bill here. I’ve bought every collection of C&H. We, as a nation, need more Bill Watterson.
    It’s interesting to see his “beefcake/cheesecake” art.

  2. As happy and surprised as I am to see him do new work, I still can’t help but think that whenever he (unfortunately) dies, we’ll be seeing a ton of gold Watterson’s been sitting on for years.

  3. Time to break out some of the printed collections, goddammit, Bill.
    Once we know it’s him, he quickly vanishes again. As much as I wish it wasn’t so – I can’t imagine having it any other way. So much heartache and happiness boiled into one little event.

  4. Holy shit. My bro showed me this a few days ago and we both freaked out at the awesome. We grew up mostly reading it in the collections. Best damn comic strip ever. Out of the newer strips I do tend to find Pearls Before Swine pretty good. Has it’s ups and downs like any comic, but at least Pastis pokes fun at himself when he’s off his game. I have to admire that a bit.

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