The man who created Calvin & Hobbes is Bill Watterson. Watterson was born in Washington DC on July 5, 1958. His career as a syndicated cartoonist ran from 1985 to 1995. He retired at the end of 1995 with a short statement to newspaper editors and his fans that he felt he had achieved all he could in the comic strip medium. He now lives in Cleveland, together with his wife Melissa. Since retiring, Bill Watterson has taken up painting, often drawing landscapes of the woods with his father. Watterson has kept away from the public eye and has given no indication of resuming the famous strip.
Watterson's career as a drawer started at Kenyon college in Ohio, where he studied political science for four years. Here he drew political cartoons for the school paper. In 1980 he got a job as a drawer in The Cincinatti Post. The editor was far from pleased with his abilities, and after six months Watterson got fired.
After five years of unsuccessful attempts to get recognized, he changed style. In stead of making cartoons the way he thought the syndicates wanted them, he now started drawing things which interested him personally.
One of the strips he sent to the American cartoon-syndicates had Calvin & Hobbes as minor characters. Here Calvin was the main character's little brother, and Hobbes was his pet. The syndicate that showed the biggest interest, United Features, suggested that Watterson should develop a strip with Calvin & Hobbes as the main characters. With certain doubts Watterson agreed to try this, and after a while his very own Calvin & Hobbes strip was sent to the five major syndicates.
The ironic about the whole thing is that the syndicate that suggested the change, rejected the finished product. But, Watterson was lucky, one of the other syndicates, Universal, loved his idea!
Rumors tell that Universal promised Watterson a new car, free gas, and 10% of the sale. As a young and pour student he took the offer. What he didn't think of, was that this contract reduced his possibility of, equally to the syndicate, benefiting from the success. It all ended up with a lawsuit against the syndicate, and the contract was changed in favor of Watterson.
At Universal, Watterson is very free according to censoring of his work. Although the syndicate claims a certain right to control, very little is returned to the cartoonist.
Pictures of Bill Watterson are hard to obtain, but he looks a lot like Calvin's father. Below are two of the few public photos available.
Interviews with the author is a curiosity. We succeeded, at last, to come into possession of one from 1986, through the Norwegian publishing firm. You can read it here!
Watterson is a genuine cartoonist, who obviously loves his work. Because drawing is art, states Watterson, and believes that each strip has it's artistic value. Therefore he has no duplicator to assist him in his work, every square is handmade.
That the world appreciate this unorthodox cartoonist is beyond doubt. Through the years he has received all cartoon-awards possible, including the Norwegian "Sproing."
One of the things that make Watterson unique among modern successful drawers, is his attitude towards licensing. Licensing means a commercial production of t-shirts, school diaries, toys games and so on, with the cartoon's characters on. Watterson claims that the characters lose their credibility, if they are used like this to advertise for huge industrial giants, or shows up on sheets and clothes. "I am a cartoonist, not the leader of a commercial Calvin & Hobbes factory," snorts Watterson in an interview where he is confronted with this.
With Calvin & Hobbes Watterson has made the stroke of genius cartoonists through all times have dreamed of. He has made a cartoon with an environment where the characters have unlimited freedom to do what their creator wants.