Reclusive Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson submitted his first illustration for publication in 19 years for the poster of a documentary on cartooning, Stripped. The drawing depicts a cartoonist at his easel jumping out of his clothes in fear as he reads the headline “Bye-Bye Newspapers!” His dog, who just happens to be looking at a tablet, looks up, bemused, at the illustrator. The documentary also features an interview with Watterson, which has become the holy grail of cartoonist interviews due to the Salinger-like level of privacy he enjoys.
Even when Calvin and Hobbes was at its peaks of popularity and peculiarity, Watterson kept a low profile. A 2010 email interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer was considered a rare feat, considering Watterson rarely made public statements (a few missives about Peanuts and some answers to reader questions notwithstanding), and was believed to be his first Q&A with a journalist since 1989. Watterson granted another interview to Mental Floss late last year.
All that said, Watterson this week gave an interview to The Washington Post about his poster. “Given the movie’s title and the fact that there are few things funnier than human nudity, the idea popped into my head largely intact,” he said. “The film is a big valentine to comics, so I tried to do something really cartoon-y. I had thought of having it colored with off-registered printing dots like newspaper comics, but Dave [Kellett, Stripped co-director] asked if I’d paint it instead, and I think he made the right call.”
Watterson also granted an interview to Stripped, though he refused to go on camera. His voice opens the documentary’s trailer. “In the right hands, a comic strip attains a beauty and an elegance that really I would put against any other art,” he said.
“It seemed like [Watterson] really wanted to express some thoughts about comics and cartooning, where they had been and where they are going,” the film’s co-director Fred Schroeder told The New York Times. The Calvin and Hobbes creator was reportedly so pleased with the documentary that he submitted the poster.
The documentary, which is now available on iTunes, contains interviews with a number of cartoonists, including the creators of Garfield, Cathy and Beetle Bailey, who talk about their craft and how it is changing as newspapers have begun to go away. The Stripped DVD will be available on April 2nd.
Watterson spoke his mind about viewing comics in print versus on a screen in his interview with Mental Floss. “Personally, I like paper and ink better than glowing pixels, but to each his own,” he said. “Obviously the role of comics is changing very fast. On the one hand, I don’t think comics have ever been more widely accepted or taken as seriously as they are now. On the other hand, the mass media is disintegrating, and audiences are atomizing. I suspect comics will have less widespread cultural impact and make a lot less money. I’m old enough to find all this unsettling, but the world moves on.”