Bill Watterson

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Bill Watterson (William B. Watterson II, born on July 5, 1958) is the author of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. He went to college at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio and graduated in 1980 with a degree in political science. For a while he drew political cartoons for the Cincinnati Post.

Watterson was awarded the Reuben Award for "Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year" from the National Cartoonists Society in 1986, the youngest person to win the award. In 1988 he won the award again, and was nominated in 1992.

Watterson spent a huge portion of his career trying to change the climate of comics. He believed that the artistic value of comics was being undermined, and that the space they occupied in newspapers continually decreased and was subject to arbitrary whims of publishers. Watterson believed that art should not be judged by the medium in which it is created for (there is no high art or low art, just art).

Watterson is also known for battling against the arbitrary structure imposed on newspaper cartoons by the publishers: the standard cartoon starts with a large wide rectangle featuring the cartoon's logo; the strip is presented in a series of rectangles of different widths, allowing the cartoonist limited options in presentation. Watterson managed to get an exception to this constraint, allowing him to draw his Sunday cartoons the way he wanted; in many of them the panels overlap or contain their own panels; in some of them the action takes place diagonally across the strip.

In addition, he battled constantly against the many things that he felt cheapened his comic. He felt that pasting Calvin and Hobbes images on coffee mugs and stickers and t-shirts and selling it devalued the characters and their personalities. Watterson fought this uphill battle against the pressure from publishers until the end of his career.

Bill Watterson retired in 1996.

Two speeches of Bill Watterson, available at several locations on the Web:

  • "The Cheapening of the Comics" (search Google, Altavista), a speech delivered at the Festival of Cartoon Art, Ohio State University, on October 27, 1989
  • "Some thoughts on the real world by one who glimpsed it and fled" (search Google, Altavista), a commencement speech delivered at Kenyon College on May 20, 1990