Legacy: Bill Watterson

Welcome to an all new series here at InvestComics Web Comics. Unlike many, many web comics sites our aim here at IC Web Comics has been to bring you something different. Something you just won’t find anywhere else. With that in mind we’re turning an eye on history and showcasing legends of cartoon strips, to help shed light on how important these people have been on the world of comics. As we explore these legends and their legacies we hope appreciation for their contributions will grow in an age now sorely missing their brilliance.

 

 

Bill Watterson may not be the first name you think of when you reflect on the legends of cartoonists, but Watterson’s contributions to comics in news papers all across America helped change not only print media but the way in which comics and cartoons were presented. As you read you will see just how much his efforts affected each of us to this day with only ten years of his crazy successful “Calvin and Hobbes”, which remains one of the most popular cartoon strips since its final strip in 1995.

 

In 1980, Watterson graduated from Kenyon with a B.A. in political science. Immediately, The Cincinnati Post offered him a job drawing political cartoons for a six-month trial period:

The agreement was that they could fire me, or I could quit with no questions asked if things didn’t work out during the first few months. Sure enough, things didn’t work out, and they fired me, no questions asked.

My guess is that the editor wanted his own Jeff MacNelly (a Pulitzer winner at 24), and I didn’t live up to his expectations. My Cincinnati days were pretty Kafkaesque. I had lived there all of two weeks, and the editor insisted that most of my work be about local, as opposed to national, issues. Cincinnati has a weird, three-party, city manager government, and by the time I figured it out, I was standing in the unemployment lines. I didn’t hit the ground running. Cincinnati at that time was also beginning to realize it had major cartooning talent in Jim Borgman at the city’s other paper, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and I didn’t benefit from the comparison.

Watterson explaining his short career with the Cincinnati Post

 

 

During the early years of his career he produced several drawings and additional contributions for Target: The Political Cartoon Quarterly. He designed grocery advertisements for four years prior to creating Calvin and Hobbes.

Watterson has said he works for personal fulfillment. As he told the graduating class of 1990 at Kenyon College, “It’s surprising how hard we’ll work when the work is done just for ourselves.” Calvin and Hobbes was first published on November 18, 1985. In Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book, he wrotethat his influences included Charles Schulz for Peanuts; Walt Kelly for Pogo and George Herriman for Krazy Kat. Watterson wrote the introduction to the first volume of The Komplete Kolor Krazy Kat.

Watterson’s style reflects the influence of Winsor McCay‘s Little Nemo in Slumberland.

Like many artists, Watterson incorporated elements of his life, interests, beliefs, and values into his work—for example, his hobby as a cyclist,memories of his own father’s speeches about ‘building character’, and his views on merchandising and corporations. Watterson’s cat, Sprite, very much inspired the personality and physical features of Hobbes.

Watterson spent much of his career trying to change the climate of newspaper comics. He believed that the artistic value of comics was being undermined, and that the space they occupied in newspapers continually decreased, subject to arbitrary whims of shortsighted publishers. Furthermore, he opined that art should not be judged by the medium for which it is created (i.e., there is no “high” art or “low” art—just art).

Watterson battled against pressure from publishers to merchandise his work, something he felt would cheapen his comic.He refused to merchandise his creations on the grounds that displaying Calvin and Hobbes images on commercially sold mugs, stickers, and T-shirts would devalue the characters and their personalities.

Watterson was awarded the National Cartoonists Society‘s Humor Comic Strip Award in 1988 and the society’s Reuben Award in 1986; he was the youngest person ever to receive the latter award. In 1988, Watterson received the Reuben Award a second time. He was nominated a third time in 1992.

 

Watterson announced the end of Calvin and Hobbes on November 9, 1995, with the following letter to newspaper editors:

Dear Reader:

I will be stopping Calvin and Hobbes at the end of the year. This was not a recent or an easy decision, and I leave with some sadness. My interests have shifted, however, and I believe I’ve done what I can do within the constraints of daily deadlines and small panels. I am eager to work at a more thoughtful pace, with fewer artistic compromises. I have not yet decided on future projects, but my relationship with Universal Press Syndicate will continue.

That so many newspapers would carry Calvin and Hobbes is an honor I’ll long be proud of, and I’ve greatly appreciated your support and indulgence over the last decade. Drawing this comic strip has been a privilege and a pleasure, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity.

Sincerely,
Bill Watterson

 

The last strip of Calvin and Hobbes was published on December 31, 1995.

Watterson opposed the structure publishers imposed on Sunday newspaper cartoons: the standard cartoon starts with a large, wide rectangle featuring the cartoon’s logo or a throwaway panel tangential to the main area so that newspapers pressed for space can remove the top third of the cartoon if they wish; the rest of the strip is presented in a series of rectangles of different widths. In Watterson’s opinion, this format limited the cartoonist’s options of allowable presentation. After his sabbatical year in 1991 he managed to gain an exception to these constraints for Calvin and Hobbes, allowing him to draw his Sunday strip the way he wanted. In many, panels overlap or contain their own panels; in some, the action progresses diagonally across the strip.

In early 2010, Watterson was interviewed by The Plain Dealer on the 15th anniversary of the end of Calvin and Hobbes. Explaining his decision to discontinue the strip, he said,

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.

So that was the end of Calvin and Hobbes. But what of Watterson himself?

In April 2011, a representative for Andrews McMeel received a package from a “William Watterson in Cleveland Heights, Ohio”, which contained a 6″ x 8″ oil-on-board painting of Cul de Sac character Petey Otterloop, done by Watterson for the Team Cul de Sac fundraising project for Parkinson’s Disease. His syndicate, which since has become Universal Uclick, has said that the painting was the first new artwork from Watterson that the syndicate has seen since Calvin and Hobbes ended in 1995.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mr. Watterson,

We appreciate all the joy you brought to the world. And you are sorely missed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zombie Spectacular!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year we’re starting a whole new tradition. In honor of our favorite comic book/TV show/soon to be movie (you know it’s gonna happen!) we’re celebrating zombies. It’s true that this year’s offerings are scarce. We had hoped to bring in more strips featuring your favorite monsters. Perhaps next year there will be more. Much more. So here’s a challenge: Do a web search for zombie cartoons and post a link below. In the meantime, here’s today’s “Joseph!” along with a bonus re-run.

IndieCreator with Publisher and Letterist David Paul

Revisiting with Writer, Comic Creator, Publisher and Letterist David Paul

If you are a diehard, long-time frequenter of this column, you may recognize the name “David Paul” as an IndieCreator déjà vu. You’d be right! I first interviewed David a  few years ago when I started this column (gasp, has it been that long?). David was one of the first dudes I “met” (meaning we interfaced over the Web) when I entered the comic book biz. He was a letterist on a few of my stories  in my Heske Horror anthologies (Bone Chiller, 2012: Final Prayer) and even interviewed me back when he was a contributor to Project Fanboy. Now  I return the favor (again) as David embarks on a new venture: a-very-funny-but-you-don’t-want-to-laugh-in-front-of-your-Catholic-priest strip called JOSEPH. The comic strip is a modern day parable of Jesus − but as an insouciant teen who hangs out with Satan’s spawn. The moral isn’t about Religion; it’s about, well − being a teen and, in a quirky way, about living with a dysfunctional “family”.

Before we hasten on the path to Hell, I should also point out that David is a contributor to InvestComic’s ONE AND DONE anthology, as well as does kick-ass reviews for this venerable website. And the dude’s a drummer. Rock on, David Paul…!

1)  How did you come up premise for the hysterically unholy web comic JOSEPH? And did a bolt of lightning strike you immediately afterward?

(DP:)  This is funny. It sounds ridiculous but I had a dream that I was writing it. It was something very vivid. When I woke up it just wouldn’t leave and so I thought, well why not?! So I started writing all my artist contacts and friends to tell them about it and originally I was going to call it “Jesus!” … like something you exclaim before a truck hits you and you die.

All the artists loved the idea and wanted to do it. But you know artists − always busy. The only artist who wanted it and actually did anything with it was Gary T. Becks. I mean he took the idea and ran! When I saw his character studies of both Joseph and Jesus I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was the dream coming to life!

 

2)  How do you toe the line between funny irreverent and blasphemous “damn-you-to-hell”? From the dozen or so strips I’ve seen, you do it well.

(DP:)  Well the thing is I just don’t care. Wait. I take that back. I do care. But the thing I care about is if it is funny. I mean really, that’s all that matters. I think the people who did this sort of thing best was Monty Python. Or even Mel Brooks. They really pushed it. Come on. Blasphemy is funny! But in the beginning, just after Gary did his first character studies, I was concerned that it just wouldn’t fly. So I did the only thing I could do and I found religious people to show it to. I thought for sure they would tell me I was going to hell. But everyone who saw it reacted very positive to it. An old friend of mine is a minister and he finds it hilarious.  

3)  How did you find the artist? Tell us why he’s the right man for the job!

(DP:)  I knew Gary’s work from the web comic Mazscara and I was such a huge fan I just always wanted to work with him. I probably became annoying enough to where he eventually just gave me some work to letter. I think my first work for him was “Fiendy” which was published in Heavy Metal a while back. That got some cool responses, so we kept at it. I’m actually working for him on another long-term project right now called The Humorville Hillarions, but that’s something that will not be ready for submission for a long time yet. But yeah, when I had that dream I sent him the idea and like I said, he took it and ran. It was just something very surreal when I saw those first character studies.

 

4)  What goes into creating a comic strip, and what advice do you have for anyone who wants to go down that road?

(DP:)  I’ve read somewhere before that Charles Schulz felt like it was something that he had to do. That if he didn’t do it (every day) then Peanuts would have found another way to get out of him. And I tell you the truth: Ever since that dream “Joseph!” has been exploding out of me.

I write these short strips almost every day, sometimes as many as 12-14 strips a day, and there is no end in sight. I could see myself as an old man still writing these strips and the well from which they come from would be nowhere near even half empty, let alone dry. If I’m fortunate enough to be an old man and look back on my life and still be writing “Joseph!” I’ll be a happy old heretic and then I can advise any who would dare think about taking on an ongoing cartoon strip. For now I can really only say that a writer writes. If it’s cartooning that you honestly want to write, then 1) it must be funny, and 2) repeat Step #1.

5)  2012 is coming fast – any plans to make that “End Times” hoopla a storyline in the strip?

(DP:) Well, see? Now you’ve gone and given me ideas. And there are so many ideas floating around right now I can’t even guess what I’m going to write about. But off the top of my head I’d like to see Joseph looking at Jesus on that very special day when nothing happens and saying, “Don’t you have somewhere to be?”

6)   Who is your favorite character in the strip – and is there any “David Paul” in the Jesus with a teenager attitude character?

(DP:)  I love Ruthie. To me little girls are the world. They can just look at you in a certain way and say things in a certain way that will break your heart. If you don’t do whatever it takes to put a smile on her face and make her laugh, then you haven’t done your job. Hearing her say, “I love you” is the best thing in the universe.  And if any little up-start even thinks about hurting her, you’ll drop-kick him across the yard. 

As for 14 year old modern-day-Jesus, there are only a few sources I can draw from. One of those is my own youth. Dads, we were all boys once so we all know what that’s about. But the other source comes from my observations of kids today. When I write a conversation with Jesus and Lil’ D. it’s usually based on the way kids talk today. That’s not too far from the way I used to talk when I was 14. Come on, dads. Think about some of the words we used to use. Some of us even used the word “word”.   

 7)  You are a writer, letterist, and indie publisher. What’s the most fun you’ve had working on a project?

(DP:)  I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve done because I only work on those projects I genuinely want to work on. Sometimes it’s professional and I get paid for it. Most of the time it’s not. I’m okay with that because I’m happy. I love everything else that I am doing, yes. But I have to say that the absolute most fun I have had is right here, right now with “Joseph!”.

I get to write this cartoon strip every day and it brings me so much joy to do. And now that InvestComics is going to be the exclusive home to “Joseph!” I now get to do it for others to enjoy, and not just satisfy the voices in my head. …oh, the voices!  

8)  For a while, you published a webzine called RocknRoll Graphix.  What did you learn from that process? And would you ever self-publish a magazine again?

(DP:)  I learned so much that I just can’t possibly regret that experience. It was a massive failure. I tried things that didn’t work. At all. I’m not a business man. I was a good editor. But when it came to trying to run it like a business I just fell on my face. I borrowed a lot of money to make that thing happen and in the end it flopped. But I still don’t regret it. It was a great experience. As for doing it again, I would only go down that road if it was with a partner who knew much more about real business than I do and could tackle that.  

9)  Your book NAKED VITALITY was nominated for a National Poet Laureate’s award. Tell us about it and where we can get it.

(DP:)  My deal with the publisher actually expires this coming May. After that the book will be out of publication. It’s still available on Amazon and a few other sites, I think. I am proud of that book but it did not do well. When you receive literary nominations, unless you have a name or someone with a name is promoting it (*eh-hem*… Oprah!), then the work goes unnoticed and unappreciated.  

10) What is you most awesome unpublished literary work that you want the World to know about?

(DP:)  Man, you go for the jugular! Okay. I will put it this way: It is never up to the artist what he will be remembered for. Once you have created the work and presented it to the public, it is no longer yours. It is now the sole property of Humanity. Perhaps Melville in his lifetime didn’t want to be known for Moby Dick. After all, it was a failure. Not only was he a novelist, he was also a short story writer, essayist, and poet. We don’t know what he wanted to be known for. Certainly not a giant book about a whale that failed miserably. 

Wait. I forgot the question. Oh, yeah! I want the world to know about “Joseph!”.   

11)  What are your plans to make Joseph mainstream in 2012? Anything else on your plate?

(DP:)  I’ve tried to take control over my creations before. “Joseph!” is starting a life of its own. I’m curious to see where it will go so I am not going to try and force anything. My primary focus is just going to be writing the best cartoon strip I can.

And, oh boy. Do I have things on my plate! Amongst (do people still use that word?) all the lettering I’m doing on various projects I’m also writing under different names. Just started a studio with the artists Jason Lenox and Cindy A. Joubert called Ugli Studios with one of those other names. I’ll still be writing quite a bit under my own name, making contributions here at InvestComics. Something I’m very excited about is that Jay Katz (CEO InvestComics) has made me Web Comics Manager. So I’m now in charge of running web comics here at IC. I’ll be doing my best to recruit creators to bring their comic strips here and join “Joseph!” in making the world a better place.  

12)  Just as there were 12 Apostles, you get 12 Questions. What websites have you been associated with as a comic book reviewer, and what are the top five books that have blown you away?

 Well, recently I have made contributions to THWP! 

 Top five? Let’s see, in no particular order…

 

  • Chew
  • Hulk: The End
  • Batman: The Widening Gyre
  • Maus
  • The Dark Knight Returns

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you, David! We welcome you to the InvestComics family and look forward to reading you and JOSEPH! until, well (gulp) … Hell freezes over!

 

An award-winning indie comic creator and screenwriter, Bob Heske is currently writing/producing a micro-budget horror film called UNREST (http://www.indiegogo.com/unrest). Bob wrote THE NIGHT PROJECTIONIST, a vampire horror series to be published by Studio 407 (http://www.studio-407.com) with film rights optioned by Myriad Pictures. Through his Heske Horror shingle, Bob self-published his critically acclaimed horror series COLD BLOODED CHILLERS. Bob’s trade paperback BONE CHILLER (a “best of” CBC anthology) won a Bronze medal in the horror category at the 2009 Independent Publisher Book Awards. His “end times” anthology 2012: FINAL PRAYER  was also released in late 2009. Email him at info@coldbloodedchillers.com.

 

Meet the Cast

click to enlarge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before his adopted son can unite all of humanity in peace and harmony he must first survive being a teenager. But can Joseph survive raising a teenage boy whose best friend is the son of the devil? Yeah, well. You try raising a teenager who happens to be the Son of God!

 

 

 

 

 

As a hard working contractor who loves his family Joseph is   willing to do whatever it takes… for a peaceful evening. But the people who surround him are making that impossible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fourteen year old Jesus only cares about video games, texting, movies, music, nu tech and girls. He reminds his dad that being a teenager doesn’t have to be boring. “Yo.”

The kid’s best friend won’t reply to any other name than Lil’ D. If his father wasn’t the Imperial Lord of the Underworld maybe he wouldn’t care about the eternal damnation of your soul. Wait. That’s one of his older brothers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then there’s the kid sister Ruthie. At ten this is not a little girl who goes neglected. But sometimes she makes getting her way worth the trouble.

It’s tough for a man who only wants peace in the house.

 

 

 

 

Who Are the Creators?

David Paul is the author of Naked Vitality, a nominee for several literary awards and the 2004 International Library of Poetry Silver Award Cup recipient. His works in graphic novels include the award-winning Cold Blooded Chillers by Heske Horror and he is a long time Heavy Metal magazine contributor. He works as a comic book and graphic novel letterer, collaborating with numerous artists. Samples of his work can be viewed at his DeviantArt gallery here
http://davidpaul1970.deviantart.com/gallery/30893065
and here
http://davidpaul1970.deviantart.com/

Gary T.  Becks was born in the Washington DC metropolitan area June 18, 1968.  He became interested in writing and music at the age of 6,  and after a few years of collecting comic books became inspired to draw his own. Mostly a self taught artist, his style is a mix of both Japanese Manga and American comic influences.

In 1992 he moved to Los Angeles and completed his first comic series called Vixen 6 which was adapted into a screenplay.

In 2001 he started the series Mazscara, a webcomic whose story elements mix horror, drama and fantasy. At the same time he began to discover 3D software such as  zBrush, Cinema 4D and Poser, which took his art in a whole different direction. G.T is currently working on several 3D projects as well as two new comic series called the Humorville Hillarrions and Fiendy.

His art portfolio can be viewed here :

http://githos.deviantart.com/

 

Joseph! starts tomorrow. Do not miss it!