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 Bill (William II) Watterson  (1958 - )

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Lived/Active: Ohio/District Of Columbia      Known for: cartoonist-"Calvin and Hobbes"

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Calvin and Hobbes Hand-Colored Sunday Comic Strip Original Art dated 10-19-1986
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
William Boyd "Bill" Watterson II (born July 5, 1958) is an American cartoonist and the author of the influential and popular comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.  His career as a syndicated cartoonist ran from 1985 to 1995; he stopped drawing Calvin and Hobbes 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.  During the early years of his career he produced several drawings and additional contributions for Target: The Political Cartoon Quarterly. Watterson is known for his views on licensing and comic syndication, as well as for his reclusive nature. He drew his first cartoon at the age of 8.

William Boyd Watterson was born in Washington, D.C. in 1958, where his father, James G. Watterson, worked as a patent examiner while going to George Washington University Law School before becoming a patent attorney in 1960.

In 1964, when Bill was six years old the family moved to Chagrin Falls, Ohio, where his mother, Kathryn Watterson, became a city council member.  James was elected as a council member in 1997, holding that position for 12 years before retiring on August 31, 2009 to pursue some artistic "projects and goals".

One report suggests Watterson spent a lot of time in childhood alone, occupying his time with drawing and cartooning.  This continued throughout his primary and secondary schooling years when he drew cartoons for the school newspaper and yearbook.  During this time he discovered comics strips such as Peanuts by Charles Schulz, Pogo and Krazy Kat, which subsequently inspired and influenced his desire to become a professional cartoonist. His parents recall him as a very quiet and unassuming child, who would spend hours drawing in his room:

While attending Chagrin Falls High School, Bill drew a representation of the school mascot, the Tigers, for the school newspaper.  This tiger was said to be the early inspiration behind Hobbes and the rendering can still be found on school merchandise.

From 1976 to 1980 Bill Watterson attended Kenyon College and completed a degree in political science, all the while developing his artistic skills and contributing cartoons for the college newspaper.  Many of the cartoons and pieces of artwork Watterson created at Kenyon can now be found online.  These comics were the original "Spaceman Spiff" cartoons.
Jim Borgman had graduated from Kenyon just before Watterson arrived, but his work as a political cartoonist so impressed Bill that he decided to pursue a career as one himself. Borgman worked at the Cincinnati Post and gave Watterson encouragement and advice throughout his time as a student.

In his 1990 speech to Kenyon College graduates Bill Watterson revealed that during his final year he had painted a copy of Michelangelo's Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel onto the ceiling of his dorm room:

Later on, when Watterson was coming up with names for the characters of his comic strip, he decided upon Calvin (after the Protestant reformer John Calvin) and Hobbes (after the social philosopher Thomas Hobbes) as a "tip of the hat" to the political science department at Kenyon College.

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

Watterson has said he believes in his work for the personal fulfillment it brings.  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.  Bill Watterson wrote in his Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book that his influences include Charles Schulz, for his work in Peanuts; Walt Kelly for his comic 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 Little Nemo in Slumberland, a popular early-20th-century comic strip by Winsor McCay.

Like many artists, Watterson incorporated elements of his life, interests, beliefs and values into his work.  For example his hobby as a cyclist,[10] 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.

From September 10, 2001 to January 16, 2002, Ohio State University's Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum exhibited 36 of his Sunday strips.

Watterson announced the end of Calvin and Hobbes on November 9, 1995.  Since the conclusion of Calvin and Hobbes, Watterson has taken up painting, at one point drawing landscapes of the woods with his father.  Watterson has kept away from the public eye and has given no indication of resuming the strip, creating new works based on the characters, or embarking on other projects; though he has published several anthologies of Calvin and Hobbes strips.

He won't sign autographs or license his characters, staying true to his stated principles. In previous years, he was known to sneak autographed copies of his books onto the shelves of the Fireside Bookshop, a family-owned bookstore in his home of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. However, after discovering that some people were selling the autographed books online for high prices, he ended this practice as well.  Valuing privacy, he is very reluctant to give interviews or make public appearances.

In the years that followed the end of Calvin and Hobbes, there were many attempts to locate Watterson in his home town of Chagrin Falls.  Both The Plain Dealer and the Cleveland Scene sent reporters in 1998 and 2003 respectively but were unable to locate him.  In 2005, Gene Weingarten from The Washington Post was sent with a gift of a first edition Barnaby book as an incentive for Watterson's cooperation.  He passed this, along with a message, to Watterson's parents and declared he would wait in the hotel for as long as it took Watterson to contact him. The next day, Watterson's editor Lee Salem called to tell him that the cartoonist would not be coming.

In 2005, Watterson and his wife Melissa moved from Chagrin Falls, Ohio to Cleveland.  In 2009, Nevin Martell, who had written about Watterson and Calvin & Hobbes, did succeed in locating Watterson, now living in Cleveland; however, he chose not to confront him directly and instead sent a letter expressing his wish to meet and interview him. Watterson did not respond.

On December 21, 1999, a short piece written by Watterson to mark the forthcoming end of the comic strip Peanuts, was published in the Los Angeles Times.  In October 2005, Watterson answered fifteen questions submitted by readers.  In October 2007, Watterson wrote a review of Schulz and Peanuts, a biography of Charles Schulz, in The Wall Street Journal.  In 2008, he provided a foreword for the first book collection of Richard Thompson's Cul De Sac comic 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.

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.

Awards
    •    1986: Reuben Award, Cartoonist of the Year[15]
    •    1988: Reuben Award, Cartoonist of the Year
    •    1988: National Cartoonists Society, Newspaper Comic Strips Humor Award
    •    1988: Sproing Award, for Tommy og Tigern (Calvin and Hobbes)
    •    1989: Harvey Award, Special Award for Humor, for Calvin and Hobbes
    •    1990: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
    •    1990: Max & Moritz Prize, Best Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
    •    1991: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
    •    1991: Adamson Award, for Kalle och Hobbe (Calvin and Hobbes)
    •    1992: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
    •    1992: Eisner Award, Best Comic Strip Collection, for The Revenge of the Baby-Sat
    •    1992: Angoulême International Comics Festival, Prize for Best Comic Book, for En avant tête de thon!
    •    1992: Eisner Award, Best Comic Strip Collection, for Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons
    •    1993: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
    •    1994: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
    •    1995: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes
    •    1996: Harvey Award, Best Syndicated Comic Strip, for Calvin and Hobbes

Source:
Wikipedia: Bill Watterson


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