Interview with Bill Watterson

This is really rare – C&H creator Bill Watterson has given an interview for the first time in over 20 years. In it, he firmly puts Calvin and Hobbes in his past – and intriguingly doesn’t see any role for himself in how the strip has affected people.

What are your thoughts about the legacy of your strip?

Well, it’s not a subject that keeps me up at night. Readers will always decide if the work is meaningful and relevant to them, and I can live with whatever conclusion they come to. Again, my part in all this largely ended as the ink dried.

Because your work touched so many people, fans feel a connection to you, like they know you. They want more of your work, more Calvin, another strip, anything. It really is a sort of rock star/fan relationship. Because of your aversion to attention, how do you deal with that even today? And how do you deal with knowing that it’s going to follow you for the rest of your days?

Ah, the life of a newspaper cartoonist — how I miss the groupies, drugs and trashed hotel rooms!

But since my “rock star” days, the public attention has faded a lot. In Pop Culture Time, the 1990s were eons ago. There are occasional flare-ups of weirdness, but mostly I just go about my quiet life and do my best to ignore the rest. I’m proud of the strip, enormously grateful for its success, and truly flattered that people still read it, but I wrote “Calvin and Hobbes” in my 30s, and I’m many miles from there.

An artwork can stay frozen in time, but I stumble through the years like everyone else. I think the deeper fans understand that, and are willing to give me some room to go on with my life.

There’s a bit more worth reading – I find it interesting that he essentially saw C&H as an outlet for him to express himself, and then retired it when there was no more left to say. He didn’t see it as a comic strip, in essence, but a novel. It’s a same that he never really regarded his characters as anything but characters; there’s a lot of narative left in them that others could pick up where he left off.

UPDATE – Shamus gives props to the man. Agreed, especially about how much he looks like Uncle Max.

Brian calls the interview a missed opportunity, providing examples of much better questions the interviewer could have asked. He also links the archive I mentioned earlier of Watterson’s old political cartooning work and an inscrutable fan-driven Q&A he did a long time ago. Does anyone know what Watterson is doing now? He seems to be JD Salingeresque.

Garfield Minus Garfield: The Book

gminusg.jpgI’ll admit it – as a kid, I went on a Garfield binge. I had every single Garfield book from #1 onwards, until around #30 or so, at which point the exponential decay of the quality curve became apparent even to me. Luckily by then I had discovered Calvin and Hobbes which was basically Garfield, but funnier, genuinely intellectual, and with characters I could actually relate to. In other words, the opposite of Garfield, and just in time for my transition from childhood to adolescence.

I dunno where all my Garfield books are now – probably in a box in my parents’ garage – but after ~20 years there’s finally a Garfield book I want to buy again – Garfield Minus Garfield, which has been endorsed by The Jim Davis himself. I previously raved about the sublime introspection that the concept of G-G brings to what used to be inane and vapid nonsense, and G-G figures prominently in my dwindling RSS subscriptions. But now we can enjoy it the way it was meant to be. The use of the same form factor as the mainstream Garfield books is a nice touch.

guilty of fictional crimes

Ogiue Maniax has a very important post about a man charged with a crime for possessing obscene manga. I was not familiar with the case prior to his post but it really is a chilling matter. As he points out,

fiction should have every right to depict an aspect of reality while not being completely behold to it or the law. In other words, if fiction were to be forced to depict a world where everything is legally okay or turns out that way, fiction would die. Imagine Death Note without murder.

It’s worth reading the whole post for the details. In a nutshell, what is being punished here is thoughtcrime.

Operation AIRlift: May Day!

Tomorrow is May 1st, also known as May Day – and to mark the occasion, my friend Willow is hosting an event called Operation AIRlift. The basic premise is simple – buy a copy of her graphic novel, AIR Vol 1: Letters from Lost Countries on May 1st, and she will donate a dollar to the Koru Foundation (which focuses on green energy projects in the developing world). More details about AIRlift are here.

Now, of course I am biased because AIR is written by a friend (and co-blogger at Talk Islam). But there’s something very unique about AIR – it’s a strange comic book, equal parts fantasy and science fiction, but firmly set in the modern world. Hilariously, the book has been attacked by clueless zealots like Debbie Schlussel for harboring secret Islamist sympathies, which is a real bonus point in its favor if you ask me. But the serious reviewers in the comics industry are all raving about it, because it’s a lot like Battlestar Galactica in that it explores aspects of society with enough familiarity to be relevant but with enough ambiguity to avoid taking “sides” and thus being a blank slate of sorts for projection upon. Readers who are familiar with Willow’s graphic novel Cairo will know exactly what I mean here – it’s the same team of Willow as writer and M.K. Perker doing the illustrations, so it has a familiar rhythm, but is on the whole a more mature piece of work.

And, speaking of the artwork, it’s profound and subtle at the same time. Here’s some promo art that I think should be immediately recognizable for its artistic reference:

AIR with apologies to Andrew Wyeth
AIR with apologies to Andrew Wyeth

This is simply a great comic book. I read the first 4 issues of the series and am waiting till May Day to get my copy of volume 1. Join me and help out with a good cause as a bonus.

Calvin and Jobs

Hobbes has been replaced by Steve Jobs:

Brilliant. I especially love how Jobbes turns into a stuffed toy when the parents or others are around. The artwork is perfect, but the comic has a sharp edge, too:

Calvin: Jeez! How come all your stuff so expensive, Jobs?
Jobs: Well, Calvin, it’s carefully put together by some of the world’s most ingenious craftsmen!
Calvin: Really? But isn’t it slapped together in China like just about everything else?
Jobs: I was talking about our ads.

Somehow I don’t think Bill Watterson is going to be as tolerant of this as Jim Davis was with Garfield Minus Garfield… speaking of the latter, travors just signed a book deal with Davis’ blessing.

less Garfield is more

I’ve been proselytizing Garfield Minus Garfield for a while now, so I’ve seen them all. However the latest is I think a true masterpiece, in how the presence of Garfield was subtle to begin with, and how the omission truly changes the meaning of the strip in a profound way. It’s brilliant. I’m stealing it.

garfield minus garfield 05 16 08

In related news, Garfield creator Jim Davis knows about G-G and actually approves. That’s just cool.

The Drake Equation

XKCD pays homage to the Drake Equation, with their characteristic style:

It should be noted though that the new term Bs is redundant with L. That’s really the only parameter for which there is essentially no way to formulate any reasonable estimate. When I learned about the Drake Equation in college, we basically came to see that the Drake Equation was uttterly dominated by the assumption for L, even if fl, fi, and fc were all assumed to be 1. It’s a sobering thought that time, not space, is our greatest barrier to finding someone else Out There.