Free chapter of forthcoming book on the mysterious creator of Calvin and Hobbes

Nevin sez, "To drum up interest in my forthcoming book "Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and his Revolutionary Comic Strip," I am offering interested readers a sample chapter from the book, which comes out on October 1 via Continuum Press. If interested readers send an email to lookingforcalvinandhobbes@gmail.com they can request their very own free copy. Here's a brief overview of the book:
For ten years, between 1985 and 1995, Calvin and Hobbes was one the world's most beloved comic strips. And then, on the last day of 1995, the strip ended. Its mercurial and reclusive creator, Bill Watterson, not only finished the strip but withdrew entirely from public life. There is no merchandising associated with Calvin and Hobbes: no movie franchise; no plush toys; no coffee mugs; no t-shirts (except a handful of illegal ones). There is only the strip itself, and the books in which it has been compiled - including The Complete Calvin and Hobbes: the heaviest book ever to hit the New York Times bestseller list.

In Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip, writer Nevin Martell traces the life and career of the extraordinary, influential, and intensely private man behind Calvin and Hobbes. With input from a wide range of artists and writers (including Dave Barry, Harvey Pekar, Jonathan Lethem, and Brad Bird) as well as some of Watterson's closest friends and professional colleagues, this is as close as we're ever likely to get to one of America's most ingenious and intriguing figures - and a fascinating detective story, at the same time.

Your readers may also be interested to know that I interviewed almost 50 cartoonists for the project, including Berke Breathed (Bloom County/Opus/Outland), Jim Davis (Garfield), Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse), Nicholas Gurewitch (The Perry Bible Fellowship), Keith Knight (The Knight Life/K Chronicles), Bill Amend (Foxtrot), Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey), Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine), Michael Jantze (The Norm), Mark Parisi (Off The Mark), Hilary Price (Rhymes With Orange), Dave Coverly (Speed Bump), Jan Eliot (Stone Soup), Jeff Smith (Bone), Brad Anderson (Marmaduke), Jef Mallett (Frazz), Mike Peters (Mother Goose & Grimm), Steve Troop (Mayberry Melonpool), Craig Thompson (Blankets), Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist Patrick Oliphant, Jim Borgman (Zits), Mark Tatulli (Lio) and Jim Meddick (Monty).

I read the excerpt this afternoon -- fascinating stuff. Looking forward to the book!

Looking for Calvin and Hobbes by Nevin Martell (Facebook)

Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip (Amazon)

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  1. Hmmm… Jef Mallett of Frazz is interviewed. I wonder if the old conspiracy theories about Mallett being Watterson will start to show up again?

    I loved Watterson’s 10th anniversary book, which explained his entire comics philosophy and his influences. I wish more comic strip creators had that sort of artistic integrity. Or talent.

  2. Unless there’s substantial irony involved, it seems like a waste of time to interview half those cartoonists – some are marketing sellouts (Jim Davis), others are really just poorly drawn and (Rhymes with Orange), some use the exact template over and over (Bill Amend)…but hey kudos for getting Berke Breathed, at least he draws imaginatively, with scenery you’d find in krazy kat. And Lynn Johnston, who bothers with an actual story.

    I guess what I’m getting at, is Bill Waterson is miles above these other guys, so what can they say? “Gee, I’ll never be that good”
    “I produce little of artistic merit”, “Lasagna!”

    Ok, comics can be whatever you like, high-to-low brow, who gives a darn. But whatever you do, there can be a level of artistry and wit. involved, and Bill makes most of these guys look nit-wit hacks.

    To bad he couldn’t get some words from Gary Larson, one of the few wits in

  3. I agree, that 10th anniversary book was great! I was pretty young when I got it, I actually learned a lot about drawing and the thought process from that.

  4. I would have killed for a stuffed Hobbes when I was a kid. While I appreciate that he didn’t want to sell out his art, I would love to have seen Calvin animated (perhaps a Christmas or Halloween special) and what kid of the 80’s/90’s didn’t want a stuffed Hobbes to drag around on adventures? On a similar note… is it really respectful to read a book about a man who obviously doesn’t want to be in the limelight and hasn’t done anything to make himself a public figure? It does seem that this may focus more on the history and cultural impact of his work, though. I’ll probably buy it if it isn’t too invasive.

    A quick google search revelas a number of home-made Hobbes patterns. Watterson may not have wanted his work licensed, but I’d like to believe he’d approve of this type of thing. My future child will have one, that’s for sure.

  5. The guy obviously wants his life to be private, so writing a book about him is kind of a jerk thing to do. If you respect him, leave him alone.

  6. Can anyone say why the last strip was a slap in the face to all the syndicate and the publishers? I’m sorry to say that my copy was lost, but it’s a wonderful practical joke!

  7. Nothing all that mysterious- “Bill Watterson” is just one of the pen names employed by J.D. Salinger.

    On another note, anybody else notice that all the truly brilliant comic strips seem to have a 10-to-15-year lifespan? “Bloom County” and “The Far Side” also quit in their prime, whereas “Garfield” ran out of ideas back in 1979.

  8. I’ve never seen a picture of Watterson and Salinger together.

    I’m just sayin’, is all.

  9. I know this probably won’t be a popular opinion, but….

    If you draw a comic for 10 years and it is universally beloved and you’ve made some cash money out of that love, I think there is an obligation on the part of the author to at least be respectful of his fans. I’m not talking about a Paris Hilton level of media saturation and availability, but dang, at least give us a press conference or something. I mean, throw us a bone, man! I bought ever one of those doggone books!

    Go ahead, proceed to tell me how much I don’t understand the artistic temperament and how availability of an artist isn’t a right the public has, blah blah. I’ll be over here in the corner with my fingers in my ears.

  10. @12: Well, it’s not a popular opinion with me. No, there is no obligation on the part of the artist to give up any more of their life than they are comfortable doing. It has nothing to do with artistic temperament. It has everything to do with the fact that we don’t own Bill Watterson. Buying his books gives you the right and pleasure to read his books. That’s it. End of story.

  11. @ MrsBug #12:

    What would you ask at that press conference that wasn’t covered in any of Watterson’s books?

  12. There is no merchandising associated with Calvin and Hobbes: no movie franchise; no plush toys; no coffee mugs; no t-shirts (except a handful of illegal ones).

    There are also of course the numerous, ubiquitous “Calvin Peeing” decals which have been found on the rear windows of fine whips for years. An awesome, exhaustive collection of Calvin peeing (and Calvin-like pissors) stickers is found here: http://www.annoying.com/nightmares/obsessive/02/0001/gallery.html
    My favorite is Calvin in a sombrero peeing on “La Migra.”

    I like to think Watterson is a copyfighter and OK with the use of his character in this manner. I also wish Paul Fussell would comment on this phenomena.

  13. I just read the first chapter and am pleased with its tone, its stated intent, and the fact that I can already identify a bit with the author.

    Before anyone else starts chanting “Leave him alone!”, please read the first chapter. From my reading, I get the feeling that creation of this book did not pester Watterson or invade his privacy. Rather, it respectfully gave him an opportunity to give as much or as little information to the author as he deemed fit.

    The first chapter has an excerpt from the author’s conversation with Watterson’s longtime friend. The quotes provided seem to frame well Watterson’s argument against participation in any such book.

    So, yeah. Read the chapter and then post. Informed discussions are the bee’s knees.

  14. John Napsterista #15:

    I like to think Watterson is a copyfighter and OK with the use of his character in this manner.

    I believe you think wrong. In his anthologies Watterson has explicitly denounced the numerous unauthorized products based on his work, especially any sold for a profit (like the aforementioned “peeing” stickers).

    Also, @MrsBug: Apparently Watterson did give the public interview you wanted in 2005 when he answered 15 questions from readers. Sorry you were too late.

  15. I grew up, and still live in, a wee village, and I grew up reading Calvina and Hobbes, and The Far Side. These are the first books I remember, and they are the finest literature I have known. I would still love a little red cart, so that I could hurl down hills and through forests. I also harbour a deep wish to have been brought up in some quiet little town in the Mid-West, where the snow was deep, the summers were long, and the girls were slimy.

  16. Bill Watterson and Gary Larson set the bar so high, I basically stopped reading the comics page after their strips ended. I used to read them every morning at breakfast.

    (For that matter, I can’t remember the last time I read a physical newspaper…)

  17. A few Calvin & Hobbes strips have stuck with me through the years like koans with bits of deep wisdom attached. So I like to think I -do- know Watterson already, based on the work he chose to share. I think there was enough insight into the author’s character there to tell me what wanted me to know anyway.

    Whether he is a reclusive guy or just an aspect of some other artist’s personality, I say give them their desired space and just be thankful for what we got.

  18. A few Calvin & Hobbes strips have stuck with me through the years like koans with bits of deep wisdom attached. So I like to think I -do- know Watterson already, based on the work he chose to share. I think there was enough insight into the author’s character there to tell me what wanted me to know anyway.

    Whether he is a reclusive guy or just an aspect of some other artist’s personality, I say give them their desired space and just be thankful for what we got.

  19. #12: If you draw a comic for 10 years and it is universally beloved and you’ve made some cash money out of that love, I think there is an obligation on the part of the author to at least be respectful of his fans.

    Giving us ten years of joy through those wonderful comic strips wasn’t enough?

  20. I finally figured out that Calvin’s mother is a highly respected poet; that’s what she’s always working on, a poem. It goes unmentioned because she is an intensely private artist.

  21. I just read the first chapter and it was great. I agree with #16 on the tone, but even if I didn’t I would still read the rest of this book. I disagree that people should not write about him because he was reclusive.

    He was/is talented. He and especially his work need to be written about and discussed. We don’t want the talented people lost to history.

  22. It’s too bad that Watterson hasn’t wanted to do any more public work. The world certainly could use more people with his kind of ethics and integrity… though I suppose I would also want everyone to bugger off after being in the public eye for 10 minutes, much less 10 years.

  23. Didn’t family guy “animate” a few seconds of Calvin a few episodes back? It probably took 3 weeks to coax poor Bill out of his bedroom to come downstairs to breakfast.

  24. Watterson is, of course, under no obligation to do anything “for the fans” and owes them nothing.

    Likewise – for everyone who seems to think Martell shouldn’t write this book because Watterson is a private kind of guy, that logic is as absurd as the idea that Watterson owes anyone anything.

    The strip was written for public consumption, so it, and the artist, merits analysis by whomever chooses to do so.

    Neither party “owes” anything to the other, in any way.

  25. I wonder to what extent he bothered Watterson himself… I mean, he may be “reclusive,” but he’s not hard to find… Chgrain Falls, Ohio has a population of less than 5,000…

  26. I love C&H, for all the reasons everyone else has listed.

    Watterson gave us some fantastic, endearing characters, and for most of us all we had to do was buy a newspaper to read them.

    If the man wants his privacy, which should give it to him. Boycott the book.

  27. NEW FANS—My children (born 1999. 2000 and 2003) LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Calvin and Hobbes! On a recent 6 hour car trip, they requested the books, the library system obliged and they laughed and passed them around for the whole trip. Even the 6year old is cutting his reading teeth on dear Calvin and Hobbes. THANKS! Classics transcend beyond generations! Mr. Waterson’s are just that.

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