Calvin and Hobbes original art expected to get at least $125,000 at auction

Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes was the last great American newspaper comic strip, and opportunities to acquire original art are as rare as bug's teeth. Heritage Auctions is rightfully giddy to be offering a hand-colored Sunday strip. (I wouldn't be surprised if Watterson himself buys it.)

Oh boy -- be prepared to have your world rocked by this one, Comic Art lovers!

We don't have to tell you how incredibly rare this amazing masterwork is! It is, in fact, the first time this century that a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip original is being offered at public auction! It's a well known fact that artist Bill Watterson has carefully held onto his original artwork, despite many generous offers to part with a strip. We're not kidding when we say we would have been ecstatic to have uncovered a daily example of this medium-defining comic strip to offer, but to have a beautifully hand-colored (by the artist himself) Sunday is pretty much beyond belief! It was presented by Watterson as a gift to fellow cartoonist Brian Basset, creator of the popular strips Adam@Home and Red and Rover, who cherished it for many years in his personal collection.

Why is Basset selling the gift given to him by Watterson? The Daily Cartoonist reports that Basset is in a "financial pinch related to an earlier divorce and upcoming wedding has prompted him to put the piece on the auction block."

Bill Watterson Calvin and Hobbes Hand-Colored Sunday Comic Strip Original Art dated 10-19-1986 (Universal Press Syndicate, 1986)


    1. obligatory.

      [watterson sent it to breathed, apparently in good fun. i think the context of it was his fight with newspapers to accept a more freeform layout for comics:]

    2.  I was immensely saddened when C & H stopped…it was like a door to childhood closing. But I never cared for Bloom County, though I read it every Sunday. Seemed he tried too hard. I think in 100 years C & H will still be known (like Krazy Kat, Little Nemo, etc. are today) but can’t say the same for Bloom County.

    1. The syndicated comics aren’t where the great strips are, any more.
      Reliability of output is about the only criterion they seem to use in picking artists to syndicate.

      Few would even notice the passing of Mutts, if the artist stopped drawing. In comparison, the end of C&H is mourned by millions to this day as the end of an era.

      And he did represent the end of an era: the era where a comic artist could throw a strop, and anyone would care. Syndicated comic artists no longer get to act like prima donnas, because there’s intense pressure for their role from self-published and web comics.

      1. So the thing that makes a strip “great” is how many people read it? 

        If you don’t like Mutts, that’s your opinion. But a lot of people would say Mutts is comparable in the quality of humor and emotion to “Peanuts”, “Calvin & Hobbes” or any other strip you could call “great” in quality, not just reliability and readership.

        1. I think that yes, the number of people *does* make a difference.

          I don’t know if you were around when C&H stopped, but it really was like the end of an era. Everybody read and loved C&H.

          Sure, Mutts may be excellent, and there may be some small-town papers that cary local strips that are truly incredible, but I think when one talks about a strip being one of the “greats,” the size of the population that cares about them does factor into it some, yes.

          1. I’ve seen a very well done image of a grown up C&H you might like Antinous…
            Rule 34 and all that….

        2. That’s the weird thing about greatness.  The same could be said of Tolkien, after all. There are a bajillion fantasy authors. Many are arguably “comparable” in a couple of aspects. But Tolkien was the one who got there first, broke that ground, and so on. So he’s a great, and they’re also-rans, with the possible exceptions of Pratchett and Rowling.

          Greatness seems to be a thing of acclamation, not of inherent quality. There are a few cartoonists recognized as great; James Kochalka (American Elf) is his state’s cartoonist Laureate, for instance; Thunt (Goblins Comic) can raise $50k with a single page;  Randall Munroe (XKCD) is… well, just is. And there are slightly-less-known stars,  like Aaron Williams (PS238), Christopher Hastings (Dr McNinja), Phil & Kaja Foglio (Girl Genius), and anything from RCSI Publishing.

          Many more might be recognized as great, and deserve more exposure: like Tab (KhaosKomix);  Kazerad (Prequel: or making a cat cry); Ben Fleuter (Derelict); Zack Morrison (Paranatural); Ashley Cope (Unsounded), KrazyKrow (Spinerette)…OK, I’ll shut up with comic recommendations :) So many fantastic ones…

          1. Nobody said Calvin and Hobbes isn’t great. I used Mark’s (possibly somewhat off-the-cuff) characterization of C&H as the “**last** great newspaper comic” to highlight one of my favorite great newspaper comics.  Calvin and Hobbes is great. Mutts is also great. Dilbert is also great. And Mutts and Dilbert are still running. 

          2. There are lots of things that make a comic great: humor, emotion, insight into the human condition, …

            If it’s all about who was first, and there’s only room for one “great” in the world as your analogy to Tolkien seems to be claiming, then Peanuts is it and C&H was never great. 

            If there’s room for more than one “great”, then there are still great newspaper comics out there, and C&H isn’t the “last”.

            Is M*A*S*H the last great television comedy-drama because cable broke up the big-3 oligopoly and no new tv show will ever have a captive audience again? 

    2.  “Mutts” is great, I agree. What Patrick does with coloring, his distinctive ink style, imaginative layout and design, and emotional depth (when he wants to toss in a bit of pathos) are particularly impressive in this age of tiny strips in dying newspapers.
      Just open to the comics page- ‘Mutts” jumps right out at you. Spare, deceptively simple lines- he is a master of the form.

      I ran a comic book store in NJ in the late 70’s early 80’s, and went to school and was good friends with his girlfriend/ now wife Karen. They were always great, unique people (Karen sang in “Steel Tips”, one of the 1st “punk” bands in NJ). I am glad (as a comic snob- Jack Kirby? blecccch! except for Boys Ranch) that Patrick has “made it” on his own terms, doing a strip I can truly say I love and is not a piece of crap.

      1.  I know that he fought real hard to prevent the trite commercialization of his intellectual property, yet at the same time as a life-long fan I can’t deny I would have loved to see some decent animation projects involving my favorite kid/stuffed tiger duo.

        1. Gaaaaaaaaah!

          Just thinking about Calvin having some goofy cartoon voice is enough to give money to whoever would have the power to stop that, if it started to come true.

          1. i’m pretty sure i read an interview with bill watterson himself, where he said that the voicing was the major problem in a C&H cartoon, and he couldn’t think of a solution.

  1. If you’re reading, Bill, I wish you all the amusement you gave your readers over the years…… Keep exploring

  2. Can someone start up a fund to buy this and return it to Watterson? It seems like the right thing to do.

      1. I’m sure he could probably afford it, but that’s still a pretty big chunk of cash. And I feel like it would be a great way for his fans to show our respect and appreciation.

    1. There’s someone else I’d prefer to have it even over Watterson.  They live at 11 West 53rd Street in New York.  

    1.  Frazz is great, as is Pearls Before Swine. I think it’s just the nostalgia that makes us believe that nothing can be as good as Calvin and Hobbes, the Far Side, and Bloom County.

      I *think*. Sometimes I’m not so sure.

    1. That had been my thought as well.  Smaller wedding, keep the strip.  And if the partner doesn’t get it, they might not be the right person…

  3. Bill Watterson lives down the street from me. I know how reclusive he is, so I have never told him how much I LOVE C&H, and what joy that strip brought me over the years. If you’re reading this, Bill, know that your neighbors are fans — and do their best to respect your privacy.

    1. Or get a window decal for your truck that shows Calvin taking a whiz on something!  That will tastefully show your respect.

      More seriously, I have to say I am in awe of your self-control and respect for Watterson’s privacy.  

  4. Yet another bit of original artwork, by a beloved cartoonist, that I covet to the depths of my soul, and waaaaaay outta my price range.  Sigh. 

  5. Maybe someone can clue me in. I know Watterson is a big reclusive, never let anyone cash in on C&H (Garfield, Paws Inc. style!) , rarely gives interviews, and was dismayed by the wizzing Calvin stickers… but I do find it surprising that he didn’t/doesn’t continue to produce some kind of art. His watercolor skills and adept renderings of nature are splendid… For someone who put so much of himself and his heart into those strips I find it unbelievable that he could walk away from the world of art completely. 

    Guess I’m just another forever longing fan. 

  6. Baffles me when a single piece of art that has immense fan interest can command such a huge price tag when there’s obviously a pretty big stash waiting in Watterson’s vault. Same goes for a high-grade comic from the “age of collectors” that auctions off for thousands more than what anyone has ever paid for in the past. Manipulation, or just investors banking on a rarity?

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