Follow TV Tropes


Creator / Bill Watterson

Go To

William Boyd "Bill" Watterson II (born July 5, 1958) is an American cartoonist and the author of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, which was syndicated from 1985 to 1995. He was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, whose suburban Midwestern United States setting was part of the inspiration for his work. Watterson is known for his negative views on licensing and comic syndication, his efforts to expand and elevate the newspaper comic as an art-form, and his move back into private life after he stopped drawing Calvin and Hobbes.

He started his professional career as a political cartoonist and won several awards for his artwork and subversive views. During this time, he began developing an idea for a strip that became Calvin and Hobbes, which became critically acclaimed for how it deftly balanced goofy humor, childhood wonder, and serious philosophy. In fact, collections of the strip began being published under the Scholastic imprint because it was regarded as having educational merit — many a child growing up in the 90s and 2000s will remember ordering compilations through Scholastic's catalog.

Watterson stopped drawing Calvin and Hobbes at the end of 1995, explaining with a short statement to newspaper editors and to his readers that he felt he had achieved all he could in the medium. He retired to pursue oil painting — reportedly focusing on landscapes — and has occasionally dipped his toe back into public life.

In 2023, nearly three decades after the end of Calvin and Hobbes, it was announced that Bill would be coming out of retirement to collaborate with caricaturist John Kascht on a new graphic novel titled The Mysteries.

Tropes in his work:

  • Creator Backlash: One of the reasons Watterson discontinued the strip in 1995 was pressure from publishers to commercialize his work, something which he felt would cheapen the characters by devaluing their personalities, or worse, that Universal Press would license Calvin and Hobbes without his permission or even hire a new artist to draw the strip, so he published the last Calvin and Hobbes strip on 12/31/1995, with a farewell message. In spite of his efforts to retain creative control, numerous unauthorized forms of merchandise deluged the market, including the infamous "Peeing Calvin" decals. Famously, no crackdowns have been made on these because there is no official merchandise and therefore would mean no loss of profit.
  • Creator Provincialism: It's implied that the Everytown, America setting of Calvin and Hobbes is very heavily based on (if not a recreation of) Watterson's own hometown.
  • Creator's Pest: Watterson regretted creating the short-lived character of Uncle Max for the strip, feeling it was a failed attempt to bring something new out of Calvin, but it just went nowhere because he had no real chemistry with Calvin, and it was awkward with him not being able to call Calvin's parents by their names. After a brief story arc with him, Max was put on a plane and permanently vanished from the comic.
  • Signature Style: His comic strip combines the wondrous elements of childhood imagination and the curiosity of that time period but mixes it with sophisticated humor and political conversations.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: His brilliant comic strip may be leaning slightly more towards the idealistic end, but still has its moments of wry cynicism and gentle misanthropy. Watterson himself has an understandably bitter perspective on licensing and syndication.