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. Watterson stopped drawing Calvin and Hobbes at the end of 1995 with a short statement to newspaper editors and his readers that he felt he had achieved all he could in the medium.
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. Watterson 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.
Tropes and trivia:
- Cant Unhear It: This was one of the many reasons Watterson never adapted Calvin and Hobbes into other media. He didn't want any of the characters to have their voices and speech patterns "crystallized", as it were, as that interpretation would bleed back into the strip and would not only prevent readers from enjoying their own interpretations of the characters but would subconsciously affect his own views of them as well. He once recounted being troubled simply by the thought of whether Calvin would be voiced by an actual child actor or an adult imitating a child.
- Celebrity Is Overrated: Bill Watterson led a very private life after the conclusion of Calvin and Hobbes to a point anyone rarely hears or see anything has has done since. As of 2018, his most recent appearance to date has been an audio-only one in the 2014 documentary Stripped (which he also drew the poster for), marking the first time his voice had ever been publicly recorded!
- 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 they are not official merchandise and therefore would mean no loss of profit.
- 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.
- Doing It for the Art: Watterson never sold the rights to Calvin and Hobbes, which would have made him a pretty penny on Hobbes merchandise alone. He believes in the power of a comic strip alone and for that, he deserves so many people's respect.
- Reclusive Artist: Watterson is somewhat of an oddball as comic creators go. He always valued his privacy and rarely gave interviews when Calvin and Hobbes was running and would not allow journalists to take his photonote or record his voice. He's spoken to exactly one journalist since the strip ended, in a short interview on Watterson's doorstep after the journalist was able to track him down and badgered him for the opportunity. People's speculation about his reclusiveness may have been blown out of proportion, however. He now paints landscapes and lives in suburban Cleveland, and locals say that he is out and about and occasionally sneaks autographed copies of Calvin and Hobbes collections onto the local bookstore's shelves for fans to find,note giving the impression of someone who simply prefers keeping to himself rather than shutting out the world altogether.
- 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. Watterson himself has a more cynical yet respectable perspective on licensing and syndication.
- What Could Have Been: Watterson received personal phone calls from Steven Spielberg and George Lucas about doing a film adaptation. He turned down both.