October 26, 2005
My question for Bill

This article on Calvin and Hobbes cartoonist Bill Watterson is interesting, but ultimately doesn't tell us a whole lot about the famously publicity-shy cartoonist that we haven't read elsewhere. With one exception:


Bill Watterson, 47, hasn't made a public appearance since he delivered the commencement speech in 1990 at his alma mater, Kenyon College. But he recently welcomed some written questions from fans to promote the Oct. 4 release of the three-volume "The Complete Calvin and Hobbes," which contains every one of the 3,160 strips printed during its 10-year run.

Among his revelations:

He reads newspaper comics, but doesn't consider this their golden age.

He's never attended any church.

He's currently interested in art from the 1600s.


None of those facts are particularly compelling to me, but I can't tell you how much I wish I'd known about this in time to submit a question of my own. What I'd have asked him is "Are you aware of all those damned peeing Calvin stickers out there, and would it have killed you to have done something to protect your copyright?" Because I'd sure like to know the answer to that.

UPDATE: According to two commenters so far, Watterson has said that he's aware of the peeing Calvin stickers and has made some efforts to stop them, but as they're made and sold by a zillion tiny distributors, there's no easy way to do that. Fair enough. I think what I wanted from him as far as protecting his copyright goes would have been to actually take a louder and more public stance about this phenomenon. Use the fact that he's the creator of one of the best-loved comic strips of all time to tell everybody that he doesn't like these stickers and wished people wouldn't make, sell, or buy them. Who knows, maybe doing so early on, especially when the likeness of Calvin in these things was so apparent you could tell which individual strip it was taken from, would have killed this industry in its infancy. I guess what bugs me is that I've never seen a direct statement from Watterson about this, and I've always interpreted that as indifference on his part. I'm glad to hear that he really does care, but I sure do wish that fact were more widely known.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 26, 2005 to Books | TrackBack
Comments

I did see something about the Calvin stickers where he said he didn't like them, but there wasn't a PeeCalvin Headquarters to sue, but rather hundreds of small printers running off short runs of Calvin peeing on the logo of choice, so it wasn't feasible to control things without spending more time and money than it was worth.

Posted by: George on October 26, 2005 6:19 AM

Actually, from an interview I found on the net a few years back, looking for something completely unrelated, yes, he is aware of them, and he does try and stop them.

But it's like the t-shirts that get sold on campuses all the time. The footprint just isn't large enough to find someone to stop it. You can stop one distributor, but it would take a lot of work to get the backends since there are so many.

Posted by: Rich Frueh on October 26, 2005 6:38 AM

Thank you for clearing up some of this mystery for me - I've wondered the same thing!

Posted by: Ellen on October 26, 2005 10:16 AM

Don't forget the stickers showing Calvin kneeling in prayer at a Christian cross! Given that Watterson's never attended church, he might not even be a Christian.

If not, it'd be interesting to know how he feels about his character being used to promote a religion other than his own. I know I wouldn't like it.

On the other hand, Calvin was clearly named after John Calvin, so one never knows.

Posted by: Mathwiz on October 27, 2005 2:33 PM