10 April 2013

Leave Watterson alone!

For those who are unfamiliar

Salon.com posted a feature discussing Bill Watterson a couple days ago. As I've mentioned before, Calvin and Hobbes is a major influence in my life, so any time I can read about it or its creator, I'm there. The feature's author, Liv Combe, focuses on Watterson's decision to avoid the public eye almost entirely since he ended C&H in 1995.

The term “recluse” seems like a dirty word, a slur — “private” or “introverted” seem much fairer ways to describe someone than a word that suggests agoraphobia — but that’s how many would describe artists ranging from Emily Dickinson to Marcel Proust, Harper Lee to J.D. Salinger.

I'd been aware that Watterson doesn't ever give interviews, doesn't go to comic conventions, doesn't license his intellectual property to movie studios or toy manufacturers. But I'd never really thought about what that meant for him.

Watterson's sense of principle and integrity is such that the image of the tens of millions of dollars he would earn by selling out was overshadowed by the idea of allowing others, motivated solely by greed, to be involved in the creative process for Calvin and Hobbes.

“I’m convinced that licensing would sell out the soul of ‘Calvin and Hobbes,’” Watterson said in the same article. “The world of a comic strip is much more fragile that most people realize. Once you’ve given up its integrity, that’s it. I want to make sure that never happens.”

Some fans do not quite understand this, or are unaware of it, and will drive past his home, or try to find him at a library he probably frequents. However, this documentary film maker is completely on board and didn't even attempt to contact Watterson in making a film about the strip.

How rare an individual is Bill Watterson? I have to say I greatly admire his lack of greed, his foresight, and his ability to stick to his guns decades after making a difficult decision. If you have time, I recommend reading the commencement address he gave to his alma mater, Kenyon, back in 1990.

Finally, an online comment someone made about the feature:

It says a great deal about the morality and obsessions of our times that we treat as odd a man who, in an age of attention and cash mega-whores, has staunchly maintained his ethical stance and only wishes to be left alone to enjoy his life out of the spotlight.

Well said. Fight on, Bill.

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