Tuesday Morning Open Thread: True Companions

Good news for Calvin & Hobbes fans, from Michael Cavna at the Washington Post:

Bill Watterson, that master of timing, waited decades to give a truly in-depth interview. As he did with his beloved strip, the “Calvin and Hobbes” creator knows when and how to aim for, and deliver, the exceptional…

For years, the cartoonist didn’t make public comments. Now, in a single wide-ranging and revealing and illuminating and engrossing and self-deprecating and poignant and, of course, deeply funny interview, Watterson has proved more generous than we perhaps could have ever hoped for…
Apart from art appreciation, what’s on the agenda for the day?

The occasion for this interview is linked to the Bill Watterson retrospective curated by Robb and exhibited last year at the Billy Ireland galleries (in a dual show with a Richard Thompson retrospective) and this year at Angouleme. [Today], Andrews McMeel, the parent company of Watterson’s syndicate, is publishing “Exploring Calvin and Hobbes,” the ravishing exhibition catalogue from that retrospective — a 152-page beauty that, like the show itself, is organized around such themes as the seasons that rippled through “Calvin and Hobbes” like supporting characters…

It’s so great to have Watterson’s voice, both on the page and off, re-engaged in the comics conversation. Which brings us to The Interview, which, at a roomy 35 pages (including inviting spot art), is joyously more than one-fifth of this book. So just what does Watterson touch on in this Q&A?

The better question: What doesn’t he touch on?…

The true worth of this interview is that it’s as multifaceted as a jewel. Watterson offers enough about his upbringing that each fan can learn and infer (and guess) connections to the comic strip, and what traits and touches of the feature might have been directly inspired by his childhood. Following the trail of such small discoveries is like hunting for Easter eggs.

Perhaps most revealing, though, is the portrait of a young man as a comic artist. Watterson is not big on the “quest” narrative (particularly when watching animated films), but from his experience, he does map out a humble, oft-self-deprecating journey. Here and elsewhere in the book, we can appreciate what artists most influenced Watterson — from the fluid precision of his fellow Kenyon College alum Jim Borgman (the longtime Pulitzer-winning Cincinnati Enquirer cartoonist, and the co-creator of “Zits”), to the radically disruptive lines and ink-splats of Ralph Steadman. (As well as, naturally, Charles Schulz and Walt Kelly, among others.)…

Much more at the link. I know what I’m gonna be looking at, this weekend…

44 replies
  1. 1
    Edmund Dantes says:

    One of my best purchases is the complete Calvin and Hobbes three book set. It’s massive. Weighs a ton, but awesome to read through every so often.

    The introduction to that covers a lot of the ground of how Bill got where he was. I’ll have to get my hands on this to see if it is different, more flavor, etc.

  2. 2
    Elizabelle says:

    Good to hear. Keep us posted if you hear of a Watterson retrospective closer to home. Missed last year’s in Ohio, and France is a bit far to travel this weekend …

  3. 3
    Baud says:

    NYT headline writers want you to rest assured that both sides are equally responsible.

    Today in Politics: Iran Showdown Brings Obama and Congress to New Low

  4. 4
    Bystander says:

    What is the best, most effective way to express my disgust with Tom Cotton? Directly to Cotton’s office? To the repub party? I’m glad to see VP Biden giving both barrels.

  5. 5
    Matt McIrvin says:

    “no selling-out of his vision in order to draw suggested robot characters”

    If he’s talking about what I think he’s talking about, there’s a weird postscript to that that perhaps undercuts the moral: the person who took the gig instead, Jim Meddick, turned it into an actually funny, ingenious, strange comic that eventually evolved into Monty. So sometimes your vision wins out even when you do sell out.

  6. 6
    debbie says:


    This GOP stunt is even more astute than Reagan’s sending a chocolate cake and a Bible to the Ayatollah.

  7. 7
    debbie says:


    Finally found a list of the signees (can’t read their handwriting on the actual letter), and I’m surprised to see Rob Portman isn’t among them.

  8. 8
    Germy Shoemangler says:

    Watterson: “Our connection to comics is getting more fleeting and superficial.”

    Several weeks ago while waiting for new tires, I read my local newspaper in the waiting room. I hadn’t seen a copy in a few years. First thing I noticed was how tiny it’d gotten. (the publisher bought a new digital press, and the paper size is SMALL) After reading some of the articles I went straight to the “funnies.” Boy, how depressing it was.

    First, the comic strips were TINY. I mean thumbnail tiny. Some of them had been digitally stretched to fit into their allotted space, which I’m sure would have pissed off the cartoonist. Also, the legacy strips were still there, the ones that were running back in the 1940s. These may have been amusing 70 years ago, but now it’s like they were created by computers, or zombies.

    Several of the newer strips were poorly drawn and uninspired. They were so amateurish I was surprised they were in syndication. There were a few, however that were little works of art. Beautifully designed, and whimsical and thoughtful. But these were even more depressing, because they were hidden among all the dreck.

    I saw Doonesbury for the first time in years. He was discussing Jeb’s ambitions for president. It was all exclamation points, and a history of the Bush family. He made some good points, but it struck me how totally…. ignored he is. Nobody quotes him, nobody analyzes his opinions on the campaign. He stopped being a factor. The artwork is super slick, drawn by assistants. I remember when he had the clout and fame of a Jon Stewart or Cobert. And now he’s in the comic strip graveyard.

  9. 9
    Elizabelle says:

    @Bystander: Tom Cotton used his military service to run for Congress. He’s a Harvard JD.

    He was commissioned a second lieutenant in June 2005 and was discharged from military service in September 2009. He served one tour in Iraq and two in Afghanistan.

    Obama was his [briefly] his commander in chief.

    Cotton’s behavior is goddamn deplorable.

    Write to him, or write to Arkansas papers.

    Cotton’s supporters will be fine that he’s dissing the president/commander in chief. That does not mean this goes down well with everyone in Arkansas.

  10. 10
    NotMax says:


    If only stinginess hadn’t won out and he’d sent along ice cream; the world would instantly have rebooted in paradise mode.

  11. 11
    Germy Shoemangler says:

    @Matt McIrvin: I was a major ROBOTMAN fan… it was amazing seeing it in the newspaper, because it was so smart and weird next to BLONDIE and HI AND LOIS.

    Fleshy the Cat! I remember his catnip addiction, and the intervention. I remember Monty’s first appearance. He didn’t listen to his overprotective mother to cover up in the cold, and the last panel he’s shown in a hospital bed, on a ventilator.

    I feel like Meddick never got the recognition he deserved. But he keeps plugging away.

  12. 12
    debbie says:


    Your stinginess is the GOP’s fiscal responsibility.

  13. 13
    NotMax says:

    @debbieJust FYI:

    By the way, seven GOP senators didn’t sign the Cotton letter: Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins, Bob Corker, Dan Coats, Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski, and Thad Cochran. Source

  14. 14
    Cervantes says:


    Portman signed it.

    (See third page, first column, second signature from the bottom.)

  15. 15
    NotMax says:

    Ratty, disintegrating old recliner finally taken to the landfill.

    Now have space for the pedestal ashtray* next to the computer desk.

    Life is good.

    *cigars, haven’t touched a cigarette for about 40 years

  16. 16
    Cervantes says:


    He’s a Harvard JD.

    Since you mention it: he was also an undergraduate at Harvard.

  17. 17
    Cervantes says:


    What is the best, most effective way to express my disgust with Tom Cotton?

    Publish a full-page ad in the Washington Post?

    If you prefer the new media: post a YouTube video?

  18. 18
    NotMax says:


    a Harvard JD.

    Lamest remake of West Side Story ever.

  19. 19
    Elizabelle says:

    Warning: Powerline link: but includes edited text of letter Tom Cotton sent the NY Times while a second lieutenant in Iraq. Times did not publish it, but Powerline did. (Cotton cc’d them.)

    From the 2006 letter Cotton sent to the New York Times, via Powerline (rightwing blog):

    Congratulations on disclosing our government’s highly classified anti-terrorist-financing program (June 23). I apologize for not writing sooner. But I am a lieutenant in the United States Army and I spent the last four days patrolling one of the more dangerous areas in Iraq. . . .

    … You may think you have done a public service, but you have gravely endangered the lives of my soldiers and all other soldiers and innocent Iraqis here. Next time I hear that familiar explosion — or next time I feel it — I will wonder whether we could have stopped that bomb had you not instructed terrorists how to evade our financial surveillance.

    And, by the way, having graduated from Harvard Law and practiced with a federal appellate judge and two Washington law firms before becoming an infantry officer, I am well-versed in the espionage laws relevant to this story and others — laws you have plainly violated. I hope that my colleagues at the Department of Justice match the courage of my soldiers here and prosecute you and your newspaper to the fullest extent of the law. By the time we return home, maybe you will be in your rightful place: not at the Pulitzer announcements, but behind bars.

    And this was even more chilling:

    After the publication of his letter by Power Line, Cotton tells me, he received “several hundred e-mails from servicemen around the world, most of them encouraging.” And how about the prosecution of the Timesmen? Does he still feel they should have been prosecuted, or does he take that back?

    “When people violate the espionage laws,” he says, “they should be prosecuted. They believe they have First Amendment rights, and that’s a defense they can assert in court. Reporters and editors don’t get to decide for themselves what is and is not a sensitive national-security matter. That’s for the American people to decide through their elected representatives. If people feel Congress has passed a law infringing on their rights, they can go ahead and assert that in court.”

    There you go. No need for pesky reporters. America’s elected representatives can decide what’s national security or not. And if the people don’t like a law, they can sue.

    This guy is dangerous.

  20. 20
    Punchy says:

    Never found C&H funny or timely or memorable in any way. If course, ditto for Peanuts, so maybe its just me.

  21. 21
    Elizabelle says:

    @Cervantes: Yup. He apparently had a column for the Harvard Crimson.

  22. 22
    debbie says:

    @NotMax: @Cervantes:

    Thanks. I was looking at a FB photo listing the signers. I guess that explains why Lindsay Graham’s name appeared twice.

  23. 23
    Elizabelle says:

    @Germy Shoemangler: Always loved our local paper, The Washington Post, because it had a good comics page. Four of them, actually. Still does, although a lot of good cartoonists have retired.

    Let the print subscription go, and do miss those comics. Easier to scan on paper than hunt down online.

  24. 24
    Cervantes says:


    No, he was on the staff but never had a column.

  25. 25
    Bobby B. says:

    Unlike Watterson, Richard Thompson is still creating.

  26. 26
    beltane says:

    A former AIPAC staffers take on the letter: http://mjrosenberg.net/2015/03.....r-to-iran/

    Looking at Cotton’s background, I’m not so sure. He is possibly just enough of a sociopath to do this on his own.

  27. 27
    debbie says:


    That tone of condescension in the letter is clearly AIPAC’s voice.

  28. 28
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Elizabelle: For $15 a year, GoComics has a pretty darned good (not perfect, but good) selection of comics. And you can set up a page (or multiple pages) where your favorites are posted every day. Even Calvin & Hobbes reruns, if you like!

  29. 29
    beltane says:

    @debbie: They must be fuming over the fact they can no longer count on any Democratic support. As outrageous as the letter is, it reeks of desperation.

  30. 30
    NotMax says:

    First Target store on the island opened last week. 140,000 sq. ft.

    As today will be my monthly grocery shopping/bill paying trip to town, gonna scope it out (if the old knees are willing).

  31. 31
    debbie says:


    It reeks even more of stupidity (“…you may not fully understand our constitutional system…”). All props to the Iranians’ response.

  32. 32
    Elizabelle says:

    @Anne Laurie: Thank you. Will check that out. All about humor and convenience!

  33. 33
    Elizabelle says:

    @Anne Laurie: PS: FYWP ate two of my comments on previous thread, about Lindsey Graham, the non-emailing menace. Not sure if there was a banned word, or what.

    Could you check? Much obliged.

  34. 34
    Elizabelle says:

    @Cervantes: Thank you. Took that incorrect factoid from Cotton’s wiki page. Which didn’t include a link to the 2006 letter, at least that I could find in a jiff.

    he attended Harvard College, where he served as a columnist for the Harvard Crimson, and a member of the Harvard Republican Club.

    If Cotton or his minions are misrepresenting his creds, please edit or let wiki know.

  35. 35
    Starfish says:

    Did you see the collaboration between Bill Watterson and the Pearls Before Swine creator last year?

  36. 36
    Cervantes says:


    Sorry, I have no idea how to “edit or let wiki know” — and, therefore, whether doing so would even be worth the trouble.

    More important, perhaps, to oppose what he’s trying to do now.

  37. 37
    Mike E says:

    @Germy Shoemangler:

    And now he’s in the comic strip graveyard.

    Our local rag moved Trudeau to the bottom of the op/ed page, next to last of the front section. Whereas, Mallard Fillmore gets to shit all over the comics section with impunity… right next to the puzzles! Weapons grade stoopid.

  38. 38
    Elizabelle says:

    @Mike E: Mallard Fillmore. I remember that dirty duck.

    Don’t think it’s in the WaPost lineup. Might have been in the Long Beach paper (to which teatards wrote, frequently).

  39. 39
    rikyrah says:

    Bill to change how Michigan divvies up electoral votes back in the Lansing mix
    By SARAH CWIEK • MAR 6, 2015

    A bill that would change how Michigan allocates its electoral college votes is back in the mix in Lansing.

    Republican state representatives Cindy Gamrat, Todd Courser, Thomas Hooker, and Gary Glenn introduced the bill this week.

    It proposes that each of the state’s 14 Congressional districts gets one electoral vote — with the two remaining votes going to the statewide winner.

    Currently, nine of those 14 districts lean Republican.

    Right now, whichever presidential candidate wins the overall vote in Michigan claims all the state’s 16 electoral college votes.


  40. 40
    dexwood says:

    Back in the 90s, my wife, a museum curator, had a volunteer who lived nest door to Watterson. When she found out our young son was a huge fan of Calvin & Hobbes, and owned all the books, she generously offered to see if Watterson would autograph them. He agreed. They were returned with his autographs and very nice inscriptions. Our son, grown and married, still considers them to be among his prized possessions.

  41. 41
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Germy Shoemangler: Did you ever see the other stuff from the cross-media marketing campaign that Robotman was supposed to be part of? The videos for little kids, and the records and toys? It was vomitous in the extreme, like a worse version of the Care Bears. That Meddick somehow managed to mostly do what he wanted anyway was sort of a freak of nature. I’m still not sure how it happened.

  42. 42
    Germy Shoemangler says:

    @Matt McIrvin: I never saw that stuff. Wasn’t even aware of it. I only saw the newspaper strip.

    It is beyond my comprehension that they would try to cross-market it to kids, because it was so subversive (in the best sense of the word) in so many ways.

  43. 43
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Germy Shoemangler: It was all super-obscure, since the whole scheme basically immediately bombed except for Meddick’s strip, which was off doing its own thing. Really peculiar.

  44. 44
    Bitter Scribe says:

    I’ve always thought that C&H was the best newspaper strip of all time, ever. Better than the overrated “Pogo.” Much better than the wildly overrated, never-funny “L’il Abner.” C&H was a marriage of verbal and visual wit that has simply never been equaled, before or since.

    While I admire Watterson for retiring when he felt he was out of ideas, it was a heartbreaking thing to see, especially when zombie strips like “Blondie” are into their third (fourth?) generation. There should be a law that when a strip’s creator dies, the strip dies with him, and his heirs have to find honest work.

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