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Bill Watterson was the famous cartoonist for Calvin and Hobbes. His use of comics as a creative medium of both art and topic landed his carrier on a record. Also he rebelled for rights in the newspapers for non restricting space during his career. For him, his work was very important.
When Bill was young, he grew up inWashingtonDC, where his father was a patent examiner. He was a rather well behaved child, unlike Calvin, which several people think is a reflection of how he was as a child. When he was six years old, his family moved toCharginFalls, inOhio, where his mother became a city council member.
In high school, Bill attendedCharginFallsHigh School. While he was there, Bill drew a representation of their school mascot, the Tigers, for the school newspaper. This was said to be an early inspiration for Hobbes. Drawings by him can still be found on school merchandise. Also while in collage, he studied under the same person along with Jim Borgman, who is now the creator of Zits (another cartoonist), but after graduating, became a political cartoonist at the Cincinnati Post. Jim's accomplishments where a major inspiration to Bill.
Other inspirations of his include Peanuts, by Charles Shultz, who's quick pen wise drawing style inspired Bill as a child, because being young, wanted to be able to quickly produce his images. Shultz's humor also appealed to him, as it was clean, comprehensive, and broad minded. Pogo, by Walt Kelly, inspired Bill by also showing him good humor, and visually appealing pictures. Bill's most inspirational comic however, is probably Krazy Kat, By George Herriman. Krazy Kat inspired a lot in Bill's comics. The unique arrangement of panels, deep yet simple comical value, well drawn work, all by hand, and published on well sized pages, producing a magnificent masterpiece of achievement was what Bill Watterson marveled from it. Later on in his career, this inspired the setup of all his comic panel layouts.
After high school, Bill attended Kenyon College from 1976 to 1980, and completed a degree in political science, all the while developing his artistic skills and contributing cartoons for the College Newspaper, many of which can now be found online, even if the school web browser blocks most of those sites. Also during college, Bill painted a copy of Michelangelo's Creation of Adam from the Sistine chapel on the ceiling of his dorm room. To do this, he started out by standing on a chair to paint, but had to frequently take breaks because it was tiring for his arm. Later his friends helped him so he could do so more easily by stacking the coffee table and chairs so that he may lie on his back and paint, just like how Michelangelo had.
Jim Borgman encouraged and gave advice to Bill while he was a student, but when Bill graduated, found himself in competition for the same job with Jim, on the same paper, and soon lost, as a newspaper isn't willing to pay twice for the same thing. This left Bill without much of a job, but he designed advertisements for a local grocery store and lived with his parents again. His parents supported his efforts to become a cartoonist.
Calvin and Hobbes was not Bill's first comic. His original idea involved a space explorer followed by his dopey sidekick. Later on, after newspapers rejected his idea, he created Calvin and Hobbes. He made references back to this comic with the ever popular Spaceman Spiff, one of Calvin's fantasies.
Calvin was named after the protestant reformer John Calvin, and Hobbes was named after the social philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Bill believes he put a little of himself into each of his main characters. Calvin got his rambunctious argumentative discussive side, and Hobbes got his calmer, more mature side. Hobbes also got some characteristics from Bill's cat Sprite. Some of the most noticeable traits are the randomly jumping on people, and overall character design.
Bill got his first strip published on November 18th, 1985. It was in 3 newspapers, not including his own local paper. This was not enough to make a living off of, so he had to keep his minimum wage job at the grocery store, as well as create daily strips, and Sunday strips. As more newspapers bought his comic, he eventually got enough of an income to support him self, and against the will of his advisers, quick his day job so he could focus more on the comic. He was finally on his way.
During the early part of his career, Bill adjusted his style to make his characters more dimensional, so he could add more depth and more unique, distinguished positions. Also as part of his change in style, he made the real life his regular style, and a realistic style for fantasies, adding a new layer of humor to the strip. Like many artists, he incorporated elements of his life, interests, beliefs, and values into his work, such as his hobby as a cyclist, memories of his own father's speeches about 'building character,' and his views on merchandising and corporations.
From the beginning of his career, he was trying to escape the tyranny of panels. Panels restricted how the free ranged expression could be presented, and after years battling with the syndicate, won having his comic presented only as a full page, as from the beginning of his career, he was trying to change the climate of newspaper comics. The artistic quality of comics is being under minded. The space that comics got in newspapers continuously decrease. Art should not be judged by the medium for which it is created, there is no "high art" or "low art" - just art.
By the time his comic reached a high enough popularity, such as with any popular item, he was asked to have his comic made into a cartoon, and after much thought, he declined, much to the disappointment of marketing, and several fans. He felt that giving a definite voice to his characters would ruin the spirit of the strip.
Other opinions Bill has on comic strips include simple things, such as that a good idea is better than a great drawing, and also that a funny conversation is better than a one liner.
In 1988, Bill won the National Cartoonists Society's Humor Comic Strip Award, and the Society's Reuben Award in 1986, being the youngest person ever to receive the latter award. He also won again in 1988, and 1992.
As of today, Bill Watterson has retired from his career, and has no plans to continue the strip, or any other projects involving the characters. Now he is pursuing more artistic means, but fret not to his die-hard fans. Before forever leaving the world of cartooning, Bill, with the help of others he worked beside with in his career, created 'The Complete Calvin and Hobbes,' which includes every single Calvin and Hobbes strip. In it is also a new forward by Bill himself, where he states how it is a little unnerving to have ten years of hard work put into a little box. Uniquely, this collection is printed on high quality paper, with well done binding, and box, making this collection the best quality collection book for cartoons. If I say, that is a good way to leave off a career.
So now you know of some of the impacts Bill has had on the world, and hopefully will think a little about what he supports, and although he may not wish to be found by the media, he is still out there making a difference.
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- Charles de Lint. "The Complete Calvin & Hobbes" Pro Quest Mar 2006; ProQuest Web. Mar 2006.
- "Fans From Around the World Interview Bill Watterson" Andrewsmcneel Publishing.Html, nd. Web. nd.
- Watterson, Bill. The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book,MissouriAndrews McMeel Publishing, 1995, Print.