Eighteen years ago, Bill Watterson pulled the plug on his incredibly popular Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, turned down millions of dollars in merchandising, and shut out millions of loving fans. But a quick read of the above comic and you’ll see they still remain relevant today.
2013 was a great year to be a Calvin and Hobbes fan (and who isn’t?). A new documentary, Dear Mr. Watterson was released, the elusive Watterson himself popped out of the shadows to give a rare interview to Mental Floss magazine. And compilations of the comic strips have just become available on e-readers for the first time ever.
Calvin and Hobbes ran from 1985 to 1995, and is widely considered the last of the Golden Age of comics. The characters were named for the theologian John Calvin and philosopher Thomas Hobbes. The six-year-old Calvin debated everything from philosophy to psychology with Hobbes, a stuffed toy tiger who came to life. Yet they also relished the joys of children everywhere from sledding to treehouses and imaginary space adventures.
At the height of its popularity, Calvin and Hobbes was featured in over 2,400 newspapers worldwide, as of January 2010 reruns of the strip still appear in more than 50 countries. Nearly 45 million copies of the 18 Calvin and Hobbes books have been sold.
But Watterson publicly battled with Universal Press Syndicate, which urged him to turn the strip into a merchandising brand something along the lines of Garfield. Watterson has been extremely protective of his work and has kept it away from potentially lucrative licensing deals, because of course he knew Hollywood would only mess it up.
When the final strip ran on Dec. 31, 1995, Watterson wrote in a letter to fans:
“My interests have shifted however, and I believe I’ve done what I can do within the constraints of daily deadlines and small panels.”
Still, the magic of a boy and his imaginary friend has never really faded from fans’ hearts and remains a perennial Amazon best seller.
I often give credit to Spider-Man or the X-Men for getting me into comics, when in fact it was most likely Calvin and Hobbes. Not only was it a great book with amazing art but it was full of little life lessons and all types of social commentary.
I’ve included the trailer to the documentary Dear Mr. Watterson below.