June 10, 2014
Bill Watterson’s secret return to the funny pages
by Nick Davies
Bill Watterson, the prolific comic strip author of Calvin and Hobbes, has remained notoriously reclusive since ending his popular comic strip in 1995. Last week, though, he made a secret, cameo return, collaborating with artist Stephan Pastis on his daily strip, Pearls Before Swine—all in secret.
Pastis wrote about his surprising encounter for his blog over the weekend, describing the elusive Watterson as “the Bigfoot of cartooning,” continuing, “Few in the cartooning world have ever spoken to him. Even fewer have ever met him. In fact, legend has it that when Steven Spielberg called to see if he wanted to make a movie, Bill wouldn’t even take the call.” So, needless to say, Pastis was surprised just to get a response to an email he sent, and even more so when Watterson said he had an idea for a comic strip to run by him:
Now if you had asked me the odds of Bill Watterson ever saying that line to me, I’d say it had about the same likelihood as Jimi Hendrix telling me he had a new guitar riff. And yes, I’m aware Hendrix is dead.
So I wrote back to Bill.
I will do whatever you want, including setting my hair on fire.”
So he wrote back and explained his idea.
He said he knew that in my strip, I frequently make fun of my own art skills. And that he thought it would be funny to have me get hit on the head or something and suddenly be able to draw. Then he’d step in and draw my comic strip for a few days.
The idea for Watterson’s contribution was for Pastis to introduce a precocious girl named Libby, who would mock the Pearls Before Swine artwork and take it over herself — “her” drawings coming from Watterson, the first he’s done in nearly twenty years:
The one condition that Watterson had was that his contribution to these comic strips (which ran on June 4, 5, and 6) not be revealed until after they had all run, which Pastis described as “the hardest secret I’ve ever had to keep.”
Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.