'Calvin and Hobbes' creator gives rare interview

Fifteen years ago, Bill Watterson walked away from Calvin and Hobbes, easily one of the most beloved and acclaimed comic strips in living memory. Since then, he’s been almost completely off the public radar, but he granted a rare interview to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, his hometown newspaper, today. (Calvin and Hobbes will also appear on a stamp later this year.)

When asked what he’d like to tell fans who “grieved” the strip’s end, Watterson says: “It’s always better to leave the party early. If I had rolled along with the strip’s popularity and repeated myself for another five, 10 or 20 years, the people now ‘grieving’ for ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher, livelier talent. And I’d be agreeing with them.”

He’s right, and you don’t need to look much further than a Simpsons fan to prove it.

Still, it’s hard not to miss the duo. Do you think Calvin and Hobbes could still be going strong today, PopWatchers, or do you agree with Watterson, that the strip had run its course and needed to go out on a high note?

Comments (156 total) Add your comment
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  • Bobby’s Robot

    I’m a Simpsons fan and still look forward to new episodes every week. I would’ve been very happy to read new C&H strips for the last 15 years as well.

    • Debbie

      Amen to that comment!!

      • Mac

        Calvin and Hobbes could have gone on for another 5 years, I think… but it DID end on a high note for sure. The Simpsons should have ended about 7-10 years ago – it still throws out a good episode now and then, but it’s definitely all down hill from here.

      • Chaz Winterbottom

        What’s the opposite of amen?

        Reverse amen? I’ll go with that. Reverse amen!

      • catloversmatch

        I love Hobbes! He is cute!

    • Stephanie Tanner

      Absolutely wrong, Simpsons bought into their own hype long ago and stopped being funny after season 9/10. Its become a “comfort” show, you enjoy its presence on tv not for the content but just for the fact that it is there. This is the same reason shows like MASH, the Cosby Show, X-files, and Cheers stayed long after their peak, people are comfortable watching the same old from characters they are familiar with. Its nostalgia. I am gald when people go out on top instead dragging it on – like LOST is doing, Calvin and Hobbes, Rockford Files, Seinfeld (to a certain extent)

      • Your mom

        Absolutely wrong Stephanie. The Simpsons is still a funny show… just not as consistently funny. There are dude episodes to go along with great episodes. Shows that lose their edge will lose viewers, and usually with ‘live’ shows that will go hand in hand with actors wanting to move on. In an animated series, it’s all about keep the content fresh. Watterson basically says he couldn’t do it for much longe… with The Simpsons, it’s just a matter of getting some new blood in to write.

      • Andrea

        Completely agree, Stephanie. I was a die-hard Simpsons fan but can’t stand to watch the new episodes anymore.

      • darclyte

        This has been the best season of the Simpsons in years. Good stories, good plots, funny bits, just very much improved. Well, other than the Halloween episode, and even that was inventive.

      • Yes

        I agree, Stephanie. “Comfort show” is exactly right. Simpsons may still be funny, but it lost its heart. Groening has said a key moment in the Simpsons development was when Bart prayed to pass his test. For me, the greatest moment on the show is when Homer explained where Maggie’s baby pictures are. The characters used to be important. Now they’re merely vehicles for the jokes.

      • Scott Nelson

        Are you the Stephanie Tanner from Full House??

      • UncleWalty

        I agree, though I think The Simpsons stopped being funny about 15 years ago. It was hilarious when it was still a subversive, under-the-radar hit. But then it became “family friendly” and after that it completely sucked. Ever notice how you almost NEVER see anything from the first 3 or 4 seasons in syndication? The Simpsons started as dysfunctional whackos. Now they’re “nice.” Bleh…

      • Bobby’s Robot

        “you enjoy its presence on tv not for the content but just for the fact that it is there.” As we’ve never met, Stephanie, I find it presumptuous of you to tell me why and how I enjoy it. It’s you who are “Absolutely wrong”

      • Melanie

        i agree stephanie, season 9/10 is about where simpsons classico ends. I have all the episodes before that meorized, the episodes after are basically a different show. Writers left, directors left, the voice talent is about the only thing that’s still the same

    • Taylor

      I loved Calvin and Hobbes, and have all the books. Sometimes I feel like the comic Zits is Calvin as a teen, and I like that idea, as we never saw Calvin’s parents, and I think to think we’re seeing Calvin as a teen.

      • allie

        Taylor– Good point about Calvin geowing up to be Zits. On another note, we did see Calvin’s parents, all of the time. It was Peanuts that never showed parents, or for that matter, adults of any kind.

      • Taylor

        Hey Allie, you’re right, we did see Calvin’s parents, my bad. I guess the comic focused so much on Calvin I forgot that. But thinking about it, didn’t Calvin’s parents look alot like the Zits parents? Maybe that’s why I’m thinking that incorrectly.

      • BB

        Love this comment, you are right, never thought of it but Zits could easliy be Calvin as a teen.

      • Books

        Do you ever *read* all those books? The parents are there all the time. (Calvin’s mom is kind of hot).

      • charissa

        I’m glad some other people think that too! Whenever I read Zits I think of the guy as Calvin. As for stopping Calvin and Hobbes, though I love CaH and wish there was more of it to read I am happy about his decision because it’s become the norm for corporations/writers/etc. to milk all the sequels and stuff out of something until it’s just not good any more, and I’m glad the creator here had enough integrity to leave it even though he could have made more money.

    • MultiPass

      Well… it’s hard to believe but even Garfield was actually quite funny at one point. Go read the original 5 mini garfield books from the early days. they are truly hilarious.

      so even though I was distraught about C&H ending, and I still believe he probly had a few good years left in him, I completely understand the artistic restraint. And probably the horrifying fear his beautiful and hilarious creation might one day become a rude caricature of itself.

      • EP Sato

        I was hoping “Garfield” would get mentioned. The strip was well written and funny during the early years, but nowadays is a sad and unfunny parody of itself.

    • darclyte

      This has been the best season of the Simpsons in years. Good stories, good plots, funny bits, just very much improved. Well, other than the Halloween episode, and even that was inventive.

    • Coco

      Simpsons haven’t been good since season 8. They’re in, what?, season 20 now? That’s 12 years of crap. Boo.

  • TJ

    I loved Calvin and Hobbes and still read them over and over. I miss it terribly and wished it could have gone on a bit longer.

    • Lisa

      I completely agree. But for a guy with such amazing creativity and humor, I have a hard time believing he couldn’t come up with another strip to fit his later-in-life experiences.

      I’ll always love Calvin & Hobbes, and have thoroughly enjoyed the bonding time those books have provided to my son and I after he discovered the books in the school library in 4th grade.

      Thank you, Mr. Watterson, for sharing your brilliance for as long as you did.

      • Taylor

        Hi, this is just my opinion, but I read the comic Zits for about a year, and honestly thought it was the Calvin and Hobbes guy doing a teen Calvin. The humor isn’t exactly the same, but the drawing of the characters are similar, and I just assumed. When I finally checked, it was different, and ok, but I kind of picture Zits as a teen Calvin, and perhaps wrong, but it works for me! I just miss Hobbes!

    • jc

      wish it had gone longer also but i also think ending it during its peak generated fond nostalgia for calvin & hobbes. there’s always the possibility of being ubiquitous (toys, merchandise items – glad watterson said no to these, btw) when something runs for so long, and sometimes, makes it lose some of its charm.

    • Amy

      I think he left the party just a little too early. I mean Watterson left it at like 7:00PM. Could have hung around until 10:00PM like a respectable party goer. Calvin and Hobbes rocks!!!!

    • Shel

      I don’t think anyone in their right mind would say, “Yes, I want it to last until I hate it for how boring it becomes.” But I have trouble believing that Calvin & Hobbes would have EVER become that. It was my favorite comic of all time, and I definitely still miss it. I can’t say how long I would have wanted it to go on, especially if the creator was not sure he could do it anymore. But, for me, I probably could have read it forever.

    • Christina

      I love c &h and have read the series over and over never gets old . After season 11 of the Simpsons it was no longer funny . Also think that c &h should be a tv show ! ! Bill Watterson should open up & start a tv show about c & h with new adventures . The x – files did not go past it’s peek . But I still think it should have been longer . I heard that Billl Watterson Got in a fight because he does not want products of his comic to be sold . Still I would like Bill better if it was was not illegal to sell toys of c& h . I truly love c & h . I love the comic so much so much it’s so long it would take forever to say . Best comic of all time !!! ………… Endless explanation !.

      • Christina

        Oops my bad i ‘am 10 years old it is 2011 and I discovered c &h last year . C & h has been around 16 years before my brother was born . Oops my bad again … I still think c & h should have it lease re opened by it least In my time . By guys !…

  • Sarah

    Though I think Mr. Watterson certainly has a point, I still miss Calvin & Hobbes. It and “The Far Side” were really the only reason I bothered with the comics and since they’ve left, I don’t even read them anymore. I have almost every single Calvin book that he’s put out and I’m secretly longing for the complete collection, collector’s edition that he put out a few years ago. Calvin & Hobbes was to me, one of the best comic strips out there and I greatly miss it. I realize he’s probably not going to come back but I think it would be fun if he would do a limited run on Sunday’s for like a month or something. I would certainly buy the paper again.

    • Amy

      That collector’s set is AMAZING, Sarah. It’s expensive – at least it was when I got it – but it’s so worth it. I still have some of the yellowed original newspaper clippings that I used to decorate my school locker, and then my cublicle at work. And now, my daughter, who’s 7, has discovered the old soft-cover collections I stuck back in my closet. She loves “Calvin and Hobbes” almost as much as her mom. A limited “revival” run is a FANTASTIC idea!

    • VarsityBasketweaving

      Completely agree about the premature and near-simultaneous demises of “Calvin & Hobbes” and “The Far Side.” Both were brilliant, transcended mere ketches and downright hilarious. I, too, haven’t read the comics since.

      • VarsityBasketweaving

        *sketches

      • Snsetblaze

        I’d have to add Bloom County (the original one, not any of the follow up strips under other names) to that list.

      • Christy Sammons

        I agree as well. Calvin & Hobbes was one of my favorites along with Red & Rover, The Far Side and Adam. Blessings to Mr. Watterson and his family! We Miss you!

      • wakeforce

        Calvin and Hobbes and the far side! Yes, the best ever. I never thought about it til you brought it up. I used to read these two everyday and I have not looked at the Sunday funnies`since they went away.

    • MsSuniDaze

      Totally agree. Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side were my favorite comics. After they stopped I had no reason to read the comic section of the paper. But both comics will always hold a special place in my heart. I have lots of books with those two comics, and I still read them today. They are just as funny now as they were when they were made. Timeless.

    • Chickpea

      While I agree about missing C&H and I agree about Bloom County (another commenter), there is ONE strip that keeps me reading… I suggest C&H fans try Non Sequitur. Danae and her horse Lucy are great, and Wiley is a truly witty cartoonist. (Note that the strip is occasionally done as a one-off joke though, not always the “characters”.) Anyway I understand why Bill W quit when he was ahead, but I still miss it.

    • Christina

      By the way I used my moms name because she has her own email . I’m only 10 years old .

  • Jenny

    Same here, Bobby’s Robot.

    • charlane

      ditto

  • AJH

    The greedy fan in me wishes Calvin & Hobbes was still going strong. But I respect Watterson for walking away (and staying away) … A man of true genius and uncompromising principle.

  • Maggie25

    I appreciate someone ending something before they run out of ideas. Good for Watterson I say. That being said, I do still like the Simpsons, even if it’s just not as good as it used to be.

    • G.R.

      Agreed on both counts. :)

      As for pitting the two against each other, I don’t think it’s even a fair comparison — C&H was basically a one-man operation, while The Simpsons is a more of a collaborative effort.

      (Interesting interview, by the way!)

  • DN

    Ms. Lyons, are you calling “The Simpsons”, “tedious & ancient”? I can say with a lot of confidence that there are millions (and that’s being conservative) who say you are wrong. I’m guessing Watterson’s creative tank went empty. Don’t start slamming a cartoon classic to make point. It’s a bad example.

  • mangagirl

    I miss Calvin and Hobbes. It was part of the routine to pick up the newspaper get on the bus for work and have a chuckle before starting the job. It was a great way to start the morning. I think he stopped the strip too soon it could have remained fresh for another 5 years. I’m glad I still have the collections.

    • mangagirl

      Just read his interview, he was right to stop when he did, it would not have been fresh for another 5 years. Still miss it though.

      • dave

        He kind of sounds like a jerk in the interview, IMO.

  • Kevin

    It’s a shame… as newspapers die out, so will comic strips. Honestly, are there any comic strips in today’s papers that are worth reading?

    • Tom

      Doonesbury. That’s about it.

      The 80s were really a classic age for the comic strip, with C&H (brilliant drawing as well as hilarious text), The Far Side, Doonesbury (as good a cultural/political history of late 20th century/early 21st century as any textbook you can name), The Far Side. The last comic strip I enjoyed were the early days of Dilbert. Now there’s a comic which has run its course…

    • Mutts Lover

      Totally agree about Doonesbury, I love Mutts, but my paper the Cleveland Plain Dealer doesn’t carry so I read Mutts in Washington Post, miss C&H, he lives by me in Ohio, a quaint beautiful town and from what we hear very happily and left alone by the natives…..but loved me some C&H, miss them. I tried reading the comics in the Plain Dealer, but it is very rough going

  • tom

    With the exception of Pearl’s Before Swine (bizarre and hilarious) I find little of merit on my comics page today. Calvin and Hobbes was both so wonderfully kidlike and surprisingly adult. One of the biggest influences on my sense of humor since I was a child. Inspired a sense of wonder and joy in me that I still carry, so thank you Bill. It’s a big world out there Hobbes. Let’s go exploring!

    • Amy

      I can’t even count how many times a memory will pop up from a long-ago strip. Like when my son asks his dad the how or why of something, I remember those strips where Calvin’s dad would go off on those fantastic tangents of hilarious misinformation. Or when it snowed over the weekend, and I wanted to make demented snowmen and put them all over the sidewalk in front of my house. And don’t tell anyone, but I still say the snow chant in hopes of scoring a snow day…..:-D

    • claytron5000

      I agree, Calvin and Hobbes really shaped my childhood in a way and kind of gave me a sense that it was okay to be a little weird. I understand what Watterson is saying, but I’d still love to read more adventures. I think he should do one more short collection of new stories if only to provide a current reminder for kids that Calvin and Hobbes are actually rich, intelligent characters and not stick figure drawings that “pee” on things that certain drivers don’t like.

  • Sam

    Let’s not kid ourselves, The Simpsons hasn’t even reached ‘very good’ levels (let alone its eariler genius levels) for 10 years. If it had stopped after season 9 it would have been the greatest tv show ever without any qualifications to that title.

    • Laura

      100% agree.

  • Amy

    Watterson was (is?) such a unique comic voice, and I’m sure he would have much to say about the state of the world we live in today. He’s right in his justification for putting “Calvin” to bed, but I do miss it. A lot.

  • RK

    Calvin and Hobbes is terrible.

    • Juniper

      Your face is terrible. Calvin and Hobbes is awesome.

      • dave

        That’s awesome. And I’m not being sarcastic, that’s seriously an awesome comeback.

    • Lord

      Your life has no meaning.

    • womo

      Then why did you bother to read the article and post a comment! I’ll bet you are one of those people that drive 55 in the passing lane just to aggrevate people.

      • Jack

        …as opposed to the people that aggravate me (and yes, I’m a teacher) who can’t spell aggravate.

      • Chappel

        Good job of showing how mature people who worship comic strips are.

    • bdoll

      you are insane.

    • Lisa

      Troll!

  • Dyana

    I agree with Watterson. While I’d like to think he could still be making a brilliant, beloved comic today, your point about the Simpsons rings much too true.

    Calvin and Hobbes will always remain firmly engraved in my brain, though. Just the other day I told my cousin in NC, who saw his first snow, that he should save some of it in the freezer and lob a snowball at someone unsuspecting come June.

    • Christina

      Funny part at the end of your comment Dyana I would do that to !

  • Cyn522

    Miss Calvin and Hobbes every single day! The irreverant humor of the strip and the realistic relationship between C&H was engaging, poignant and silly. Still waiting for a comic strip that equals in quality…

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