The famed cartoonist creator of Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson, continues to slowly emerge once more.
Last week, Watterson drew three days of strips as a guest-artist for Pearls Before Swine cartoonist Stephan Pastis. Pastis set it up in your newspaper’s funny pages as “I would pretend that Pearls was being drawn by a precocious second grader who thought my art was crap. I named her “Libby,” which I then shorted to “Lib.” (Hint, hint: It’s almost “Bill” backwards.)” Pastis agreed not to reveal Libby’s true identity to anyone until after all of the strips appeared in print.
So, over the weekend, Pastis told the whole story behind the story. And it’s as wonderful as you’re already imagining it to be. In an essay, “Ever Wished That Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson Would Return to the Comics Page? Well, He Just Did.” Pastis called Watterson “the Bigfoot of cartooning,” but thought he might have a chance to meet his hero while they were in the same area, or where he thought they might both be in April.
Pastis wrote about getting up the nerve to contact Watterson, waiting until a strip ran that also heaped praise on Calvin and Hobbes, and how he’d do whatever Watterson wanted to do, just to do something with him, “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 cartoonist who last drew Calvin and Hobbes riding their sled into history would return to the comics page.
To draw Pearls Before Swine.
What followed was a series of back-and-forth emails where we discussed what the strips would be about, and how we would do them. He was confident. I was frightened.
Frightened because it’s one thing to write a strip read by millions of people. But it’s another thing to propose an idea to Bill Watterson.
The idea I proposed was that instead of having me get hit on the head, I would pretend thatPearls was being drawn by a precocious second grader who thought my art was crap. I named her “Libby,” which I then shorted to “Lib.” (Hint, hint: It’s almost “Bill” backwards.)
At every point in the process, I feared I would say something wrong. And that Bill would disappear back into the ether. And that the whole thing would seem like a wisp of my imagination.
But it wasn’t that way.
Throughout the process, Bill was funny and flexible and easy to work with.
Read the whole thing.
You can see the three strips Watterson drew and wrote with Pastis here:
The strips will be auctioned for charity.