In the just-released book Exploring Calvin and Hobbes: An Exhibition Catalogue, Jenny Robb (Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum curator) sits down to chat with legendary cartoonist Bill Watterson about his life, his influences, and generally everything that makes him tick. As Michael Cavna of The Washington Post says in his review of the book, there's not a lot in the Q&A that Watterson doesn't touch on.
While the extensive interview alone is worth the price of admission to a lifelong fan such as myself — the man doesn't do many of them, so this is a rare treat — the book also contains art from cartoons and cartoonists that Watterson identifies as influential, including Peanuts, Pogo, Krazy Kat, Doonesbury, Pat Oliphant, Jim Borgman, Flash Gordon, Bloom County, and Ralph Steadman.
The Washington Post was granted permission to publish an extended excerpt from the interview. Here, Watterson describes how he developed the comic strip's style over the years:
As Calvin and Hobbes went on, the writing pushed the drawings into greater complexity. One of the jokes I really like is that the fantasies are drawn more realistically than reality, since that says a lot about what’s going on in Calvin’s head. So that, and my interest in creating a lively sense of animation, forced me to push the flatter, more cartoony and loose designs I started with into a more three-dimensional conception of form and space. If I wanted to draw Calvin from some odd camera angle, I had to visualize him sort of sculpturally, so I could draw it. That’s when you discover that the zigzag shorthand for his hair doesn’t work in perspective very well. Or you find that his tiny little legs are hard to make run, because he hardly has knees. You invent solutions to these sorts of problems, and that gradually changes the appearance of the strip.
There is also an excerpt at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Libarary and Museum blog:
Jenny Robb: My husband and I are looking at houses, and whenever we see one with a woods, we call it a Calvin and Hobbes backyard.
Bill Watterson: To be honest, we didn’t tramp around the woods all that much. Because it was low and heading toward the river, it was somewhat marshy and brambly. You’d get stuck full of prickers of tangled in brush, wit your feet starting to sink into muck. We’d venture in occasionally, but it’s not like I was Christopher Robin.
But I loved having that much nature around us. It mitigated the suburban feel, which I imagine is why my parents chose the property. Having something a bit wild and mysterious and beautiful at the end of the yard was a memorable thing.
Now it’s a subdivision, of course. Looking at a cul-de-sac of McMansions doesn’t have the same impact on the imagination. We like to think their basements are wet.
Excuse me as I rush out to buy the book and read the rest.