Bill Watterson Returns

Bill Watterson, the man who drew the legendary "Calvin and Hobbes" strip, was back. And now he's gone again.

Bill Watterson, the man who drew the legendary “Calvin and Hobbes” strip, was back. And now he’s gone again.

Stephan Pastis, the creator of “Pearls Before Swine,” has been keeping a mind-blowing secret. Until now: “Ever Wished That Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson Would Return to the Comics Page? Well, He Just Did.”

 Just getting an email from Bill Watterson is one of the most mind-blowing, surreal experiences I have ever had. Bill Watterson really exists? And he sends email? And he’s communicating with me?

But he was. And he had a great sense of humor about the strip I had done, and was very funny, and oh yeah….

…He had a comic strip idea he wanted to run by me.

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.

“Dear 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 backstory and what happens next are worth a read. Let’s just say it kicked off with Pastis doing this:


Which eventually led to Watterson doing this:


And culminated in Watterson doing this:


“Calvin and Hobbes” debuted two days after my 20th birthday and ended its run just after I’d finished my PhD. I occasionally used some of the strips when I was teaching undergrads and they not only loved them but had never previously been exposed to Watterson’s masterwork.  Unlike the other great strips of the day, especially “Bloom County,” they’ve aged well.

via Rainbow Stalin

FILED UNDER: Popular Culture, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    I still love Bloom County. Yes, it’s aged because it was topical to the events of the 1980s, but it was funny and still is funny.

  2. ernieyeball says:
  3. ernieyeball says:

    Thank You Internet Squirrels. Maybe some day I will figure out how to do that.

  4. JohnMcC says:

    Gotta give a shout-out to Walt Kelly. Pogo will never be equaled.

  5. PJ says:

    Bill Watterson also did this three years ago.

  6. DrDaveT says:


    Gotta give a shout-out to Walt Kelly.

    Hear, hear. I go Pogo.

    For the 50’s and 60’s, Pogo.
    For the 70’s, Doonesbury and Life in Hell
    The 80’s were the Golden Age: The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County
    For the 90’s, Dilbert and maybe Fox Trot

    In the 2000’s, give up on print and start reading webcomics.

  7. James Joyner says:

    @DrDaveT: I wasn’t around for Pogo but agree with you from 1970 onward. I’d say XKCD is the closest thing to those strips we have today in terms of consistent quality.

  8. Matt Bernius says:


    For the 50′s and 60′s, Pogo.

    I have to add Peanuts — for those decades — into the list as well. While not as good a Pogo, there is an insightful melancholy (if not out and out black humor) about the early Peanuts strips (not the later ones) that really speaks to the human condition.

    Unfortunately, Shultz was a classic example of someone who should have retired at the top of his game rather than letting Peanuts degrade into the incomprehensible mess of platitudes it became by the time of his death.

  9. mike shupp says:

    What! No love for CATHY?

  10. Chris Berez says:

    Calvin and Hobbes was one of the most important parts of my childhood growing up. So much of my life revolved around the excitement of reading the strip every day and buying the paperback collections as soon as they were released. When it was announced that the strip was coming to an end, I was heartbroken.

    I hardly ever read daily strips anymore. I will say though I read Pearls Before Swine when it first debuted and many years after and I still check in on it every now and then and it’s a genuinely funny strip. It has a mean edginess to it that a lot of daily strips lack the courage for. It makes a lot of sense that Watterson would choose to collaborate with Pastis. And what a brilliant collaboration.

    Back to Calvin and Hobbes– not only do I still have all of softcovers in a box somewhere, years ago when it was released I picked up the massive two-volume hardcover complete collection and it’s indispensable to me now. Everything about the strip holds up. I love it just as much today reading the strips for the 100th time as I did reading them for the first time every morning as a child.

  11. Matt Bernius says:

    @mike shupp:

  12. DrDaveT says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    I have to add Peanuts — for those decades — into the list as well

    I’ll buy that. Possibly also Li’l Abner, which I was not old enough to understand at the time, and which has not aged well as the context of its scathing parody went away.

  13. ernieyeball says:

    Cathy and Irving!?! Good grief…Give me Nancy and Sluggo anytime!

  14. fred says:

    @DC Loser:

    yeah, really no need to attack Bloom County. A Wish for Wings That Work was one of my kid’s favorite Christmas stories. And the Banana Jr. is still funny.

  15. bill says:

    @DrDaveT: i agree, “get fuzzy” has its days as well as “the fusco bros. ” & “pearls”
    sure wish trudeau would deal with obama, it’s almost scandalous that he won’t “do” him.- it’s just a comic after all.

  16. mike shupp says:

    A note, for future Internet historians, to finish this thread:

    Observe that no one (including me) is regretting the demise of GARFIELD.

  17. DrDaveT says:

    @mike shupp:

    Observe that no one (including me) is regretting the demise of GARFIELD.

    While I agree completely, I will note that there was (exactly) one Garfield strip that really resonated with me, and that I remember to this day. It’s the one that ends with something along the lines of “So much sleeping to do, so little time.”