Posts Tagged ‘Calvin and Hobbes’

richard thompson and cul de sac

When Bill Watterson ended Calvin and Hobbes in 1995, I felt as though I had lost a family member.  It was as much of a gut punch when, this morning, I read the news that Richard Thompson is ending his daily comic strip Cul de Sac.

Readers of this blog will know of my deep and abiding love of Thompson’s work. It is exactly the kind of effortlessly funny, quick-witted, and fun-to-look-at strip that got me into comics in the first place. It is no hyperbole to say that it was the best new strip of the millennium, the next in that prestigious line that began with Krazy Kat and went through Pogo and Calvin and Hobbes.

I can’t help but think Richard’s mysterious character Ernesto Lacuna had something to do with this.  The possibly imaginary Ernesto caught my attention right away as a standout character, partly due to his overly mannered attitude and partly because he happens to share a first name with my own character Ernesto the lizard.

I’ve long wondered what the two Ernestos would have to say to each other if they happened to meet.  I wanted to take this opportunity to draw it out.  This comic is dedicated to Richard for all his hard work and for showing the world that comic strips can still be essential.

Dear Mr. Watterson

This is my Julie & Julia moment. Falling Rock National Park has made its big screen debut. If you are able to see the new full-length documentary Dear Mr. Watterson, do so! Falling Rock shows up among a number of comics that have been influenced by the venerable creator of Calvin and Hobbes.
Dear Mr. Watterson
Those of you who know me, either through this blog or in person, know what a huge influence Bill Waaterson’s work has on everything I draw. Calvin and Hobbes was not the first comic strip I ever read, but it was the one that changed my life. Garfield got me into reading comics, and Calvin and Hobbes made me realize I should be MAKING comics.

Although I have not yet seen Dear Mr. Watterson, I am anxiously awaiting the time when it moves from the festival circuit, where it has been making the rounds, to a theatrical release. If any of you dear readers have seen it, let me know! I’m curious how Falling Rock looks on the big screen.

SDCC 2013

My second year exhibiting at the Greatest Show on Earth was a raging success. I did my best sales ever, beating last year’s record. I saw lots of old friends and met a few new ones. I wasn’t devoured by zombies. I’ve already applied to next year’s show, so with luck you can find me back in Small Press, row O, same time next July.
Are You There Thor? It's Me, Margaret #sdcc
Frequent table-mate Reid decided to take a year off, so I had a whole table to fill.
Are we ready? Yes we are. #sdcc
Although I was technically tabling alone, I had plenty of help. My friend Rachael, a San Diegan and a biology student, was my official assistant for the show. She gave me lunch breaks and allowed me to get away to see cartoonists and illustrators I’ve long admired. William Stout was back – I think he’s been attending every ComicCon since the beginning – and he drew me a stegosaurus and told me of the new discoveries regarding its famous plates. Rachael rode her motorcycle to the convention center, which was bar none the coolest thing anyone did that whole week.
Trek Otter #sdcc
Portrait of #grumpycat #sdcc
Once again my neighbors made the show for me. Four full days plus one evening is a marathon. You’re handing out cards, shouting greetings to strangers, rattling off the same pithy phrases about your books over and over again until you lose your voice. Without the good humor and support of those tabling around me, I’d never make it.
Neighbors #sdcc
Jeff was my neighbor for the second year in a row. Although we didn’t get into a heated Twitter battle like we did in ’12, we joked around plenty. I also got to meet Jeff’s mom and sister. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Jeff’s mom, who stood behind my table when I needed to take bathroom breaks. She became as good, if not better, at selling my books than me.
Neighbors #sdcc
Corey and Yomi were new to ComicCon but you’d never know. They are naturally friendly; every time I looked over they were surrounded by a new and exciting mix of people. I can’t wait to read the books I traded them for.
Homemade #beemo #sdcc
Sweeping out the mouth. #sdcc
Ben was once again on my right. Unfortunately I forgot to get a picture of Ben, but trust me, no photograph would do that man justice. He came with the second volume of his mighty work Pang: The Wandering Shaolin Monk. If you are unfamiliar with Ben’s work, I would highly suggest tracking down his zine about a boy who grows a cloaca when he hits puberty.
#tmnt #sdcc
Occasionally the river of people running in front of my table yielded a familiar face. Palle Schmidt, my friend from a country where the government supports the arts, was back in San Diego. This time he was plugging his latest graphic novel for the English-speaking market. Palle interviewed me for his podcast. He grouped me with Nate Powell, which is as huge a compliment for me as it must be a dubious distinction for Nate. Listen if you want to hear me expound on self-publishing for three minutes.
The night I tried to steal Neil from @amandapalmer
Henry Barajas. This guy. We first met at last year’s Con, but he’s from Tucson. We tabled next to each other at last year’s Tucson ComicCon, where I realized that he is the most outgoing, networkingist cartoonist I’ve met. He is quite literally a Renaissance Man. He does stand-up, writes for the daily paper in Tucson, writes comics, and knows just about everyone in the business. For some reason, he took time out of hanging with Neil Gaiman to help me sell books at my table. Henry gave me the energy boost I badly needed on Friday afternoon. I was in a bit of a rut, caffeine loosing its effectiveness, and he shook off my cobwebs and got me back in the game. Can I throw any more metaphors in there? He was my con coach.
Ask me about my involvement in #DearMrWatterson #sdcc
Joel Schroeder, director of the documentary Dear Mr. Watterson. If you asked me what sort of movie I most wanted to be a part of, I would have said, duh, a movie about Bill Watterson. Well kids, I’m here to tell you that dreams really do come true. Joel emailed me last fall, requesting permission to use a Falling Rock strip in his documentary. I held off responding for a good ten minutes before mashing all the keys on my keyboard until I typed YES OF COURSE. Now the film is complete and Joel is preparing for a nationwide theatrical release in November. He sent me a poster for my table and stopped by on Saturday to deliver a stack of postcards. Turns out, everybody at ComicCon loves Calvin and Hobbes. People walking quickly by my table would stop in their tracks when I handed them a card to ask about Dear Mr. Watterson.

Mr. Watterson, if you happen upon this blog, I want you to know that people dressed as zombies, people in capes, women, men, young, old…every single person who goes to ComicCon loves Calvin and Hobbes dearly. There is no other single comic (or movie, or TV show, or viral video) as universally loved as that strip. If you ever want to come to ComicCon, even in disguise so nobody will bug you for a snowman drawing or whatever, I think you will have a great time.

Also, I think you should make a Spaceman Spiff graphic novel. Think about it, get back to me later.
Hello old friend #sdcc
I figured out that people on panels had a special badge, so I began asking everyone with a Panel Badge what they did. It always yielded interesting answers. I met a scientist who works at Jet Propulsion Labs. He is a consultant on an upcoming film about a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa. I hadn’t heard of Europa Report before, but based on his description I am 100% going to see this movie – especially given my longstanding dream that NASA will devote a mission to the ocean moon.

I also saw Lawrence from Office Space! I had no idea what to say to him as he walked by. I just said “Heyyyy!” He turned, smiled, and said “Hello!”
There was, inevitably, talk among cartoonists about the watering-down of ComicCon. I’ve only been attending for the past five years so the crazy crowds are all I know. With the movie and television and video game and toy companies comes a much broader audience. The people who are there to see Game of Thrones or Hunger Games are not necessarily going to spend any time at Small Press or Artist Alley looking at self-published minicomics. I understand the need to sell well at this show. It is expensive to stay for five days, it is difficult to stand up all day shouting the same pitch to passerby. It can get tiring even if you do well. I come back exhausted. If you don’t do as well as you’d like, it can be disheartening. That’s true for any show. But I disagree that ComicCon is less good because of all the hoopla. If anything, people can get exposed to more pop culture than they ever would have anticipated. I have personally sold comics to people who say they don’t read comics. At ComicCon, it’s all about discovery.

For me, ComicCon is more than just another show. The jarring cocktail of pop culture produces something bigger than any of us. Fans, cartoonists, Stormtroopers, publishers, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers all share space in the sprawling convention center. I’m certainly glad I’ve done we’ll the two years I’ve exhibited; it has made it worth coming back. But more importantly, it exposes me to a phenomenon. ComicCon is the epicenter of popular culture. We come out knowing what the trends will be for the next year. We are part of the zeitgeist, a moving target that perches in the Gaslamp Quarter for a week before heading for parts unknown. It feels good to know that my work can fit into that huge swirling mass.

Until next year, ComicCon.
#lego Iron-Man #sdcc

New Bill Watterson interview

Via Mental Floss

I’m not quite sure this is for real; it’s kind of like a Bigfoot sighting that way.

Bill Watterson at Angouleme

Good news came Sunday morning with this tweet from The Comics Reporter:
comicsreportertweetI had to wait a little while for an article to confirm, and when it did come, it came in French.

Then, later, in English.

Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, huge inspiration to this here blogger, first cartoonist to win the Tour de France, received the prestigious Grand Prix at one of the biggest comics festivals in the world.

It seems as less of a surprise than it would have been a few years ago. Lately it seems ol Bill’s work is getting more of the attention it deserves. In 2005 we got The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, a hardbound three volume set that collects the run of the strip in its entirety. Better still, it included a preface by the author. Clocking in at about 20 pages, it was the most autobiography I’d ever seen from Watterson.

In 2009, Looking for Calvin and Hobbes popped up as a sort of meta-article on the elusive cartoonist. Although Nevin Martell interviewed just about everyone associated with Watterson, he was unable to speak with the man himself. On the record, at least.

Last year came Dear Mr. Watterson, a documentary on the lasting legacy of Calvin and Hobbes. This was not another biography of the man but a love letter to his work. I am proud to have been included in such a nice tribute to my favorite work of art.

With all these publications, Bill Watterson has been thrust once again into the spotlight. Let us hope he is not too angry at us for loving him so much. I doubt he is too bothered by it, as he has voluntarily taken part in two projects of late: one, a book called The Art of Richard Thompson, will feature an interview between Watterson and Thompson. In March, an exhibit of both Thompson and Watterson’s art will go up at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at The Ohio State University.

Amid all this renewed interest, it makes sense that the judges at Angouleme to award Watterson their highest honor.

Everyone wants to know: will Bill Watterson attend Angouleme next year? According to his editor Lee Salem (a superstar of the comics scene himself), “I’ll try to talk him into it.” I don’t know about you, but if I was in Ohio in late January a trip to France would sound pretty darn good.

the inevitable atticus & glen

When I went to college, I knew I wanted to draw a comic strip for the school paper. My sophmore year, I figured out what that strip would be: Atticus and Glen, the story of a tentative freshman (Glen) and the wise old squirrel who lived on campus his whole life (Atticus).

Although the set-up owed a lot to Calvin and Hobbes, the topics I covered were very much Oberlin. Co-ops, bicycles, vegetarianism, the ubiquitous English major, and of course race, gender, and class politics. My senior year, knowing I would leave Atticus and Glen in Oberlin, I wanted to make one big story before I ended the strip. The result was a seventeen page comic book I wrote and drew during winter term called The Inevitable Atticus & Glen. In another nod to Calvin and Hobbes, I gave the title a totally misleading prefix. There was nothing inevitable about the book; I willed this into exitance just like the rest of the strip.

The Inevitable Atticus & Glen was my first foray into self-publishing. The other cartoonist on campus, Alec Longstreth, was a huge self-publishing fan and would go on to make the long-running Phase 7 comic series. I was a bit more reluctant. I would be more than happy to do all the creative work and let some big publisher take on the unenviable task of producing, marketing, and selling. In the small world of Oberlin, and in the slightly bigger but still small world of non-superhero comics, there aren’t many publishers willing to do this. Self-publishing for me, then, was inevitable.

I took my pages to the college print shop, knowing nothing about putting a book together. They took my original art, photocopied it, and produced 100 booklets. The cost was low enough that I didn’t bother charging for the books. With the help of my friend Charlotte, we distributed the books across campus. I included a note imploring people to share; I wanted everyone to at least have a chance to read my masterpiece.

Now, for the first time, I’m making The Inevitable Atticus & Glen available to the world. You can read it below, or for the price of one dollar, you can have a PDF. Purists take note: I cleaned up the art a bit to make it more legible and less embarrassing. I have not added Jar Jar Binks, nor have I made Han shoot second.

Bill Watterson in Pearls Before Swine

Yet another hint that our dear friend Bill Watterson might be planning some kind of return. In what is possibly an homage to my April Fools Day Falling Rock strips, Bill ghost-drew a few panels in Pearls Before Swine. Read Stephan Pastis’ full story here. The behind-the-scenes story is almost as good as the finished product.

watterson pastis 1

watterson pastis 2

watterson pastis 3

The best part about this is these strips will be sold at Heroes Con with proceeds going to charity. If only I had a couple grand to spare, I’d snap these up.

Let me use this space to cordially invite Mr. Watterson to San Diego ComicCon next month. Mr. Watterson: no one will recognize you, unless you look exactly like that 30 year old photo, so you won’t be mobbed. San Diego has some very nice bike paths, so you can get some rides in while you’re there. And if you stop by my table (Small Press K-05) I will give you free comics and a beer (or whiskey if that’s your drink).

Tomb of the Zombies on GoComics

tomb-of-the-zombies-cover-lowMy dream as a kid was to be a syndicated cartoonist. Calvin and Hobbes, a comic strip some of you may remember, ran via Universal Press Syndicate. Now known by its 21st century name uclick, it’s one of the very few remaining syndicates. They have wisely diversified into both the book publishing world and online.

GoComics is pretty much the best place to read comics on the internet. They have many of the syndicated superstars and they also occasionally take a chance on Kid Nobody from Palookaville. Well I’m here to tell you that this month, I am that Kid!

Kid Shay Comics makes its debut on GoComics this month with the COMPLETE Tomb of the Zombies. I will be posting two pages a week until it is all up. If you haven’t had the chance to read my epic tale of love, redemption, and werewolf manservants, now is the time.

HERE is the link to my page on GoComics. Once you’re done reading the most current page, you can click right over to see what La Cucaracha is up to.

Lee Salem 1946-2019

The first famous person I ever saw at ComicCon was Lee Salem. It was my first year attending that convention, before I even had a table. One of my early stops was to the Universal Press Syndicate booth. To my complete shock I saw the man himself, talking with a few other editors. I approached him with the awe appropriate to kings and religious figures, and I think he was baffled by this young man’s recognition. I shook his hand, mumbled something about how great it was to meet him, then moved on. That moment stands as one of my all-time ComicCon highlights (and I’ve met the voice of SpongeBob).

As longtime readers of this here blog know, I wanted to be a newspaper cartoonist since I was a kid. Calvin and Hobbes has been my guiding light since around age 10. Through that strip, I’ve learned just about everything I know about making good comics. Of course there have been others, but Watterson’s work has become so ingrained I believe you can see some of the jokes written in my DNA.

At some point I learned that Lee Salem was Bill Watterson’s editor. I later learned he edited many of the greatest comics to ever grace the pages of newspapers. This was a man I needed to know. As any good writer knows, they are only as good as their editor (Salem’s suggestion on an early submission from Watterson, to focus on the younger brother of the main character, led to the creation of Calvin and Hobbes). When I was old enough to submit comics to syndicates, my first letter was always addressed to Mr. Lee Salem.

Though I never got to work with him (he was promoted to President of Universal Press Syndicate before his retirement) his legacy left a lasting impression on me.

Bill Watterson’s retirement gift to Lee Salem

It feels strange to miss a man whose work was, for the most part, invisible. He helped innumerable cartoonists be funnier. He led the industry to give creators more rights. He was president of a comics syndicate during a time of great uncertainty and change. He did all these things well. I am sorry to hear that he is no longer with us. I am grateful for the good work he did.