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Ever Wished Bill Watterson Would Return to the Comics Page? He Just Did (stephanpastis.wordpress.com)
426 points by bigfaceworm on June 7, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 77 comments

Though not linked, today's strip (http://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2014/06/07) seems like a fun ending to their collaboration. Assuming the short story arc is over.

The blog post says that he promised not to say anything until it was over, so it is.

I wonder if Watterson really believes the gag line for the third strip, "Nah, the art form's dying"? He might, being (apparently) a neo-luddite of some sort. But there has never been as many, or as good, comics as there are now, or as many busy, thriving comic artists. Hint: they are not found at gocomics.com.

Berkeley Brethed ran several Bloom County strips which featured the need for more space too, such as: http://www.thecomicstrips.com/store/add.php?iid=82665

Someone should introduce the man to the internets capabilities. Bill Waterson can have all the space he needs.

I don't presume to speak for Bill Waterson or anyone else (and I don't mean this to be specifically about comics), but having all the space you need is, creatively, usually worse than having not enough space.

There's a sweet spot in the middle where you have enough freedom to realize the gist of a vision, but also a number of unwavering hard constraints to rein you back in.

In his interview on Mental Floss he states:

"Personally, I like paper and ink better than glowing pixels, but to each his own. Obviously the role of comics is changing very fast. On the one hand, I don’t think comics have ever been more widely accepted or taken as seriously as they are now. On the other hand, the mass media is disintegrating, and audiences are atomizing. I suspect comics will have less widespread cultural impact and make a lot less money. I’m old enough to find all this unsettling, but the world moves on. All the new media will inevitably change the look, function, and maybe even the purpose of comics, but comics are vibrant and versatile, so I think they’ll continue to find relevance one way or another. But they definitely won’t be the same as what I grew up with."


He could just be talking about comics in newspapers. The art form he practiced, not what’s going on elsewhere. That's certainly how I understood it.

It's also quite possible that Watterson is kinda mocking himself here. Cartoonists tend to do this.

source: I'm a cartoonist

I seriously doubt it. As an art form, newspaper comics are going the way of newspapers, but comics in general are thriving more than ever. The Internet has provided the perfect platform for them, and crowdfunding works quite well for strips with a following.

The question wasn't whether or not comics is a dying art form. The question is if Bill Watterson BELIEVES that it is, with the suggestion that he might believe so because he possibly doesn't like computers very much and therefore might not be fully aware of web comic artists.

Comics aren't thriving more than ever. Comics peaked in the early 20th century. Look at the internet comics and then look at what people were doing from 1900 up to WW2. They were working with full newspaper pages at times so they were making more use of space than most webcomics. They also had much larger audiences. Ridiculously larger. Tens of millions of fans. Rube Goldberg received a contract to work exclusively for one paper that I think paid around $50000 a year... in the 1910s. The fact that you're talking about crowdfunding at all is a reminder of how far comics have fallen; comics as an independent underground thing is taken for granted now, and crowdfunding is(while incredibly useful) frequently a way to squeeze as much support as is possible from a small audience. The options for that comic market are much better than they were, but the market taking the shape that it has is precisely because of its falling popularity. The equation of superheroes with comic books was similar; in the dying comic book market, superheroes were one genre that survived, but even that survival was fought for in the form of specialty shops for fans; the mainstream support was already lost and the characters maintained popular support through other media like cartoons and films.

It's a dying art form. Just because they are thriving doesnt make them art.

Really? The sort of comic I was thinking of would include, let's see, Sinfest, Romantically Apocalyptic, Drive, SSSS, Questionable Content... I could go on, but each one of these extends the field of comic-strip art along at least one dimension, and outstrips in subtlety anything attempted in newspaper comics. I'd even include XKCD, which certainly wouldn't seem like "art" to a casual glance, but what would you call the well-nigh insane depth of "Time"?

Sinfest: http://sinfest.net/

Romantically Apocalyptic: http://romanticallyapocalyptic.com/

Drive: http://www.drivecomic.com/new.html

SSSS: http://www.sssscomic.com/comic.php?page=1

Questionable Content: http://questionablecontent.net/

XKCD "Time" : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_(xkcd)

It's hard to prove it either way, but my suspicion is that there are already more people making their primary living from online comics than there are making their primary living making newspaper comics. And if that isn't true, Patreon will make it true in less than a year from now.

Patreon really is a miracle worker from this sort of niche content. I've seen fairly niche people put up a Patreon campaign, then actually freak out about how much money they end up getting, because you aggregate a couple thousand $1-5/month donations and Holy Shit. (Suddenly it's a Real Job (TM).) It's incredible feasible to go from "scraping by, annoying your parents and friends with what looks like a vow of poverty to do your Stupid Shit and living in constant money stress" to "comfortable middle-class lifestyle with reasonable income assurance". Not perfect, of course, but reasonable.

I mean, look at this: http://www.patreon.com/ZachWeinersmith

Any halfway-well-respected online comic artist not running a Patreon right now needs to get on it.

And Jeph Jacques, from the aforementioned Questionable Content: http://www.patreon.com/jephjacques

Keep in mind these people also still have their other sources of income: book runs, merchandise, etc.

Yes, Patreon is really transformative for those people who haven't had other means of monetizing.

I really think that in the long term Patreon is more important than Kickstarter for the arts. Kickstarter by its nature is much splashier and makes the big news articles, but it's Patreon that changes lives by chugging along month after month after month after month.

Can you imagine what Watterson could get directly from the public on Patreon? Most assuredly a better offer than any newspaper could ever offer him now.

I was thinking that exact same thing (re: Watterson and Patreon) after I wrote that.

Yes, I can't stress this enough. I'm an investor in Patreon, but I've also been working closely with artists (like Zach) for the last few years as we've managed + run their crowdfunding campaigns on kickstarter and the like.

Patreon is the next stage in the evolution. It is my belief that this platform will spur the second renaissance for creators who can at last focus entirely on their art without just one well-funded patreon (e.g., Harper Lee and To Kill A Mockingbird).

Woah, Drive is still updating? I thought he basically got too busy, the updates seemed to be once every month or two. Must have changed RSS feeds on me or something.

Watterson was very outspoken about his displeasures with the art form and the grinding newspaper production process throughout the life of C&H. His beliefs, then, predated almost all online comics, but he discussed a modern take recently:


Could you please share where I could find wonderful comics? Are these good places to look: http://www.webcomicsnation.com/ and http://www.buzzfeed.com/kevintang/42-web-comics-you-need-to-...

That second list has some very good ones. Some other ones that are or were popular:

Girl Genius, winner of several awards for both story and art, a story about a world ruled by MAD SCIENCE: http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/

8-bit theater (finished now), an overall parody of Final Fantasy: http://www.nuklearpower.com/2001/03/02/episode-001-were-goin...

Megatokyo - it used to be pretty big among manga fans, I don't know if it still is: http://megatokyo.com/

Savage chickens, a strip drawn in sticky notes: http://www.savagechickens.com/

Basic Instructions - hard to explain, but still, very funny: http://basicinstructions.net/

Penny Arcade, one of the first "big" webcomics, from the same guys that run PAX: http://penny-arcade.com/

Manly guys doing manly things, an overall parody of macho characters in popular culture: http://thepunchlineismachismo.com/

XKCD, terrible (minimalist?) drawing, truly great writing (if you are geek and/or math inclined): http://xkcd.com

Keep in mind that for new readers it is usually better to start from the first strip and move on, but that usually means that you have to endure some pretty terrible artwork (check the "first" button, and move on).

Also, it depends a lot on what you like reading - XKCD is almost exclusively math-oriented while Penny Arcade is not really funny if you are not into videogames. Then again, that's the good side - there's something out there for everyone.

Among other great comics cited in various replies around here, I would also suggest :

• The not-updated-often-but-still-great « perry bible fellowship » : http://www.pbfcomics.com

• The overly optimistic « Buni » : http://www.bunicomic.com/

• The Norwegian POV : http://www.optipess.com/ (relevant to main topic http://www.optipess.com/2010/09/20/no-girls-allowed/ ; or to news http://www.optipess.com/2010/10/08/missing-piece/ )

• Not always SFW (depends where you work of course) :

  • Science, Sex and Fun  « Saturday morning breakfast cereal » : http://www.smbc-comics.com

  • Often trashy but also often very funny « Cyanide & Happiness » : http://explosm.net/comics/

Two more for the list:

Sinfest: http://sinfest.net

Why you should check it out: Great illustrations. Mid-to-Long story arcs, with single shorts thrown in full color panels on Sundays. And it is SFW.

Questionable Content: http://questionablecontent.net

Some find it a bit insipid and too self-referential at times, but it has it's brilliant moments. Also (mostly) SFW.

I'll link to favorite strips of mine instead of to the home page :D

Piled Higher and Deeper - grad students. http://phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=591

Extra Ordinary - surreal humor. http://www.exocomics.com/05

Boy on a Stick and Slither - surreal humor. It's dead now, and judging by my friends is a minority taste, but has several of my favorite strips to its name. http://archive.boasas.com/?c=286

minus - more surreal humor. Also dead, but excellent. http://www.kiwisbybeat.com/minus13.html

Jesus and Mo - making fun of religion and the stupid things it inspires people to say. http://www.jesusandmo.net/2006/05/11/skin/

Sam and Fuzzy - Hard to describe. The cartoonist does a great job making sure there's a joke in every strip, despite involved continuity. http://www.samandfuzzy.com/1482

Station V3 - originally great. Hit such an awful dry spell that I unsubscribed, but hey, maybe it's funny again. http://www.stationv3.com/d/20110722.html

Of those already listed, I also endorse savage chickens, xkcd, basic instructions, and sinfest.





http://www.qwantz.com/ is pretty interesting as well. the same art every time.

I can definitely recommend Achewood (21 on the buzzfeed article). It can take some time to get into it, and it has a distinct flavor that you might never learn to like, but if you do, it's amazing. I haven't really read any of the comics in years, but I still find myself using 'Achewood' language in some of my conversations.

I rather like these two: http://www.achewood.com/index.php?date=12282007 http://www.achewood.com/index.php?date=01272003

Also see Sluggy Freelance, running for six or seven years now. Long convoluted story arcs punctuated with frequent gags, and a cast of characters I've grown to love. I keep wondering/worrying when Pete Abrams is going to burn out.


Probably my favourite is actually Calvin and Hobbes which I missed out on the first time around and are being rerun on GoComics http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/. Monty's good too https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_(comic_strip)

Not exactly a comic, but MATT from the telegraph often cracks me up no end:


Pretty good stuff. The obnoxious copyright symbol is unusual though. I wonder what possible reason there is for that.

Whoah. Second panel of the second Watterson strip. Chills.

I had every single C&H book growing up. I wish he'd draw again... maybe they can teach him how to make a webcomic? No confining panel structure here...

From what I've heard, dude is basically kinda done with the comics grind.

Which is not surprising. I do a webcomic, and have no day job to distract me from it, and yet sometimes I can't even manage one page a week, let alone the six B&W strips and one Sunday strip that being a Syndicated Cartoonist involves. I have a friend who's doing the syndicate gig right now[1] and she's basically impossible to get ahold of because she's always got to stay on top of her buffer.

It's kinda like coding for video games. It's a dream job but the reality is that there are a ton of other people clawing for the same position so you better work your ass off, kiddo!!11!!!. Well, okay, maybe less of a dream job now that newspapers are dead but you know what I mean. That shit burns you out but good.

1: http://www.gocomics.com/heavenly-nostrils

I am sure there are pretty tough pressures on your friend, or any other SC. I am sure there are lot of others to replace them.

But this man is not a SC. He is Bill Waterson. If he wants to have a panel once a week, in full color, only on thursdays any newspaper editor who turns him down is an idiot.

As for making him a web cartoon artist, all you need would be hosting somewhere, a server that can handle the traffic and one message to whomever moderate the Facebook Calvin and Hobbes Fan group, plus a twitter account that sends a message each time a new cartoon is published.

Your ingredients list for getting Watterson on the web is missing one important thing: him wanting to start showing his work to the public again.

Who knows? Maybe this little thing he did with Pastis was him testing the waters. He might have been asking himself "Do I still have it? Do I still WANT to have it?" by drawing these. Maybe he's toying with some sort of return. Maybe he's about to drop some awesome personal graphic novel that's been brewing this 20-year-sabbatical. I know damn well Universal/Gocomics would kill to set up a new presence for him on pretty much any terms he wants. Half the web cartoonists he met via showing up on Stripped! would probably do it for free.

But does he want it again?

I mean, he retired into aggressive anonymity for twenty years. He might have recharged. He might still be completely burnt out.

We can't know. And that's entirely what it rests upon.

Yeah, but that's the thing. With a web comic he can do whatever he wants. Pure freedom. What he wants, when he wants. Hundreds of people would pretty much work out all the details for him just to put it on a page somewhere, I would imagine. And it's not like he'd have to come out of hiding, either. The web pretty much allows you to do as you like in that regard as well.

Sure, it's just wishful thinking, but it wouldn't be that hard to give him an outlet to do as he pleases, assuming he wants to do something.

Yeah, but Watterson clearly doesn't like working with technology. He's very much a pen-paper-human kind of guy, and I don't see him all of a sudden deciding to step into the internet.

I'll be darned if he couldn't find someone to work with who could handle getting his work online though. It's mere wishful thinking, but he could draw and communicate (or not) in whichever way he wants, and some trusted friend and gatekeeper handles all of the scanning and online stuff, which could be kept very simple and noncommercial. No ads, twitter, comments section or any of the usual "social media branding" stuff, literally just a page with a comic on it.

Sigh. Man, I still miss Calvin and Hobbes.

Judging from what some other webcomics do, it would be beautiful. This webcomic shows how much freedom can be had with paneling, and how detailed the art can be: http://dresdencodak.com/2010/07/10/dark-science-03/

Did anyone else feel echoes from the first panel of that strip? That conversation feels like the opening dialogue of one of the big Sunday strips, where Calvin and Hobbes are riding their wagon down the hill and talking philosophy. Maybe something about things changing now that summer is over. . . . ?

Anyway, that second strip sure is one big hint, huh?

Its... its like _why doing a guest post for Zed Shaw. Can't. look. away.

I'm not sure who gets the shorter end of a comparison between Zed Shaw and Stephan Pastis.

So... you're saying it's a good comparison?

Is it just me or are the strips... just not that funny? All three of them are basicly the same joke, with one containing a minor reference to Watterson's page formatting preferences. Now that I think of it, that's really par for the course (or maybe a birdie) for newspaper comic strips in general. I guess it just seems strange to see the world's best living cartoonist come out of the fortress of solitude and do something other than leave the audience in tears of profundity.

Were you a fan of C&H? I think that the lens of nostalgia strengthens our pleasant memories of the books and can't really ever compare to these new strips. You need character development, plot... most of his stories would extend across the entire week or longer. (Oh man, the family camping trips in C&H were hilarious)

Just appreciate it for what it is--a window into our fond memories of Watterson's work.

After spending years reading Web comics I now find that "C&H" maps to Cyanide & Happiness rather than Calvin & Hobbes. (Which is crazy; I read all the Calvin & Hobbes strips and grew up in Cleveland Heights for pete's sake!)

It didn't used to be that way. Modern Webcomics are starting to be big cultural phenomena (income comparable with a comfortable full-time job or better for the stars in the industry)

At least on Reddit Cy&H is used for that.

For Watterson that might literally be the funny.

Like finding Jeff Gordon driving your kids' school bus one idle morning.

I think you're right. The Washington Post article backs this up,“Several years ago, when Stephan did one of his strips that mocked his own drawing ability and mentioned my strip in comparison, I thought it might be funny for me to ghost ‘Pearls’ sometime, just to flip it all on its head,” the goateed Watterson tells me, offering a clear indication that he still follows the funnies. “It was just a silly idea, and I didn’t know Stephan, so I never pursued it, and years went by.”

I think the jokes are by Stephan, and Bill just did the drawing. And yes, it's just a bunch of references to Bill and Stephan's work.

Also, the final strip is pretty good. Not the one drawn by Bill ... the followup here - http://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2014/06/07

It's a bit of a pity then, since the primary strength of Watterson's work is his writing. His art is good, sure, but what made his name was the underlying substance, methinks.

He did it for fun (and for the charity auction). I think he should be able to do that without people complaining that they didn't get enough out of it.

(I mean, I think he quit, at least in part, because he'd said a lot of what he thought he had to say and started feeling like a turnip)

I find it pretty funny, but this kind of humor is not for everybody. All people have tastes, so if it's not in yours, that's OK. And the world's best cartoonist doesn't owe us anything - including leaving us in tears. I think if you one likes him - one should be grateful for the opportunity to enjoy his talent once again. And if it's not your cup of tea - well, there are many other things to enjoy :)

I think you have to have followed Calvin and Hobbes all the way through its run. If you did there's is so much good will that flows back when you see a new example of his art after all these years that it really doesn't matter what he draws.

Although sadly for me he really hits his stride in the last strip of the series.


I think their funnier if you understand the subtle Watterson references. The 3rd panel of the 2nd strip for instance references Bill's career-long battle over the confinement of the existing panel structure.

Pastis is no stranger to playing with panel structure too. I guess most of the cartoonists had the idea at some point.

You had the context of the ruse going in. I bet it would have been even better without it.

That said, even with the context, I thought they were wonderful. The third made me laugh a lot.

Perhaps he just misses it. I would.

Give it 48 hours and Boing Boing, HuffPo, Medium, etc will all have long posts revealing the hidden profundity to you.

I've always wished I could draw. Even XKCD's minimalist art style is still an artist drawing stuff which is beyond me. I can't draw a straight line with a computer (they're very heavy). C&H was not only great art, it was an amazing look on adult life despite it being about a kid and a stuffed tiger.

Look at the early XKCD comics, and you'll realise that the artist honed his skill over time. There's no secret to being a good comic book artist – it's just a love of the medium and a slavish commitment to draw as much as humanly possible.

drawing is a technical skill. No mystery or magic behind what anyone's doing. The nature of perspective and color won't change. If you want to draw humans, the basics of human anatomy and proportions are pretty constant and have been analyzed to death; add anything else you're interested in drawing and the same can likely be said for anything from wildlife, plantlife, machinery, buildings, vehicles, etc. You can learn to draw just like you can learn to add and subtract.

Just do it.

I don't consider myself artistic, but for a few months in college took up sketching and found I could produce serviceable impressions of still-lifes and even a self portrait, after a fashion. Practice. It works.

I wonder how he feels about the fan-drawn sequels?


I do too. Thanks for sharing these, they're heartwarming for an old fan.

a few relevant links from there:

unofficial history of fan art projects: http://www.avclub.com/article/check-out-the-web-cartoonists-...

4 full color sunday strips put out by pantsareoverated.com (Dan and Tom Heyerman) where Calvin and Susie have a daughter, Bacon: http://www.pantsareoverrated.com/page/4/?s=hobbes http://www.pantsareoverrated.com/page/3/?s=hobbes http://www.pantsareoverrated.com/page/2/?s=hobbes http://www.pantsareoverrated.com/page/1/?s=hobbes

Phil Barry on DeviantArt did 3: http://fc05.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2012/300/8/4/hobbes_and_ba... http://phill-art.deviantart.com/art/Hobbes-and-Bacon-2-33673... http://phill-art.deviantart.com/art/Hobbes-and-Bacon-3-35410...

User DomNX on DeviantArt did a series called "Calvin and Company" where Calvin and Susie have twins. The content linked in the article has been removed from facebook, as well as hir account on deviantArt (best I could tell). Found it from pinterest user Potatohappiness: http://www.pinterest.com/Potatohappiness/calvin-and-hobbes/ http://www.pinterest.com/pin/469218854897891171/ http://www.pinterest.com/pin/469218854897891153/ http://www.pinterest.com/pin/469218854897891162/ http://www.pinterest.com/pin/469218854897891165/

Almost like reopening old wounds..... Time to bring the C&H collection out of the bookshelf.

This is the best thing I've read in almost 20 years.

C&H was great but calling Bill Watterson the greatest living cartoonist is ridiculous as long as Gary Larson is still around.

Larson was fun and biology-oriented (for those who are into that), but Watterson's work gave a much deeper insight into the human condition. Mind you, Watterson probably hasn't had a chewing louse named after him (Strigiphilus garylarsoni).

I think they can happily co-exist as both being the greatest because Larson was the king of the single panel, and Watterson the king of the narrative strip.


The Washington Post talked to Watterson about the collaboration: http://m.washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/wp/2014/06/06/e...

Pastis is a prankster, but I highly doubt that his claim is fake. Pearls Before Swine is a well-known comic of its own right, without much need to fake a claim about working with Bill Watterson

Holy shit. I did not expect this to ever happen, but I am mighty glad it did.

And thank you for C&H, Mr. Watterson.

I knew it! The style is unmistakable. I thought maybe Pastis was imitating the style.

If a penguin shows up in the next strip I think we'll all know what's up.

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