Watterson On Webcomics

As many of you know, Bill Watterson’s releasing a hardcover collection of all his Calvin And Hobbes strips later this year. As part of the advertising campaign for the books, publisher Andrews McMeel invited fans to send in questions for Mr. Watterson to choose from and answer. I sent in a question of my own, and was fortunate enough to receive a response.

Q: Many young cartoonists are using the Internet to display their work instead of, or in concert with, print media because there are few barriers to entry and the medium provides the freedom to experiment with form, content, and color. Given your concerns over the state of newspaper comics, what do you think of this development?

A: To be honest, I don’t keep up with this. The Internet may well provide a new outlet for cartoonists, but I imagine it’s very hard to stand out from the sea of garbage, attract a large audience, or make money. Newspapers are still the major leagues for comic strips . . . but I wouldn’t care to bet how long they’ll stay that way.

You can read the entire Q&A here.



  1. Mr. Watterson was allowed to pick and choose which questions to respond to, so it’s possible (likely, even) that there were all sorts of entries asking what he was up to, and he just didn’t feel like answering.

  2. According to his entry at Wikipedia, he is now dedicating his time to painting, living with his family in a location no one can find or bother him.

    As for him “nailing it”, I’m with Campbell on this one:

    The Internet may well provide a new outlet for [cartoonists], but I imagine it’s very hard to stand out from the sea of garbage, attract a large audience, or make money.

    Replace [cartoonists] for [writers], [journalists] or any other field of human activity and you’ll see it still makes sense.

  3. Meh.

    There is no creative field in which it’s not difficult to stand out from the sea of garbage. Sturgeon’s Law. If a comic strip is successfully syndicated, then it has “stood out.”

    I’ll listen to Watterson talk about the art form all day, but if he admits to not keeping up with webcomics then I don’t think his opinion on them counts for much.

    It’s really sad– the restrictions that gave him such fits don’t exist online, and it seems like he could do something great– but artists have their quirks about this kind of thing, just like Steven “I will never use digital film” Spielberg. And you just can’t seem to reason those quirks away. (I have some, too.)

  4. I’m sure he’s not worrying about comic strip restrictions so much while painting on canvases of any size he chooses.

  5. Yeah, he ended up being coincidentaly right about something he admits knowing having no personal experience with.

    Makes me wonder if webcomics industry has more in common with Newspaper strips industry than any of us would like to admit.

    Huhn. All these insightful questions, yet nobody asks what he’s actually DOING these days. Sure, Calvin in Hobbes is a huge deal, but I’d rather find out what’s going on with the man now than what he was thinking about ten years ago. Maybe next time.


  6. Isn’t it interesting that he doesn’t keep up on it, yet he’s got the perfect description of how it is right now?

  7. Ye Gods. Watterson proves yet again why I love him so, since you’ve got to admit, he fucking nailed it.

  8. I feel Watterson’s reply is a little bit snobby in the respect that I don’t think he likes the idea of web comics encroaching on the territory where he made his fortune.

    But at the same time, when you’re right, you’re right and Watterson is right. It is certainly difficult to stand out from the sea of garbage (anyone with a comic about video games can attest to that). I think given the choice of publishing on the web or getting national syndication, any creator in their right mind would choose the latter.

  9. Heh, my favorite:

    Q: What led you to resist merchandising Calvin and Hobbes?

    A: For starters, I clearly miscalculated how popular it would be to show Calvin urinating on a Ford logo. . . .

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