Bill Watterson returns to comics without telling anyone

If you’ve been reading Pearls Before Swine, you probably noticed the last three days of comics had a pretty different style of art. If you were particularly perceptive, you might have even realized that it was vaguely reminiscent of Calvin and Hobbes, and figured it was a tribute.

Not quite. As it turns out, those panels were actually drawn by Bill Watterson himself. Rather than try to explain how this happened, I’ll just let you read the story as told by Stephen Pastis. I don’t envy him the burden of having to sit on this for a month, but I’m definitely glad he did.

Soooo Epic!
and an Awesome tale to tell the grandkids.

Amazing!

A great story. Really, really great. I can just imagine how Pastis must have felt throughout the whole thing. His strips are now a part of comics history. They’ll be reprinted forever in books about Watterson’s influence on cartooning. His next comic should feature Paul Erdos and Kevin Bacon; other cartoonists will probably start calculating their Pastis number!

And . . .

Ok, I might as well say and get it over with: it was a little disappointing in the execution. Pastis’s art isn’t great, certainly not compared to Watterson’s, but it fits the characters and the humor. Watterson’s style looks . . . wrong. It’s a style built on charm, but he’s drawing deliberately uncharming characters that just look childish and silly in Watterson’s style. It undermines the humor a bit that in his first strip, it honestly doesn’t look funnier. The second strip with the robot attack plays more to Watterson’s strengths, especially his coloring. (The punchline, that it would be better if he had more space, is also tragically true.) The third and final strip is perhaps the most successful in terms of humor, but it’s also the least Watterson-y. It’s interesting that he was able to make it work so well drawing in a markedly different style than what he’s known for.

Anyway, I hate to be critical of someone who’s an undeniable genius at cartooning, and it isn’t really fair–he’s just doing a cameo as a gag, and it works fairly well for that. It’s not like he’s really trying to show off what a great artist he is or to redesign Pearls.

Bill Watterson! Man! It’s like asking for someone to take your picture in front of a landmark and having Ansel Adams show up! Between this and the book he’s been working on according to the article, I wonder if he’s starting to come out of his shell. I can’t think of anyone in the internet age who was able to drop out of the public eye quite as completely as Watterson. He certainly earned his privacy, but it’s nice if he’s able to feel a little more comfortable with his fame now.

Bill Watterson’s work is one of the defining elements of my childhood. It’s kinda sad he’s pretty much completely out of reach, but it’s also entirely reasonable.

My hope is that he’s been working on something over the years that he plans to release either in his old age or after he passes. The world could use more of his warmth and wit.

I was fully expecting the OP to reveal that Watterson has been writing and drawing “Frazz” under a pseudonym.

Today’s strip is a nice epilogue:

“I’m bored of drawing. Besides, there’s a magical world out there to explore.”

Grandkids descended from the woman he slept with by telling her he did Calvin and Hobbes.

I immediately got the reference in today’s strip, but didn’t get that Bill Watterson was actually involved until I read this thread. Neat.

I have the The Complete Calvin and Hobbes in hardback. His is the only comic collection I’ve ever bought.

While I read “Pearls Before Swine” every day, it doesn’t even begin to compare to “Calvin and Hobbes.”

I’ve often had the same thought.

Is Frazz anywhere near the quality of C&H or the artwork just similar enough in quality? I never heard of this one.

Amazing! I don’t read Pearls Before Swine but maybe I should start. The samples I saw were funny.

With 20/20 hindsight the clues were all there. That martian attack panel was pure Bill.

This is a very cool story, and a neat addition to the “Pearls” saga. Now if Pastis could convince Berkeley Breathed to do a cameo as well…

Bill the Cat meets Pastis’ Rat?

Ack!

Gross.

Ditto.

Next we find out Alan Moore has been writing “Ziggy” for ten years.

I’m not surprised Watterson is something of a technophobe. Whenever ‘marching progress’ forces me to learn how to do something new like…oh, take a picture with that disgusting TOS Phaser-1 sized phone she makes me carry…I carp and moan.

Ah, Calvin and Hobbes. The second best comic strip ever.

Oh, wow…

I’ll print those strips and add them to my C & H hardcover collection.

It’s been years since I’ve followed the major comics, but Frazz was below average, artwise, so the comments about Watterson being involved with it are extremely* huhhhhh?*

Nothing special about it and the artist shaded with a hatching style that was consistently odd and ugly. I never noticed anything good about the expressions, line work, or body postures. And nothing very special about the writing.

Apart from the “Calvin-style” spiked hair of Frazz, there’s no trace of Watterson.

Alan Smithee: you pretty much nailed my reaction to the art in PBSwine strips. I don’t know if Watterson made the Betty and Veronica characters intentionally fleshy (as opposed to typical svelte comic strip pin-up style, ala Archie) but it was interesting to see. I’ve never seen Watterson do sexy babe art before.

The only known picture of Bill Watterson in one of the OPs links was also interesting. There’s a resemblance to Calvin’s dad.

Peanuts was the big comic strip of my youth. Calvin and Hobbes came along later, but I have to say that Watterson leaves Schulz in the dust.