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Calvin & Hobbes creator Bill Watterson secretly, briefly returns to cartooning

June 7, 2014
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That’s a sentence I never thought I’d get to write, but Pearls Before Swine creator Stephan Pastis got a slightly better gift out of Bill Watterson. After releasing the strip below, Pastis was encouraged by Nick Galifianakis to email it to Watterson, who liked it and had an idea. If it was okay, he’d take over Pearls for three strips so they could auction off the art for charity.

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[H]e 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.

What followed was a series of back-and-forth emails where we discussed what the strips would be about, and how we would do them. He was confident. I was frightened.

Frightened because it’s one thing to write a strip read by millions of people. But it’s another thing to propose an idea to Bill Watterson.

The idea I proposed was that instead of having me get hit on the head, I would pretend that Pearls was being drawn by a precocious second grader who thought my art was crap. I named her “Libby,” which I then shorted to “Lib.” (Hint, hint: It’s almost “Bill” backwards.)

The only thing Bill ever asked of me was that I not reveal he had worked on Pearls until all three of his strips had run.

And so I did not reveal his participation until now.   And it was the hardest secret I’ve ever had to keep.

And that’s how the most reclusive man in cartooning came back for a cameo.

It’s a little hard to process because on one hand, it’s so great to see new work by Watterson, but on the other hand Jesus Fucking Christ what a goddamn tease this is. We may never ever get another Watterson cartoon again. By force of will, I’m going choose to just be happy he worked again in public for a few days and leave it at that. Here is the first strip, you can see the whole series on Pastis’s blog.

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