Unlike many comic strip artists, Bill Watterson made the decision not to merchandize the Calvin & Hobbes characters for useless knick-knacks that clutter store shelves. His syndicate wasn't thrilled about his decision and they fought him for a long time on it, but in the end Bill emerged triumphant -- and perhaps a bit psychologically bruised by the ordeal.
Along the way, however, there were a few items released. Some are promotional and a few appeared in stores. If you're wondering how to get some of the stuff on this page, I recommend you check online auction sites like eBay. Items like the calendars pop up on there from time to time. Thanks for stopping by!
Official United States postage stamp: Released in July of 2010, this stamp is part of the US postal service's "Sunday Funnies" collection, which honors Archie, Beetle Bailey, Dennis the Menace, Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes.
Spanish Award Booklet: Here is 12-page booklet from 1991 commemorating the award for the Best Published Foreign Work in Spain. It was awarded to Calvin and Hobbes at Barcelona's famous comic fair Ficomic (sort of like the USA's Comicon). The booklet measures 8" x 8" (that's 20.3 cm). Includes an essay by Santiago B. Olmo, 9 pages of reprinted comics, short biography of Watterson. All text in Spanish.
Newspaper Proof Sheet: These panels were mailed to newspapers from the syndicate and most of them were cut into six pieces and placed on different pages for the six days of the week. Sunday was handled separately. These proof sheets were sometimes spared because they occasionally received duplicates from Universal Press Syndicate. When that happened, they would use one and keep the extra in case they later didn't get a shipment at all. They measure about 17" wide and 11" tall.
Signed Farewell Proof Sheet: When Watterson retired from newspaper cartooning, he signed a small number of proof sheets featuring the final episode of the strip. Here's an example of that proof as well as the letters which accompanied them. (Many thanks to Asheesh for sending these images!) Note: some newspapers, realizing how difficult it would be to explain Watterson's retirement to their comic-loving readers, chose to print Bill's letter in their comics section for all to see. I've added one such example, The Philadelphia Enquirer comics section on the day of the final strip.
Cover Proofs: Not strictly a legitimate C&H item, these are the proof sheets for the book covers of "There's Treasure Everywhere," "Lazy Sunday Book," and "Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons." (the latter cover proof comes from the collection of Kristopher P.) It is common for a publisher to run these test proof sheets at the printer as they "dial in" the colors on the presses. They are normally destroyed or used up when they bind the book, but the examples below somehow ended up surviving the process.
Promotional Slide: This promo item is from 1993 and the owner writes: "My grandmother used to handle submissions and PR for a very prestigious literary/poetry magazine, yet book publishers would still send her comic strip compilations. She would bundle up them when the stack got too big and send them to us, her grandsons, and we loved it. Back then, emailing a PDF or EPS of your book's cover was out of the question. The press outlet you were wooing with your goods might not even have a computer. So you sent slides..."
Calvin & Hobbes Lithograph: This is a signed and numbered lithograph by Bill Watterson, sent to newspapers by Watterson and Universal Syndicate as a thank you to newspapers that carried the comic strip when the artist went on sabbatical in 1992. 1000 of these were made. It measures approximately 22" by 17".
Signed Books: While these come from a variety of places, the largest source was from Fireside Books, a little shop in the Ohio town where Bill Watterson used to live. In the mid-1990s, Bill's mom used to get boxes of books and take them to his house for him to sign, then the shop would quietly place them on the shelf for lucky fans to discover. Sadly, online auction speculators and book re-sellers heard about the place and began buying up every autographed book that appeared. Watterson ceased signing and the fans were all the worse off for it. Thanks again to the greedy people.
Museum Print: This is a 1990 print from the San Francisco Cartoon Art Museum featuring Calvin and Hobbes racing down a hill in their wagon. Each year the museum sent a different print to their members, and this was print #6. It measures 8.5" x 11" and is printed in black and white with a red border.
Calendars: Two 16-month calendars were printed, the first one for 1988-89, the second for 1989-90. They're relatively scarce.
Posters: According to the source I purchased mine from, the first item is a promotional poster given out by James McMeel (of Andrews McMeel, the publisher of the Calvin & Hobbes books) at the 1988 American Booksellers Convention. The only wording on the poster is at the bottom right hand corner: "The Essential Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson copyright 1988 by Universal Press Syndicate." The poster measures 14" x 17". The second item is a promotional poster for British bookshops. It measures 15" x 21". The third item is a German promo poster printed for the sale of their first three translated books, or "albums" in 1989. It is A2 in size, measuring approximately 23.4" x 16.5" (59.4 cm x 42 cm). Thanks to Oliver for sending the picture!
10th Anniversary Print: This print was from the German publisher Kruger Verlag, produced on the occasion of the release of the German version of the 10th anniversary book. It is A2 in size, measuring approximately 23.5" x 16.5". Thanks Oliver for the info and photo!
French Print: According to my sources, this is a postcard-sized lithograph image, printed in a numbered run of 200 to commemorate the end of the comic in 1995. The jury's still out on this one; I can't be absolutely certain as to whether or not this is a legal item.
C&H Printing Plates : This is a very interesting find which ended up selling on eBay for the princely sum of 300 dollars. It is a collection of items used in the printing of the book Scientific Progress Goes "Boink" in 1991. There is a printed proof of the entire book (in blue ink), with various handwritten marks showing printing errors prior to final print, and six unused back-up plates that would have been used in the actual printing of the publication, as well as a protective case. Usually, these items are destroyed after a book is printed.
Corporate X-mas Cards : Here are some promotional holiday cards sent to newspapers that subscribed to the strip. Inside they read: "Seasons' Greetings from Universal Press Syndicate."
Promotional Kit : This is a promo packet sent out to newspapers in 1989 to sell the strip. It contains three of the "proof sheets" used to print the strips in newspapers as well as a sheet of information about the strip and Bill Watterson. It is all packaged in a colorful folder with a rarely seen painting which later became the cover art for Comics Revue # 42 (see further below).
Calvin & Hobbes Letters & Letterhead: To get these you'd have to write to Bill and get a personal response. Unlikely even in the 1980's, with each passing year it became more and more difficult, as more and more people wanted a piece of him. The third item here is a look at the standard "form letter" reply you might have received. It says: "Thank you for your kind letter. I am pleased to hear you enjoy my comic strip, and I hope Calvin and Hobbes will continue to amuse you. Sincerely, W.B. Watterson". The fourth item is the same stationary with some interesting cartooning thoughts from Bill. The fifth item looks like another version of Bill's professional stationary. I found it in an Editor & Publisher article about his first sabbatical in 1991. The sixth item is another version of Watterson's stationary. This letter is from 1991, around the time Calvin and Hobbes' newspaper size requirement took effect. The seventh item is an announcement from the syndicate about Bill's second sabbatical. The eighth item is a hand-written complimentary note Bill sent to American Color, one of the industry's largest print and premedia companies in North America. They manage retail inserts, direct mail, catalogs, publications, packaging, books, comics and commercial work. The ninth item is a 1987 letter from Bill (thanks to Don M. for sharing this with us). Finally we have a letter to a fan named Tim (thanks to Oliver for sending this one).
Teaching With Calvin and Hobbes : This is a teaching book licensed specially by the syndicate and Bill Watterson. Click here to read more about it. (Thanks to Radigan for the book information and to Asheesh for sending info and images.)
Magazines with Calvin covers : The first magazine here is Honk!, a comics-related magazine with interviews, news, and strips. Issue number 2 from 1987 featured an interview with Bill Watterson. The second cover is a cool Spaceman Spiff watercolor by the man himself. This is issue number 127 of the Comics Journal (February 1989) and it contains an interview with Bill. Our third cover is issue number 42 of the comics Revue from 1990. This magazine reprints newspaper comics in one or two-month blocks. They've often featured Calvin & Hobbes strips, and this cover featured a rare drawing (the same drawing on the folder of the newspaper promotional kit seen further up on this page). The fourth cover is issue number one of Inks: The Journal of Cartoon and Comic Art Studies. This 1994 issue included articles on Arkham Asylum, Bud Fisher and Oliver Harrington, creator of African-American strip Bootsie. Obviously, the cover art is by Bill Watterson.
Covers five, six, and seven are issues 34 (April 1992), 59 (January 1994), and 86 (1996) from Comic Relief, a magazine featuring a wide variety of humorous art and stories culled from America's newspapers. Cover number eight is from issue 245 (July 1989) of the humor magazine Cracked. Cover nine is from the Jan.2005 issue of French magazine Canal BD.
Newspaper Ads : Newspaper vending machines often have advertisements on their sides. The first one here is an ad for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review which appeared briefly on some vending machines in Pennsylvania. The second ad measures 11" x 19" and comes from the San Jose Mercury News circa 1989. The third ad measures 15.75" x 13" and appeared on vending machines for the Las Vegas Sun.
Book Display Headers: Here are some different "headers" of the sort that publishers send to bookstores to accompany counter displays of their new books. The first heralded the arrival of the 1991 Calvin & Hobbes collection "Scientific Progress Goes Boink". The header is a 9" x 10" reproduction of the book's cover -- Calvin greeting himself as he emerges from the Duplicator -- minus the title, on a corrugated cardboard backing. The second is from "The Revenge of the Baby-Sat" in 1991. The third is from 1996 when "There's Treasure Everywhere" was released. The fourth is a 42 x 60 cm Warner Books advertisement used in British bookshops circa 1990s.
The fifth header & bin is from the Tenth Anniversary book era. The sixth header is of course from the Authoritative Calvin & Hobbes book display. The seventh header measures 31" x 15.5" and comes from the display for "The Days Are Just Packed." The eighth header is from the 1994 book Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat, and it measures approx. 25" x 16". The ninth header is from Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons in 1992 and it measures 9" x 10". The tenth header also measures 9" x 10" and it comes from The Indispensable Calvin and
The eleventh header measures 9 1/4" x 11" and was used to display the very first Calvin collection, while the twelfth header measures 9 1/4" x 10" and comes from the second collection entitled "Something Under the Bed Is Drooling." The thirteenth header is from "The Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book" and measures 17 1/2" x 15". The fourteenth header is 11" x 13" and comes from "It's a Magical World." The fifteenth is from "Weirdos From Another Planet!" and measures 9" x 10". The sixteenth header is from the "Essential Calvin and Hobbes" book.
Zoo Comics : This was a British magazine from the mid-1990's which, like the above
publication 'Comic Relief', reprinted newspaper comic strips. Calvin and Hobbes was a regular feature along with Garfield, Mother Goose and Grimm, The Duplex, The Neighbourhood (by Jerry Van Amerongen), The Fusco Brothers, Horoscopes (by Eric Olsen and Susan Kelso), and more. (one other interesting note: although this magazine reprints Calvin weekday strips, they went to the trouble of colorizing them and I think they did a really nice job).
Serie Paraden #6 : Similar to Zoo (above), this magazine from Sweden reprints strips from comics such as Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes (AKA Kalle and Hobbe),Trasket, Fruff och Greger, Katja, Familjen Grizzly, and more. 50 pages.
Mangajin Strips : In the 1990s, a great (and now sadly defunct) magazine called Mangajin helped English speakers learn Japanese through the power of comics. Here are three Calvin & Hobbes pages, the first two from issue 42 and the third one from issue 50.
MoMA shirt: In 1991 the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the Ohio State University Library for Communication and Graphic Arts assembled "Great American Comics: 100 Years of Cartoon Art". It was a collection of the finest comic art from the past century. This shirt is from the exhibition and is the only legal Calvin shirt ever produced.