Errors & Misconceptions

by Richard Samuel West, Washington, DC
from Comics Journal issue number 130, July 1989

Bill [Watterson] and I wish to thank you all for a handsome and colorful Calvin and Hobbes tribute in the February issue [Journal #127]. I would like to correct a few errors and misconceptions that crept into the copy.

First, during the dark days of 1981-82 when Bill couldn't sell his blood to the Red Cross, he did create five comic strips and all were rejected by just about every syndicate. None of them, however, got to the development contract stage, as was stated in the introduction to the interview. Later in 1982, United Features signed him to a development contract based on the strength of his fifth attempt, a strip called 'In the Doghouse,' in which Calvin made his first appearance. UPS then helped him refine what was to become Calvin and Hobbes. In '83, they rejected the strip because they didn't think they could sell it.

Second, in Rick Marschall's essay, he praises Bill's contributions to my defunct quarterly, Target, and says that Bill's work 'was usually better than anything else in the magazine.' I heartily share Rick's high estimation of Bill's talent and I know Rick didn't mean by this statement to diminish Target in any way, but pride compels me to object. Professionals and fans agree that Target set a new standard for political cartoon criticism in this country. Bill made important contributions to achieving that end, but he was not alone.

Also, readers may be misled by the caption to the reproduced Target cover [p.77]. Bill drew this in 1987, a year and a half after the introduction of Calvin and Hobbes and years after he worked professionally as a cartoonist. The battered figure at the drawing table is not a self-portrait (though it is a fairly accurate representation of his psyche from seven years before). It is instead simply a generic cartoonist. I am the goofy-looking figure in the lower left, packing up my instrument of torture.

Finally, in R.C. Harvey's column, he wonders if the $6.95 annuals reprint every strip in order. The answer is yes. The spot drawings are inserted throughout the text to break up the chock-a-block layout. They bump strips to the following spreads, but do not supplant any. In regards to the Treasury, or 'rip-off' as Harvey characterizes it, fans should know that Bill is not in control of Andrews and McMeel's publishing plans for Calvin and Hobbes. Buyers are invited to be selective.

Thanks again for a great job.