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'Calvin and Hobbes' documentary hits cinemas November 15

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Dear Mr. Watterson It's been seventeen and a half years since cartoonist Bill Watterson published the 3150th (and last) strip of Calvin and Hobbes, the comic about a six-year-old boy and his sardonic stuffed tiger.

Since then, film director Joel Allen Schroeder envisaged a documentary about Calvin and Hobbes, and in 2007 began filming interviews with fans. In 2009, Schroeder created a Kickstarter campaign to fund his project, which raised twice its initial goal of $12,000. A subsequent campaign raised $96,000. Now complete, the movie (Dear Mr. Watterson) has been picked up by a distributor and is scheduled to arrive in theatres November 15.

The documentary features comic artists - including Berkeley Breathed of Bloom County, Bill Amend of FoxTrot, and Stephan Pastis of Pearls Before Swine - discussing the legacy of Watterson's work, with comments by Lee Salem, Watterson’s editor at Universal Press Syndicate. The documentary also discusses Watterson’s stubborn refusal to concede the rights to Calvin and Hobbes, with the result that almost no legal merchandise of the strip exists, outside collected book volumes.

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I've seen it -- it was screened here in Oberlin, Ohio a few months ago. Recommended.

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Dang, too bad they don't have more with the actual Mr. Watterson :(

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There's actually *no* footage of Watterson. The filmmakers didn't even try to contact him, knowing he'd say no. They respected his idea that the work, not the person, is what's important.

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"The documentary also discusses Watterson’s stubborn refusal to concede the rights to Calvin and Hobbes, with the result that almost no merchandise of the strip exists, outside collected book volumes."

You say that as if it were a bad thing.

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Actually, no, I wasn't trying to imply that was a bad thing at all!

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I don't know what people talk about when they say there is no Calvin and Hobbes merchandise; there's just no licensed merchandise.

Garfield is pretty much licensed out to everything; you guys remember, like, back in the early 90s when there were a lot of plush Garfields with suction cups on their paws that people would stick in the back window of their cars. Licensed product, kinda cute, barely remembered.

When's the last time you saw Calvin on the back window of a car?

There's some kind of lesson here; unfortunately, it seems to be "artistic integrity sucks".

Also, Watterson liked to write long essays about artistic integrity at the beginning of some of his collections, which is exactly what I wanted to read whenever I sat down to read a comic strip collection. Don't get me wrong, I love me some Calvin and Hobbes, but Watterson was one crazy guy who's story kind of seems to prove everything he stood for just wasn't worth it. He's the Alan Moore of comic strips; I like his work, but the man himself is frustrating (though at least Watterson never did something as tasteless as complaining about adaptations into "unintended" media while writing comic lesbian porn about children's literature characters).

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Yeah, I was on the edge about putting "legal" in the story - I've added it now.

I thought his essays were interesting, not particularly because of the integrity issue, but because of the insights they provided into the publishing industry.

Hopefully those who made money from Garfield are doing something worthwhile with it.

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Well, maybe I was too soon on that “nothing as tasteless” compliment (skip to #1).

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Totally not surprised. Comic artists are people, too. These are just famous comic artists.

I've known a few "clean" artists over the years. Several have collections of risqué art drawn for close friends.

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According to his biography, animation artist Charlie Thorson, an old drinking buddy of Walt Kelly who created the first model sheets for Elmer Elephant for Disney and Sniffles the Mouse and Bugs Bunny for WB in the 1930s, had the habit of getting drunk and drawing his cute characters in X-rated situations and posting them around; which was why he got fired from so many animation studios.

Fred Patten

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