Comic Artists Inspiration, Part 3
If Hergé was an inspiration to me because of his clean, considered style, Bill Watterson, and his newspaper strip Calvin and Hobbes, was an inspiration for the opposite reason. That’s not to say his style was unrefined – I’m sure he worked hard to perfect such a consistent look – but it wasn’t clean. You could see the brush strokes and lines were loose, but it was so expressive it felt packed with energy. Where some newspaper strips feel tightly constrained in three sharp panels, Calvin and Hobbes was full of motion. It was fun and it taught me how to appreciate contrasting styles.
If the most important parts of a newspaper strip are the humor and the artwork, Calvin and Hobbes was one of the greatest because it consistently delivered on both accounts. The drawings were not only expressive, but full of emotion, imagination and beauty. In addition the stories provided plenty of slapstick and one-liners, but the longer plots and well developed characters produced a more subtle and genuine humor too. I learned that consistent success requires a more complex application of multiple skills.
The final aspect of Watterson’s work I drew inspiration from was his integrity. In a world awash with Garfield merchandise there was surely a huge market for Calvin and Hobbes products, but Watterson stuck to his artistic principles and resisted the licensing of his characters outside the medium. As a result, when the strip leaned towards social commentary and took a principled stand, it rang true. And Watterson also knew when to quit. After a decade of Calvin and Hobbes his interests and priorities shifted. It seemed like this wasn’t something he was willing to compromise on and made sure to leave with his legacy intact.