For ten years, Calvin and Hobbes was one the world’s most beloved comic strips. And then, on the last day of 1995, the strip ended. Its mercurial and reclusive creator, Bill Watterson, not only finished the strip but withdrew entirely from public life.
In Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip, Nevin Martell sets out on a very personal odyssey to understand the life and career of the intensely private man behind Calvin and Hobbes. Martell talks to a wide range of artists and writers (including Dave Barry, Harvey Pekar, and Brad Bird) as well as some of Watterson’s closest friends and professional colleagues, and along the way reflects upon the nature of his own fandom and on the extraordinary legacy that Watterson left behind. This is as close as we’re ever likely to get to one of America’s most ingenious and intriguing figures – and it’s the fascinating story of an intrepid author’s search for him, too.
“This story of Nevin Martell’s search for the elusive Bill Watterson, the J.D. Salinger of the cartoon world, is so richly infused with the spirit of Calvin and Hobbes, the genuine innocence and affection and humor, it doesn’t even matter that the author never meets his subject. Watterson has never allowed the licensing of his work — no merchandise, no TV, no movies. After doing a few interviews in the 1980s, he wrote a ‘manifesto against celebrity’: ‘People love to have you, and then they use you up and there’s nothing left.’ Early on, Martell wrote Watterson, who disappeared from public life after he stopped writing the strip in 1995, but never heard back. Discouraged but determined, he researched Watterson’s life, interviewed friends, editors, even Watterson’s mother, visited Watterson’s childhood home in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, talked with other cartoonists, studied the influence of Peanuts, Krazy Kat, Pogo and Winnie the Pooh and pondered the effect of Calvin and Hobbes on his own life. Is this a definitive biography? No. But it’s in many ways better and truer to the spirit of Watterson’s creation.” - Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Martell, who wears his fan heart on his sleeve, travels far and wide to gather pieces of Watterson lore. He interviews former syndicate employees, comic strip artists from the past and present, and some of Watterson’s closest confidants. By doing so, Martell walks a fine line between diligent journalist and obsessive fan. But his journey is a reminder that some things can’t be recaptured, no matter how much we may wish otherwise.” - The New York Times, “The Moment” blog
“Nevin Martell’s book provides a rare glimpse of the riddle wrapped in the mystery inside an enigma that is Bill Watterson and his brilliant work, which I now know was almost called ‘Marvin and Hobbes.’” - Stephan Pastis, creator of Pearls Before Swine
“Watterson can hide, but he can’t die. His work lives on and we’re lucky to have Nevin Martell reminding us so colorfully in this joyful book.” - Berkeley Breathed, creator of Bloom County and Outland
“[A] Don Quixote story that is humorous, well-written and (if I may borrow that tired summer-reading platitude) a real page-turner.” - The Strippers Guide (It’s about comic strips, so get your mind out of the gutter)
“[T]his really is a wonderful, warm, and informative book that manages to capture just the right amount of magic about the creator and his creation.” - Comics Worth Reading
“Martell gets as close as anybody can to Watterson in a book that takes the reader behind the strip, a well-researched portrait of the cartoonist that is both fascinating and revealing.” - Currents
“…Martell provides the most comprehensive look at the life and work of one of the most influential American cartoonists. A book I highly recommend picking up.” - The Daily Cartoonist
“Martell portrays himself as a sort of gonzo Sherlock Holmes, attempting to piece together the life and career of a recalcitrant subject.” - Takoma Voice