In 1980, Watterson graduated from Kenyon College in Gambier
with a degree in political science. Immediately the Cincinnati Post offered him a job drawing political cartoons for a six-month
"The agreement was that they could fire me or I could
quit with no questions asked if things didn't work out during the first few months. Sure enough, things didn't work out, and
they fired me, no questions asked.
My guess is that the editor wanted his own Jeff MacNelly
(a Pulitzer winner at 24), and I didn't live up to his expectations. My Cincinnati days were pretty kafkaesque. I had lived
there all of two weeks, and the editor insisted that most of my work be about local, as opposed to national, issues. Cincinnati
has a weird, three-party, city manager-government, and by the time I figured it out, I was standing in the unemployment lines.
I didn't hit the ground running. Cincinnati at that time was also beginning to realize it had major cartooning talent in Jim
Borgman, at the city's other paper, and I didn't benefit from the comparison."
— Watterson explaining his
short career with Cincinnati Post
Calvin and Hobbes was first published on November 18,
1985. Bill Watterson wrote in his Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book that his influences include Charles Schulz, for
his work in Peanuts; Walt Kelly for his comic, Pogo; and George Herriman for Krazy Kat. Watterson's style also reflects the
influence of Little Nemo in Slumberland, a popular early 20th century comic strip by Winsor McCay.
Watterson spent much of his career trying to change the climate
of newspaper comics. He believed that the artistic value of comics was being undermined, and that the space they occupied
in newspapers continually decreased, subject to arbitrary whims of short-sighted publishers. Furthermore, he opined that art
should not be judged by the medium for which it is created (i.e., that there is no "high" art or "low" art, just art).
Watterson opposed the structure publishers imposed on newspaper
cartoons: the standard cartoon starts with a large, wide rectangle featuring the cartoon's logo, and the strip is presented
in a series of rectangles of different widths, limiting the cartoonist's options of allowable presentation. Watterson managed
to gain an exception to these constraints for Calvin and Hobbes, allowing him to draw his Sunday cartoons the way he wanted.
In many of his strips, the panels overlap or contain their own panels; in some the action takes place diagonally across the
Watterson also battled against pressure from publishers to merchandise
his work, something that he felt would cheapen his comic. He refused to merchandise his creations on the grounds that pasting
Calvin and Hobbes images on commercially-sold coffee mugs, stickers and t-shirts would devalue the characters and their personalities.
He also refused to allow the strip to appear as an animated series.
Watterson was awarded the National Cartoonists Society Humor
Comic Strip Award in 1988, and awarded the society's Reuben Award in 1986 (he was the youngest person ever to receive the
award). In 1988, Watterson received the Reuben award again, and he was nominated again in 1992. Following his 1992 nomination,
the National Cartoonists Society declared that no artist could win the award more than once.
The last strip of Calvin and Hobbes was published on December
31, 1995. Since retiring, Bill Watterson has taken up painting, often drawing landscapes of the woods with his father. He
has also published several anthologies of Calvin and Hobbes strips. Living in relative seclusion in Chagrin Falls with his
wife Melissa, Watterson refuses to sign autographs or give interviews, emerging only occasionally into the public eye. On
December 21, 1999, a short piece called "Drawn Into a Dark But Gentle World," written by Watterson to mark the forthcoming
end of the comic strip Peanuts, was published in the Los Angeles Times, and most recently in October of 2005, Watterson answered
fifteen questions submitted by readers. The Wattersons have been seen sometimes roller skating at the rink in Chagrin Falls.