Make Comics Forever!!

Make Comics Forever is a forum for cartoonists dedicated to improving their productivity. This is not a forum for wimps! This is not a forum for flakes! We are here to share tips and techniques on how to produce more work and better work. Become a comic-making machine! Join the discussion now! To become a member, email a request to robyn @ un-pop.com

Friday, November 04, 2005

Bill Watterson's Speech at Kenyon College

Bill Watterson, he of Calvin and Hobbes, delivered the commencement speech at his alma mater Kenyon College in 1990.

It's pretty much a must read.

I went looking for it online today and found it pretty easily.

Read it and let's talk about it.

14 Comments:

At 4:37 PM, Anonymous SkullyFlower said...

That was great. Thanks for posting it. I couldn't agree more with his message.

I've lost friends to "success" and seen corporations eat people and wring what they can out of them. It's hard being "the talent'. Business will treat you like any other natural resource that their profit margin depends upon. You need to be careful.

 
At 5:57 PM, Blogger Dr. Syn said...

Where do we begin?......I recognized myself at several points of the speech. Thanks for finding it!

 
At 10:08 AM, Blogger CamChes said...

I read that speech several years ago, but was glad to come across it again. His sense of personal priorities and ethics are very provoking and insightful. I wonder if I would be able to do the same...
Thanks Mal.

 
At 12:37 PM, Blogger Drew said...

I've always admired watterson for doing what he did with the strip, and after reading this.... i bow down to him.

 
At 5:18 AM, Anonymous wiLbur said...

just playing devil's advocate really -- but whilst i also greatly respect the integrity watterson shows, i've never quite understood his reasons for denying any merchandising of c&h....

i mean how exactly does the existence of a few lunch-boxes and t-shirts stop him from producing the strip the way he wants to ?

the reasons i've read him give before seem a little flimsy -- he wasn't sure which version of hobbes should be made into cuddly toys for example (surely 'live' hobbes, the one we recognise and see most of the time in the strip)

when i was a kid it was all peanuts stuff everywhere -- i didn't buy into it too much, the only thing i remember having was a snoopy roughneck flask, but it was nice to see your fave character on your flask, y'know -- it cheered you up if you were feeling low...

where's the harm in it? i suppose i'm saying -- did watterson take it all a little too seriously?

 
At 7:30 AM, Blogger Hope Larson said...

Before I was attempting to make my living from comics, and was floating around in art school on my parents' dime, I thought Watterson had the right idea. But frankly, it's much easier to make ethical decisions when you're ALREADY a successful cartoonist. The vast majority of people in comics are in a very different situation than Watterson's, with publishers who don't know how to promote their artists and can barely afford to pay them. If it becomes an issue of moral superiority verus feeding yourself, or living any but the barest, most frugal life, I bet you'd take the money and run. Because I would.

 
At 8:10 AM, Anonymous wiLbur said...

y'know, i don't think it would be that easy, even for a successful cartoonist...

 
At 11:31 AM, Blogger CamChes said...

I really think his reasons for refusing to merchandise his characters can linked very much to his personality as well as his ethics. In his brand new introduction that he has written in the new Complete C&H books, his point of view has mellowed somewhat, and he makes significant effort to express his gratitude to people that he worked with at the syndicate. He really does not like the attention of media, and is quite private. I think limiting Calvin's exposure to the media/merchadising machine, helped him protect his privacy as well.

 
At 8:41 PM, Blogger Neil said...

I think Hope makes a great point--though I think it's good to remember that if Watterson didn't have such high ethical standards, Calvin & Hobbes would not exist in the first place. He was offered a syndication deal for some licensed character when he was working for a grocery store (probably not that much better off than most cartoonists struggling to become professionals today), and he turned it down, only to later create C&H. So I don't feel that his principles were always the result of having it easy...

 
At 10:43 AM, Blogger robyn said...

I think Waterson fought merchandizing because it would have turn his creation into commodities, not ideas. He loved his ideas too much. He's a principled guy. It was the right stance for him. Plus, he'd seen the Garfield-ization of strips. He didn't want to go that road.
Mal, thanks for posting this! I'd never read it before. Useful and inspiring.

 
At 12:48 PM, Blogger Mal Jones said...

Glad everyone enjoyed it.

I think a big point to make in this is that Watterson mentions in his speech "The so-called "opportunity" I faced would have meant giving up my individual voice for that of a money-grubbing corporation".

Meaning that he would've lost, what seems to me to be, creator rights on something he had created and brought up on his own. That's a crappy deal no matter how you look at it, and it really solved the problem for me of wondering if Watterson actually to his ball and went home (I think that sometimes).

For me, the inspiration lies in the fact that you don't always have to go for the big bucks to be successful. Sometimes, heck yeah, but know your battles.

 
At 6:30 AM, Blogger Tim Tylor said...

Bill had some more to say about merchandising in a 1989 speech. He's not absolutely against it, but if it's done crudely and greedily it can distort people's perception of a strip, and prevent the creators from experimenting and developing their work.

 
At 3:03 PM, Blogger Kurt Ankeny said...

I understand how some people can question Bill Watterson's decision to avoid the commercialization of C&H, but if we look back seriously at the strip, how often did Calvin or Hobbes rail against the commecialization and commodification or some other by-product of greed?

I think Watterson understood that a major part of the charm and success of C&H was its sincerity when it came to urging us to be decent human beings instead of Consumers.

How would a few C&H products have affected that charm? Well, I think a lot of corporate people hungering after a piece of merchandizing pie would have found that hypocrisy sells really poorly.

Thanks for that speech, I hadn't read that one before.

Kurt

 
At 3:27 PM, Blogger Lee said...

I'm a big fan of Watterson's, and think that Calvin and Hobbes more than anything else lead me to a career in art, but I recently received some contrary information about him recently and thought it worth posting.
I'm currently working for a greeting card company owned by a former editor at Universal Press (he won an emmy for producing a few "Cathy" cartoons in the 80's). His version of the story is that Watterson WANTED the "Robotman" job, but was turned down. He also says that Watterson begged for the deal he got, stating that his wife was about to leave him, and that he was near bankruptcy. He said that this is where a lot of the resentment from the syndicate comes from, they felt like they were helping him out, and then he threw them under the bus.
I'm sure this version of things is not 100% accurate, but there is probably some truth to it. Thought it was worth mentioning, if only to play the devil's advocate.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home