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Rare Bill Watterson Art

A collection of artwork that you may not have seen before.


1980 Horse Watercolor: According to the seller on eBay in 2012, a letter accompanying the painting states that this is the "first attempt" of Bill Watterson at equestrian art. It also states this was done the year after Mr. Watterson graduated from Kenyon College and was employed as a "political cartoonist" at the Cincinnati Post.
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Watercolor for Rick Marschall: Bill Watterson made this watercolor in the 1980s as a gift for comics historian Rick Marschall. It was later the cover of the 1989-90 calendar.
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Portrait of Petey: Bill Watterson contributed this piece in 2011 to a fundraising project for Parkinson's research, headed by Cul de Sac creator Richard Thompson. The piece, a portrait of the character Petey, is 6" x 8" oil on board. The project is set to culminate in a book of artwork by fans of the Cul de Sac comic strip.
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Best Political Cartoons of 1978: Bill Watterson drew the cover to this 1979 book published by Puck Press.
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Bill Watterson In College:
While a student at Ohio's Kenyon College, Bill drew cartoons for the school newspaper The Kenyon Collegian and for the yearbook. Thanks to the generosity of Nat D., a schoolmate of Bill, here are scans of Bill's work from that era.
The first image is a 1979 cartoon from the Collegian and the rest are pictures from the 1980 yearbook.
NAT'S NOTES:
"I didn't know Watterson very well, but my roommate Jeff grew up with him in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. We crossed paths a certain amount. I remember I had the same history class my freshman year, and we were in different classes for the same drawing teacher, Marty Garhart. Interesting tidbit is that Jim Borgman of Zits fame was two years ahead of Watterson at Kenyon, and also studied under Garhart."
ckenyon01: "This is the original art from a cartoon that was published on February 22, 1979, and related to the standoff between Russia and China following Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia."
ckenyon02: "I seem to recall in his senior year Watterson lived in Caples dorm, the only high-rise on campus."
ckenyon04: "Campus security guards mostly were there to shut up students."
ckenyon06: "Back in those days there was only one phone per hall, so the ongoing competition was to never answer."
ckenyon12: "Several of the cartoons were originally published inverted, white on black. As you can see, it doesn't seem to have worked that well. I've inverted these back to black on white. The yearbook staff also cropped a number of the cartoons."
ckenyon17: "This one was right by the binding, so it got cut off. In the days before VCRs, we had movies at Rosse Hall on weekends."
ckenyon18: "One of the students took a cartoon from the Kenyon Collegian newspaper to use with his Senior Picture. Watterson did great caricatures of the Dean and President-- very simple, but instantly recognizable."
ckenyon21 was sent by Stan "The Man" Merrell, a college classmate of Bill who says, "this is a gag poster Bill did of one member of his 'posse,' Tom Chesnutt. You'll recognize him from one of the other cartoons you posted. Both Tom and and Asa 'Bob' Tenney made cameo appearances in Calvin and Hobbes. Tom Chesnutt also wrote a column for the Collegian as 'Pee Wee' Furnbuster that Bill illustrated." Thanks Stan!
(Click the images to view larger versions.)

Target: In 1981, the year of Bill's short-lived political cartooning career, Richard Samuel West started a quarterly journal devoted to political cartoons and the artists who draw them. Watterson wrote and drew on and off for Target until it ceased publication in 1987. Here we have the all of the covers Bill drew for Target: issues 1, 7, 12, 14, 18, and 24 (the final issue). Just for fun, I've also included an advertisement for the first Calvin book (from the back cover of Target issue 24).
(Click the images to view larger versions.)

Political cartoons (SECTION CURRENTLY UNDER CONSTRUCTION): Here are some political cartoons by Bill from his short tenure at the Cincinnatti Post in 1980 and beyond. Watterson's editorial cartooning stint actually went beyond the 6-month stint at the Post. For a few years, he drew for the Sun Newspaper chain of suburban papers. He continued to draw for them until around 1987, when he decided to focus more on 'Calvin.' Editorial cartoonist Jeff Darcy, who provided the above information, took over after Bill left. Huge thanks are due Matt Tauber for finding almost all of these and offering commentary to explain their context.
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Matt's commentary:
cpolitical01-18jun1980: This, as far as I can tell, is Bill Watterson's first editorial cartoon for the Cincinnati Post. It is from June 18, 1980. The cartoon is based on an event from two days earlier when local phone monopoly Cincinnati Bell had a phone system breakdown caused an upgrade to computer instructions. While only 2 1/2% of customers were affected, most of the 25,000 phones that went down for over three hours included major downtown businesses, making it a bigger story than it might have been.
cpolitical02-19jun1980: This cartoon is from June 19, 1980, before there was cable TV in Cincinnati. Six different cable companies were vying to be the provider. They would have plenty of time to lobby, as Cincinnati City Council would not vote to award the franchise until October 1st (to Time Warner).
cpolitical03-20jun1980: For the uninitiated, Cincinnati has a three-party political system - Republicans, Democrats, and Charterites. What's a Charterite's philosophy as opposed to the other two? I've lived here most of my life and I couldn't tell you. Maybe somebody could tell me? This cartoon was in response to a move by the Charterites that angered Democrats. The Charterites on City Council broke their long-standing political coalition with the Democrats by proposing a new neighborhood policy and holding a press conference about it, all without consulting their allies. To put them in their place, Democrat Gerald Springer (yes, that Jerry Springer), broke rank and joined the Republicans in defeating the plan. It was unclear at this point if the Democrats and Charterites would continue to run on the same ticket.
cpolitical04-24jun1980: Most people know about the tragic 1979 Who concert in Cincinnati. The concert was festival seating, so the faster you got in, the closer you could get to the front. 11 people died in the crush to get inside Riverfront Coliseum (now called the U.S. Bank Arena). Action was fast in banning festival seating from future concerts and events. Somewhat oddly, Cincinnati city safety director Bret McGinnis allowed an exemption in June 1980 for a boxing match at Cincinnati Gardens (still called the Cincinnati Gardens). Mayor Ken Blackwell was against the move. While there were no incidents, Blackwell said "we were lucky." A limited exemption for a Bruce Springsteen concert in 2002 made headline. The ban was completely lifted in 2004.
cpolitical05-25jun1980: This cartoon, from June 25th, 1980, celebrates the 10th anniversary of Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. The stadium was the home of both the Cincinnati Reds and the Cincinnati Bengals. Highlights by this milestone included Tom Seaver's no-hitter, Pete Rose's 3000th hit, and Hank Aaron's tying of Babe Ruth's home run record.
cpolitical06-30jun1980: In this strip from June 30th, 1980, Hamilton County and the city of Cincinnati were at odds over money to build a new jail for "low-risk" prisoners while a new county jail was being built to replace the Cincinnati Workhouse in 1984. The Workhouse was a massive building that dated back to 1870. It was still in use after the Hamilton County Justice Center was completed, on a limited basis, until it was demolished in the early 1990s.
cpolitical03: In this cartoon from August 7th, 1980, Cincinnati mayor Ken Blackwell is behind the wheel of a bus. At the time, a 1% increase in the county sales tax was being proposed for SORTA (Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority). Mayor Blackwell was opposed to the measure, citing it as "too costly". Watterson depicts Blackwell taking the levy 'out of service'. The proposal ultimately failed. It's interesting how the cartoon echoes today. In 2006, Blackwell was still in politics, as Ohio's incumbent Secretary of State who made a failed bid for governor. In 2007, Cincinnati had a 1% county sales tax on the ballot to fund a new jail that met defeat.
cpolitical04: In this cartoon from August 14th, 1980, Jimmy Carter had been victorious over Sen. Ted Kennedy in a convention battle over the presidential nomination. At the convention, Kennedy tried to turn some of Carter's delegates, which has shades of a possible upcoming struggle between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Here in the cartoon, a tiny Carter has felled Kennedy like David vs. Goliath. His victory will be short-lived however, with Ronald Reagan waiting to knock him into oblivion.
cpolitical05: Cincinnati's Union Terminal, like most municipal train stations, reached a crossroads in the 1970s. It had lost all passenger service by 1972 and freight operations required the rails but not the building. A new purpose had to be found to fend off destruction. Built in 1933, this Art Deco masterwork had already faced damage. The massive mosaic murals, depicting Cincinnati's fields of industry, had been saved by a loyal public when the terminal's concourse was destroyed. Here in Watterson's cartoon of August 6, 1980, a two-year plan to reinvent the Terminal building as a mall had been completed. Passenger rail had not returned, much to the chagrin of Watterson's characters. The mall idea had a big opening, but the concept became more of a novelty than a destination shopping experience. It slowly staggered to it's demise in 1984. I like the touch of the hot air balloons in the upper-left. I'm not sure if that was part of the actual grand opening or not.
cpolitical06: From August 27, 1980. I guess the ability to search student lockers is common today, but back in 1980 it was controversial. On August 25th, the Cincinnati Public Schools instated a policy that "A school principal or his designee in the pressence of an adult witness may open a locker and confiscate unauthorized, illegal or dangerous items, with or without a student present."
cpolitical07: I continue to be amazed at how hotly contested the 1980 Democrat presidential nomination process was. Perhaps in the media's quests to idealize the Jimmy Carter presidency, and therefore legitimize his statues as a Bush detractor, they've not brought it up very much. In regards to the current nomination race and upcoming convention, all we seem to here about is the violence of 1968. But I like the 1980 parallel, where a senator with a shady past (Ted Kennedy) nearly unseats the presumptive favorite (a sitting president) for the nomination. I even saw a story from early July where Kennedy floated the idea of dropping out if Carter would as well in favor of a third (unnamed) candidate. This cartoon, from August 20th, 1980, comes after the convention where Kennedy had ceded defeat to Carter. Bill Watterson depicts Carter and independent candidate John B. Anderson scrambling for Kennedy's supporters.
cpolitical08: This is from the Cincinnati Post dated July 17, 1980. The city had been experiencing an unusually high heat wave, even for July, with temps peaking at 99 degrees and no rain for relief. [A note for you younger readers, before the global warming craze it just got really hot sometimes.] In this cartoon, the statue figures on the Tyler Davidson fountain have climbed down into the pool to beat the heat. Very clever!
cpolitical09: August 25, 1980. After the great Ohio River flood of 1937, the greatest natural disaster ever to hit the Ohio Valley, a great number of levees, floodwalls and anti-flood reservoirs were put into place to make sure it didn't happen again. That's why this Bill Watterson editorial cartoon from August 25, 1980, is so confusing to me. I don't recall any flooding in 1980 and, indeed, even the '37 flood wasn't as extreme as depicted in the cartoon. Does anybody recall what he's referring to?
cpolitical11: A convention-related cartoon by Bill Watterson from July 31st, 1980. Ohio State Representative William L. Mallory, Sr. was in a small controversy over fundraising. He was trying to raise money for his trip to the convention in New York City, so he sold mock 'stock certificates' to lobbyists. His opponent filed a complaint, and an ethics panel determined that while no rules had been violated, they recommended that the rules be changed. Mallory raised a total of $270. Mallory, now retired, sired an Ohio political dynasty. Of his four sons, two are judges, one is a state representative, and one is the mayor of Cincinnati. (Note: Watterson couldn't have done this cartoon the next year, when Reagan took office and the media discovered the homeless.)
cpolitical12: This cartoon is from the July 8, 1980 editorial page of the Cincinnati Post. It depicts then Ohio governor Jim Rhodes. I couldn't find any speeches or articles in the papers from that week where Rhodes was railing against environmentalists, but I'll take Watterson at his word here. Here, Governor Rhodes is literally being dissolved by the acid rain.

This nicely painted sketch was drawn and painted early in 1986. The seller of the piece claims it was a gift for someone named "Buzzy" Gran who worked for Cricket magazine. The piece measures 8" x 6".
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In the early years of Calvin and Hobbes (1986-89), when newspapers announced the comic strip as a winner of their annual "reader polls," Watterson would occasionally draw an original sketch for their articles. I'm actually looking for fellow Calvin fans in these cities to go to the public library, look up the following reader poll articles (in microfiche archives, etc.) and see if there are any such sketches:

* Chicago Tribune - January 04, 1987
* Times-Advocate (Escondido, California) - March 08, 1987
* Westchester Rockland Newspapers (New York) - March 22, 1987
* The Press Enterprise (Riverside, California) - March 22, 1987 (doesn't appear to have anything noteworthy. Thanks to Richard for checking!)
* Sacramento Bee - April 23, 1987 (found!)
* The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin) - September 28, 1987
* San Diego Union - November 01, 1987
* Rocky Mountain News (Colorado) - December 06, 1987
* Dayton Daily News: The Journal Herald (Dayton, Ohio) - December 06, 1987
* Houston Chronicle (Texas) - January 31, 1988 (found!)
* Westchester Rockland Newspapers ("The Journal News" in New York state) - May 01, 1988
* Winnipeg Free Press - July 09, 1988 (found...thanks go out to Reed Solomon!)
* The Ledger (Lakeland, Florida) - July 17, 1988
* The State (Columbia, South Carolina) - July 10, 1988
* San Antonio Express-News (Texas) - September 25, 1988 (doesn't appear to have anything noteworthy. Thanks to "wacko2" for checking!)
* Sunday Camera (Boulder, Colorado) - October 16, 1988
* Toronto Star - November 25, 1988 (found!)
* St. Louis Post-Dispatch - December 04, 1988 (No rare images in this one. Thanks to Joe S. for checking!)
* The Philadelphia Inquirer - December 13, 1988
* The Hartford Courant - January 06, 1989
* The Chicago Tribune - January 29, 1989

Thanks for the help!


Honk! cartoons: In 1987, Bill gave an interview to Honk! magazine. (the interview and magazine cover are featured elsewhere on this site) Here are the rare cartoons printed in that article. The first is an image of Calvin and Hobbes with a caption by Bill to illustrate a point in the interview. The second item is a rare peek at Critters, one of the strips Bill created before Calvin and Hobbes. The third item is a sketch where Bill explains scientifically how he came up with new comic strip ideas.
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This one's from Bill's first feature newspaper article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a March 01, 1986 article entitled "Cartoon Caprices: Artist Finally Draws a Winner."
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Thanks are due to Calvin et Hobbes Sur Altunis and a very kind European comic art collector. This is a cute self-portrait, circa 1986-87. If you click the link to the larger version, you'll note that he is saying "Hei Kaikki!" which is Finnish for "Hello everyone!". That's from one of the Finnish book collections, where the strip is called "Lassi ja Leevi". Yet in the smaller version of the image, he is saying, "Hello to Sweden!" Thus, I believe this drawing was probably printed in more than one Scandinavian edition of the book collections.
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On April 01, 1987, an interview with Bill appeared in the L.A. Times newspaper. This drawing accompanied the article.
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Here's a self-portrait from the interview entitled "Watterson: Calvin's Other Alter Ego" in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Sunday, August 30, 1987.
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Here's a color self-portrait sketch by Bill Watterson. My thanks to Francis from Calvin et Hobbes Sur Altunis for this one!
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'Frightened' sketch: In this charming self portrait (circa 1980s), Bill lampooned his increasingly shy public persona.
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This item is a poster for a political cartoon exhibition drawn by Bill around 1986. Only 50 copies were printed and signed by Watterson. And because I have lots of free time, I've also included a couple advertisements for the poster. The first was printed in the 1987 issue of Honk! that featured an interview with Bill. The second ad is from issue 127 of the Comics Journal in February 1989. Two interesting things: First, there were still copies available nearly two years after the initial offering of this rare item. Second, you'll notice that the price had doubled in the interim. (Remember: these offers are no longer valid!)
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Here are some funny, insightful cartoons about the comic strip industry printed in issue 137 of the Comics Journal. These were illustrations that accompanied his "Cheapening Of the Comics" essay/speech. Click the images below for a larger shot of each.


Here's another image I got from Francis and co.'s Calvin et Hobbes Sur Altunis site. This is a painted self-portrait by Bill from an unknown source and date. Is he just fooling around, or is this a subtle comment on his urge to seal himself off from the public eye? Whichever, I like it a lot.
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Here's a drawing from 1991, when Bill took his first sabbatical from drawing the strip.
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A rare and very exciting find! In 1992, Bill's brother Tom Watterson had a pop/rock band called The Rels. Bill did the artwork for the band's releases, using the pseudonym Fang Wampir. The first two are scans from the cassettes. The third is a t-shirt but I'm told there may be another cassette EP with the same artwork. In case you're curious about the music, it sounds sort of like the Rembrandts with a saxophone. Good stuff and very danceable.
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This Watterson sketch is from the 1995 Bloom County retrospective, 'One Last Little Peek.' Berke Breathed writes about the sketch: "I have committed other thefts with a clean and unfettered conscience. Garfield was too calculated and too successful not to freely raid for illicit character cameos. Calvin and Hobbes was too good not to. Calvin creator Bill Watterson took these thefts in stride and retaliated in private with devastatingly effective illustrated salvos, hitting me in my most vulnerable places. Bill's sketch is an editorial comment on my addiction to the expensive sport of power boating and the moral compromises needed to fund it. That's me doing the kicking. The chap on the dock represents my cartoon syndicate boss, which says it all, methinks."
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Here we have a collection of various sketches I've seen for sale over the years. Some are very convincing, others are clearly fakes (just look at the similarity between sketches 08, 09, 14, 20, 21, 31, 39, 42, 46, and 51. Also notice sketches 04 and 07, and sketches 03, 23, 26, and 41. And don't forget sketches 10 and 29). It's my hope that by showing these you will be better equipped to judge the authenticity when these show up on eBay. I've seen many obvious fakes end up selling for hundreds of dollars and I hate to see my fellow Calvin fans get ripped off.
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