Calvin and Hobbes fan. So is Nevin Martell.
You didn't have to give me anything to learn that beyond a few mouse clicks and seconds of your time. You'd have to give Martell $24.95, unless you were lucky enough to find his Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and his Revolutionary Comic Strip in a used book store.
Martell, the author of a couple of rock profile/biographies, set out to write the story of the comic strip, drawn by Ohioan Bill Watterson from 1985 to 1995. Given the fact that Watterson detests publicity, despises celebrity and doesn't do interviews, a potentially insurmountable obstacle looms early. Martell never interviews Watterson, relying on book introductions and older interviews for his comments about the strip. Looking is never able to get past the elephant that isn't in the room, since Watterson's interviews were all done fairly early in the strip's run, focusing on some facts about his life and about where he got his ideas and such, and Martell is interested in the impact Calvin and Hobbes had on popular culture and newspaper cartooning in general.
Interviews with a few other cartoonists provide some hints about that impact, but none of those interviews really cover enough to be a real examination of it. The chapter with those remarks as well as some by non-cartoonist famous people reads like pure page filler.
There is an interesting arc that shows as Martell describes the history of the strip and its increasing fame -- Watterson is, clearly, a guy who wants to draw his comic strip and be left alone to do so. His initial irritation with the demands of notoriety, like interview requests and celebrity-style recognition, increases over time until what started as a kind of reclusiveness turns into active dislike of anything that doesn't connect directly with drawing C&H.
Watterson's dislike of merchandising C&H -- which produced a nearly career-long battle with his syndicators -- also plays a role in his desire for seclusion, as well as prompting him to throw some serious broadsides against cartoonists who do merchandise their characters when he speaks at public occasions, often when the people he's attacking are present. In essence, the pressure of the conflict between Watterson, who wanted to draw his comic strip, and everybody else, who wanted to make lots of money off Watterson and his comic strip, seems to inspire the artist to act like a jerk.
He can still do so today, apparently, because he simply never responds to Martell's interview request, rather than sending a letter declining it or having an agent do so. Nothing in Martell's earlier work would prompt anyone to think that he's the guy to write some kind of definitive study of newspaper cartooning in the late 20th century or that he would produce anything with any great insight, so Watterson's decision not to be interviewed is pretty understandable. But simple politeness might seem to dictate sending a letter doing so in response to the letter requesting the interview, and Watterson doesn't bother with that.
I'm kind of interested now to see where I put some of those old C&H books and flip through them again and enjoy them -- so I guess Martell's book served some purpose after all.