The 1986 strip up for auction.
(Credit: Heritage Auctions)
Since he retired the strip in 1995, Bill Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes has gained a massive fan following. Now, in an extremely rare event, one of the original strips is going up for auction.
Bill Watterson is something of a rarity in the comics industry. A reclusive man with a firm belief in artistic integrity, he has refused to license his work since the closure of the strip on 31 December 1995, after it had run for just 10 short years. He fought with his publishers about merchandising, and will not part with his original art or sign books.
The strip that's now up for auction, dated 19 October 1996, is not part of Watterson's collection. He gifted the art to fellow cartoonist Brian Basset, who, according to the Daily Cartoonist, made the decision to part with the strip due to financial difficulties.
The piece will be auctioned off at Heritage Auctions' Vintage Comics and Comic Art Signature Auction this week on November 15-17; however, bidding is now open, with the current bid at time of writing at US$65,000. It's expected to bring in at least twice that.
The description reads:
The art is in artist marker pens and watercolour on thin bristol board, with an image area of approximately 13x9 inches, matted to an overall 18x15 inches. Some of the black lines (in particular, the lettering) had very slightly faded, and there is clear plastic tape applied by Universal Press when adding positioning marks and the syndicate credit, but these hardly detract from the subtle beauty of the line art and colouring — not to mention the playful dialogue between Calvin and his faithful imaginary companion, Hobbes. We love the mention of the "drive-in classic" film, The Blob, in the final panel. And Watterson has added a personalised inscription to his friends, Brian and Linda Basset, with a funny reference to the strip's gag line.
While on the one hand, this might be a fantastic opportunity for a fan of the strip to get a piece of history, we can't help feeling a pang of sympathy for Basset — or wondering what Watterson himself makes of the sale.
You can find the auction on the Heritage Auctions website here.