Bill Watterson, the man behind the classic “Calvin And Hobbes,” made a surprising return to the comics section this week. Watterson secretly drew three strips of Stephan Pastis’ syndicated comic, “Pearls Before Swine” even though Watterson has essentially been a recluse since ending his “Calvin And Hobbes” strip back in 1995.
So how did Stephan Pastis lure Bill Watterson out of retirement? The “Pearls Before Swine” author was apparently a longtime fan of “Calvin And Hobbes.” Pastis once even referenced the classic comic in his own work, having his character pretend to be the “Calvin And Hobbes” author in order to pick up a woman. Pastis appears in his own strips, where he often references his poor drawing skills.
“Several years ago, when Stephan did one of his strips that mocked his own drawing ability and mentioned my strip in comparison, I thought it might be funny for me to ghost ‘Pearls’ sometime, just to flip it all on its head,” Bill Watterson told Washington Post. “It was just a silly idea, and I didn’t know Stephan, so I never pursued it, and years went by.”
But earlier this year, Stephan Pastis emailed Bill Watterson on a whim. Watterson then told Pastis he had an idea for a “Pearls Before Swine,” and Pastis did not need much convincing.
“Dear Bill, I will do whatever you want, including setting my hair on fire,” Stephan Pastis wrote back to Bill Watterson.
Bill Watterson then came up with the idea to use the money from this ghost-written strip to support Team Cul de Sac. The charity works with the Michael J. Fox Foundation to raise money to fight Parkinson’s Disease. Team Cul de Sac is named in honor of fellow cartoonist Richard Thompson, who had to stop his “Cul de Sac” comic in 2012 because of his battle with the disease.
“I thought maybe Stephan and I could do this goofy collaboration and then use the result to raise some money for Parkinson’s research in honor of Richard Thompson,” Bill Watterson continued. “It just seemed like a perfect convergence. So I explained the idea to Stephan, and he was more than happy to give it a shot.”
Originally, Bill Watterson’s idea called for Stephan Pastis’ “Pearls Before Swine” character to get hit on the head and suddenly be able to draw well. But instead, Pastis had a second-grader named “Lib” (which, Pastis noted, is almost “Bill” backward) claiming she can draw better than Pastis’ character. The cartoon version of Pastis thus let “Lib” take over the comic for the week.
“I think we both got some surprises,” Bill Watterson said of his collaboration with Stephan Pastis. “I didn’t know what he was going to write, and he didn’t know how I was going to draw it.”
The finished product of this Stephen Pastis/Bill Watterson comic strip ran in newspapers this week. But in case you didn’t see them, Pastis himself tweeted the results of his “Calvin And Hobbes”/”Pearls Before Swine” mashup. But he did not reveal his surprise collaborator until Saturday.
This week’s Pearls strips will contain a mind-blowing surprise. I promise. pic.twitter.com/bzLS9zkBdF
— Stephan Pastis (@stephanpastis) June 2, 2014
The second strip in this week’s series. pic.twitter.com/YFHCih07tp
— Stephan Pastis (@stephanpastis) June 3, 2014
Day 3 in this week’s series. The little girl can draw. pic.twitter.com/bfsXMLjbvq
— Stephan Pastis (@stephanpastis) June 4, 2014
Day 4 in this week’s series: Libby just gets better and better. pic.twitter.com/lCc7kPlWvs
— Stephan Pastis (@stephanpastis) June 5, 2014
Day 5 in the series. So who is really drawing my comic strip? Me? A second grader? Someone else? pic.twitter.com/Klx2YT5Cso
— Stephan Pastis (@stephanpastis) June 6, 2014
The three “Pearls Before Swine” strips drawn by Bill Watterson will be auctioned off at some point to raise money for the Cul de Sac charity. But if you don’t have to money to spend, you can also view the strips in person at this month’s HeroesCon festival in Charlotte.