Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Calvin" Meets "Cul de Sac"

  Michael Cavna in Comic Riffs

Bill Watterson’s oil-on-board tribute artwork of “Cul de Sac” character Petey Otterloop was the cartoonist’s first new public art in more than 15 years. The painting fetched $13,000 at auction last year for Team Cul de Sac’s charity project to fight Parkinson’s. (courtesy of Bill Watterson / Team Cul de Sac 2011 - .)

Bill Watterson and Richard Thompson are ‘happy’ to share new two-man Ohio State University show next March.

When Bill Watterson visually takes in a Richard Thompson artwork for the first time, his eyes seem to smile even before his mouth does. Behind the glasses is the joy: One comic master appreciating the genius of another.

That is the swift physical reaction that conveys in a mere poetic moment what the “Calvin and Hobbes” creator later relates in straight-ahead prose.

“His originals are just incredible to see up close,” Watterson tells Comic Riffs this week.

Fortunately for comics fans, they, too, will get a new opportunity to see Thompson’s remarkable originals up close. The beautiful works of Watterson and Thompson will jointly go on exhibit next March in a two-man show at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at the Ohio State University in Columbus.

And like Watterson, art lovers can explore new treasures in Thompson’s portfolio trove — well beyond his Universal Press Syndicate strip that he ended last September as he received treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

“ ‘Cul de Sac’ is Richard’s best-known work, but it’s just the peak of the mountain of cartoons he’s created,” Watterson tells Comic Riffs of his fellow Reuben Award-winning cartoonist. “I’m still discovering all sorts of beautiful illustrations and caricatures I never knew he’d done, so I’m guessing a lot of people are unaware of the variety of Richard’s work and the deep range of his talent.

“I hope this show will be the first step in remedying that. ... ,” Watterson continues about the exhibit in his home state. “All this inspiring work in a big, new museum — it should be a lot of fun to see, and I’m very happy to be a part of it.”

For his part, the Arlington-based Thompson — who for years created freelance illustration, as well as “Cul de Sac” and “Richard’s Poor Almanac,” for The Washington Post — appreciates sharing a show with Watterson, who ended his beloved “Calvin and Hobbes” in 1995.

“The thought of my stuff on a gallery wall makes me happy enough,” Thompson tells Comic Riffs. “To share that wall with a man whose work I admire like Bill Watterson sends me over the moon.

“If they include velvet ropes and potted ferns, I’ll be flat on my back.”

Given how smartly and enthusiastically the folks at the library know how to roll out a red carpet, there may well be floral sentries.

“We’re looking forward to exhibiting the work of two wonderful cartoonists, Bill Watterson and Richard Thompson, in the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum’s new exhibition galleries from March 22 to July 6,” curator/ professor Jenny E. Robb tells Comic Riffs today in a statement.

In addition to the show at the Billy Ireland library/museum — which next month will host its triennial Festival of Cartoon Art — Thompson recently announced that his publisher, Andrews McMeel, will come out next May with “The Complete Cul de Sac,” a 656-page set of books that includes an inspired introduction by the Pulitzer-winning Art Spiegelman.

An art book that spotlights Thompson’s entire career is also planned for 2014.

Andrews McMeel and Universal Uclick also recently announced that, for the first time — in what they hail as a “momentous milestone” — they will come out with “Calvin and Hobbes” e-books. Formatted for tablets, “The Essential Calvin and Hobbes,” “The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes” and “The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes” will be available Nov. 12, for $12.99.


Elsewhere, the filmmakers behind the Kickstarter’ed project “Dear Mr. Watterson” just announced that the documentary will be available for download and On Demand Nov. 15.

The tribute docu — directed and produced by “Calvin and Hobbes” fan Joel Schroeder — will screen at the Savannah Film Festival (Oct. 28 and Nov. 2) as it kicks off a fresh run of screenings at more than a dozen theaters around the country. “Dear Mr. Watterson” features interviews with such cartoonists as Berkeley Breathed, Jef MallettStephan Pastis and Keith Knight, as well as such top Andrews McMeel/Universal Uclick editors as Lee Salem and John Glynn.

If Comic Riffs had one fitting wish for the film, it would be this: That among the cartoonists interviewed on camera had been ...

Richard Thompson.

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