Friday, October 19, 2007

Bill Watterson "Let's make a terrific comic strip- then PISS ON IT- AND ALL IT'S FANS!"

Read my efforts to explain why Bill Watterson's example should NEVER be a cartoonist's template for the right way to treat your characters or your devoted readers. I can't make it any clearer than this--If you can't grasp the entirety of the concept of licensing and why it's a necessity to protect your creation of a comicstrip and allow you to control its direction, publication, and all other uses, I really don't know what else I can say...

Earlier today, on Cartoon Brew, I was challenged as follows:

Dan OS said:
“Just a quick thought on the Watterson / merchandising topic — sorry to detract from the bio-talk.
Watterson decided not to merchandise the characters. So he didn’t.
But if he had (as I’m understanding it), the company he’d be in business with, would, ideally, clamp down on unlicensed crap being put out with his characters on it.
But when this company isn’t busy fighting the Calvin-peeing-on-stuff decals, they’re presumably still churning out well-crafted, made-with-loving-care Calvin and Hobbes bath mats or pencil sharpeners or what have you, right?
And isn’t that what Watterson didn’t want to do?
Again, maybe I’m misunderstanding, but there seems to be some leap in logic here. Why on earth should anyone blame him because there are jerks out there stealing his characters? Is it because you think he’s making it easy for them to do? Because he didn’t sign on with a big muscle company to fight the jerks — a company that would then require Calvin and Hobbes merchandise to hit the aisles?
Maybe your argument is that Watterson could have okayed “good” merchandise and, while he was at it, gained muscle in the fight against “bad” merchandise.
But the thing is, Watterson didn’t want “any” merchandise.
So he is not authorizing any.
How the people who make and buy “peeing Calvin” sleep at night is not the concern of Mr. Watterson. The idea that someone chastise him or blame him for the unauthorized junk that comes out seems kind of crazy.
Please tell me where I’m not understanding.”

Bill Field responds:
Watterson’s reasoning for not licensing CnH, in one of the few interviews he’s ever given, was to not distract from the strip, and it’s daily publications. That, we know now, was not true, because he allowed the licensing for all the book compilations. Yeah, did you think licensing only refers to trinkets, toys and paper weights? Your post clearly indicates that “he didn’t want any merchandise”. Duh, books AREN’T merchandise? Tens of millions of books have been licensed and published, some containing stickers, book marks and cut outs– he never explained his hypocracy, refuses to be interviewed about the subject. The strip isn’t published and available daily, but the Piss stickers, the vast majority of which are figurally completely on model, and the line art is taken from a panel of an actual strip where he is writing on a wall, are seen by a much larger audience, daily, than the strip ever was. After well over a decade, the general public has been “exposed” to the bootlegged Urinator countless times more than they are given a rare chance to read an actual strip, they’ll never read the strip nor enjoy the great creativity of his writing and drawing, they know only a perverted “Kilroy was here” type of image, with no link to it’s original funny page appearances. Complete licensing would have allowed him to pick and choose the images and the types of product that he saw fit, to put them on, and a task force of folks to enforce it.He was told by his contemporaries (I seem to remember among them were Gary Larson, Schulz, and Jim Davis) that it was idealistic to think that, because the control of a property starts with its protection against bootlegging and forgeries. I hope that clears it up for you.

Jesse Hamm said...
"Watterson’s reasoning for not licensing CnH, in one of the few interviews he’s ever given, was to not distract from the strip, and it’s daily publications. That, we know now, was not true, because he allowed the licensing for all the book compilations." I don't recall Watterson ever saying he wanted to limit C&H's exposure to "it’s daily publications." That addendum to his views only makes sense as a means of justifying your accusation that he's a hypocrite for allowing book collections. If you can't grasp the difference between the literary integrity of a book collection and that of a coffee mug, read Watterson's thorough explanation of his position on licensing in THE C&H TENTH ANNIVERSARY BOOK.


Jesse Hamm said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bill Field said...

I have left Jesse Hamm's comment in tact- with the exception of one point backed up with a source that I question after reading through it. I didn't change the context of anything Jesse Hamm said, and appreciate the thoughtful comments

Benjamin De Schrijver said...

All I know is that I never think about the Piss stickers when I read the strip, and it certainly doesn't affect how much I love them. Great work isn't any less great because it isn't promoted or marketed well. Great work might have not been great if the author had to spend half of his time fighting about licensing deals. Okay, that might be an overstatement. Fact is, many people love Calvin & Hobbes, and it might have not been the same if anything in his life, let alone dealing directly with the comic, went any differently than it did.

Steve Carras said...

Watterson supposedly peed on his fans by not fighting the merchanside of Calvin urinating , even though merchandise for him supposedly = Watterson no no!

Finally, he first then peed on his fans THEN decided such merchandise showing similair activity fit Calvin';s (and Watterson's image.)