Two decades and change after the end of Calvin And Hobbes, cartoonist Bill Watterson is now nearly as famous for being reclusive as he is for revitalizing the comic strip during that medium’s waning years. The public has heard very little from Watterson since Calvin and his stuffed tiger went exploring one last time in 1995. Leaving a successful strip at the peak of its popularity is something virtually unheard of in the newspaper business; the standard practice is to keep a successful strip going for decades and decades, even after the original creator dies (see Blondie and Dennis The Menace). Not yet even of retirement age, Watterson is now a man of leisure, the legacy of his strip secure. The affection that his name generates can be seen in this lovely animated tweet from Uproxx:
Today, his 58th birthday, is an excellent opportunity to examine Watterson’s charming early work. Nearly a decade before the debut of Calvin And Hobbes, he was a talented student at the charmingly named Chagrin Falls High School in the suburbs of Cleveland. Watterson’s familiar looking artwork is all over Chagrin Falls’ 1976 yearbook, the Zenith. Amid the caricatures of various Chagrin Falls staffers are characters who look very much like prototypes for Calvin, Hobbes, and even Calvin’s parents. A copy of the 1976 Zenith wound up on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow, alongside some other artwork from Watterson’s high school years. Viewers got to see Watterson’s high school yearbook photo with the humble caption: “A little subtle humor there… Cartoons.”
Watterson’s distinctive style is very much in evidence in this illustration that was commissioned by Chagrin Falls’ baseball coach.
The plentiful artwork by Watterson makes the 1976 Zenith an extremely rare and valuable collector’s item, which Roadshow estimates at $3,000 to $5,000.
Anyone who went to high school in Chagrin Falls in the mid-’70s is hereby advised to go rifling through their basements, attics, and garages. This could be a very profitable day.