RANDOM - Great Words from Bill Watterson
In the last week I bought (and have been enjoying) the Complete Calvin Hobbes. 3 beautifully bound books that take a comprehensive look at arguably the greatest comic of all time.
While reading about creator Bill Watterson - the question of licensing his iconic characters came up. Despite a guaranteed massive payday - it was something he's always resisted (the stupid stickers of Calvin peeing on a Ford logo or kneeling at the cross are NOT legal, licensed or approved)
Here's what he had to say about licensing his characters commercially.
"Everyone is looking for the next Snoopy or Garfield, and Calvin and Hobbes were imagined to be the perfect candidates. The more I thought about licensing, however, the less I liked it . . . In an age of shameless commercialism, my objections to licensing are not widely shared . . . I have several problems with licensing.
First of all, I believe licensing usually cheapens the original creation. When cartoon characters appear on countless products, the public inevitably grows bored and irritated with them, and the appeal and value of the original work is diminished. Nothing dulls the edge of a new and clever cartoon like saturating the market with it.
Second, commercial products rarely respect how a comic strip works. A wordy, multiple-panel strip with extended conversation and developed personalities does not condense to a coffee mug illustration without great violation to the strip's spirit. The subtleties of a multi-dimensional strip are sacrificed for the one-dimensional needs of the product. The world of a comic strip ought to be a special place with its own logic and life. I don't want some animation studio giving Hobbes an actor's voice, and I don't want some greeting card company using Calvin to wish people a happy anniversary, and I don't want the issue of Hobbes's reality settled by a doll manufacture.
When everything fun and magical is turned into something for sale, the strip's world is diminished. Calvin and Hobbes was designed to be a comic strip and that's all I want it to be. It's the one place where everything works the way I intend it to. Third, as a practical matter, licensing requires a staff of assistants to do the work. The cartoonist must become a factory foreman, delegating responsibilities and overseeing the production of things he does not create. Some cartoonists don't mind this, but I went into cartooning to draw cartoons, not to run a corporate empire.
I take great pride in the fact that I write every word, draw every line, color every Sunday strip, and paint every book illustration myself. My strip is a low-tech, one-man operation, and I like it that way. I believe it's the only way to preserve the craft and to keep the strip personal. Despite what some cartoonists say, approving someone else's work is not the same as doing it yourself. Beyond all this, however, lies a deeper issue: the corruption of a strip's integrity. All strips are supposed to be entertaining, but some strips have a point of view and a serious purpose behind the jokes.
When the cartoonist is trying to talk honestly and seriously about life, then I believe he has a responsibility to think beyond satisfying the market's every whim and desire. Cartoonists who think they can be taken seriously as artists while using the strip's protagonists to sell boxer shorts are deluding themselves . . . When a cartoonist licenses his characters . . . the strip has no soul. With its integrity gone, a strip loses its deeper significance."
By the time that Watterson had to make this important decision - he was likely already in a good enough financial position where he could say no to the kind of payday that awaited him if he chose to license the characters. That said - it's inspiring (and not much is these days) and refreshing to see a person choose to uphold the integrity of their art as opposed to milking it for as much cash as possible without regard to the consequences.
I don't fault anyone for making a buck - it's not an easy thing to make a living as an artist - which is why I respect Watterson that much more for the decision that he made.
I have found that one of the toughest life balances as an adult is reconciling decisions made in the name of "work" and "making a living". The games played, the decisions made are often not the ideal ones on a personal and/or professional level. However, they are necessary for survival. Survival at work and ultimately survival in maintaining the lifestyle that you want to live. It's not easy and gets increasingly complicated with time.