The Early Work of a Genius

Buzzfeed linked to this website earlier this week, prompting a number of other blogs to do the same so that it eventually wound up on my radar. It’s a quite interesting collection of artwork done by Bill Watterson, the man behind the Greatest Comic Strip of All Time.* Of particular interest is the collection of one-panel cartoons he drew while a student at Kenyon College, apparently for their 1980 yearbook (so about 6 years before he began”Calvin and Hobbes”). I like them because you can certainly still discern his particular artistic style, and in fact, I think a few of the faces or facial expressions are recognizable as well.  For example, the girl modeling in this comic strip is pretty clearly Rosalyn the babysitter, right?

A couple more that I like are below the fold:

This one pretty clearly features Calvin’s mom during her first year as a creative writing major, or something like that.

One of the perks of being a physics student is that you don't have to write any essays that you can be laughed out of the office for...

After all, she passed those same “I’m about to cry” eyes on to Calvin:

And last but not least, tell me you don’t spot quite a bit of Hobbes in the bouncy fellow in this strip:

Something about the nose, and in particular, the goofy, lopsided, open-mouthed grin. I can’t find an example right off the top of my head, but I’m sure I’ve seen it on Hobbes before, usually mid-pounce I think. The main character in the strip looks familiar too; I am positive his face has been used as one of Calvin’s classmates, in some Sunday strip I think. But I cannot remember enough details at the moment to find it.


Interestingly, in the website above also has some of the political cartoons Watterson did after college, and the art style is quite different and less reminiscent of our favorite dynamic duo. He’s clearly trying to adopt the classic “political cartoon look.” Thank goodness he realized he had not quite found his true calling! There are also some neat cartoonish self-portraits at that website, including this one, which is my favorite:

Not a bad likeness of the man himself!




* If you follow that link, it takes you to a wonderful website where (for the time being at least) you can search a database of Calvin and Hobbes cartoons based on keywords from the dialogue or the description. It’s perfect for those moments when you think, “wasn’t there a C&H about this”? Note that if you click on the “view strip” links, you will get error messages; however, if you simply click in the URL bar and hit enter (to reload the page without hitting “refresh”) then the strip will pop up. I don’t know why.


About Colin West
Colin West is a graduate student in quantum information theory, working at the Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics at Stony Brook University. Originally from Colorado (where he attended college), his interests outside of physics include politics, paper-folding, puzzles, playing-cards, and apparently, plosives.

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