The man behind the universe of the the adored comic strip Calvin and Hobbes did some guest cartooning last week for the syndicated strip Pearls Before Swine.
Bill Watterson, who enchanted readers with the adventures of a young boy and his stuffed tiger for 10 years, made Pearls Before Swine cartoonist Stephan Pastis promise not to let anyone know of his involvement until after all the strips they collaborated on were published. So, in a blog post on Saturday, Pastis dropped a figurative comics bomb about the last three Pearls strips.
“And so I did not reveal his participation until now,” he wrote. “And it was the hardest secret I’ve ever had to keep. Because I knew I had seen something rare. A glimpse of Bigfoot.”
It’s been almost 20 years since Watterson drew Calvin and Hobbes sledding off into the great unknown. Since then, Watterson has become a recluse, the “Bigfoot” of cartooning (as Pastis put it). But his collaboration with Pastis only proves that he still has some serious chops.
Pearls is actually about a cartoonist named Stephan who draws a strip featuring Rat, Pig, Goat and Zebra. In the three strips Watterson worked on, the pair poke fun at their own collaboration as Stephan lets an eager, second grade cartoonist, Libby, draw some of his strip. Libby also illustrates Stephan as a macho, muscle stud surrounded by women in the last strip, which makes the cartoonist beg the young girl to continue working on his comic strip. It was, without a doubt, how Pastis had to feel about Watterson’s involvement.
“Let me tell you. Just getting an email from Bill Watterson is one of the most mind-blowing, surreal experiences I have ever had,” Pastis wrote. “ Bill Watterson really exists? And he sends email? And he’s communicating with me?”
Watterson and Pastis dropped jokes in the strips like Libby complaining about not having enough space (which is one of the reasons the legendary cartoonist retired) and that comic strips are a dying art form. Also, in the strip that ran after the three collaborations, Pastis recalls the final Calvin and Hobbes strip as Libby is all set to leave and go sledding.
“But it is not even snowing,” Stephan says.
“Do I need to hit him over the head with this symbolism?” Libby asks Rat.
“HIT HIM OVER THE HEAD!! HIT HIM OVER THE HEAD!!” Rat screams.
Check out the strips below.