Books and Movies Reviews

Calvin and Hobbes

Commercialization: A Cheapening of Art
Bill Watterson is a man of principles who voices his convictions and enforces them with his actions. This essay lays out the claim of value that commercialization of comics detracts from the quality of the art. Watterson never compromised his vision of how he viewed his characters-even if it meant sacrificing millions of dollars and fighting syndicates for years.
Watterson's "Calvin and Hobbes" was an instant success, too big in fact for Watterson's liking. As soon as he became a household name, his battle with Universal Press Syndicate began. Commercialization is the name of the game in the comic industry. Dolls, mugs, T-shirts, TV cartoons, these were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to turning "Calvin and Hobbes" into a multi-million dollar profit center. Watterson's opinion on this subject is very different in respect to other cartoonists, "I believe licensing cheapens the original creation….nothing dulls the edge of a new and clever cartoon like saturating the market with it" (reemst.com 1). He did not want licensing or commercialization whatsoever and literally turned down millions of dollars because of his firm belief in keeping the spirit of the comic fresh. Naturally, his syndicate was not about let this go without a fight, and he spent the next five years trying to maintain control over his own creation. Eventually, his contract was re-negotiated and his wishes respected.
When a cartoonist and his or her syndicate have a clash about money, it is usually because the artist wants more, not less. They wanted to exploit the comic and get more exposure, fame, and money from it. However, Watterson made his wishes clear to Universal Syndicates; he wouldn’t license “Calvin & Hobbes” for commercial use, no matter what. If they would not abide by his wishes, he would quit the job. The integrity of the characters was the most important…

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