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Cartoonists Discuss 'Calvin' Requirement; Some of the Creators Interviewed by E&P Support Bill Watterson's New Sunday Size/format Requirement While Others Oppose It

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Cartoonists Discuss 'Calvin' Requirement; Some of the Creators Interviewed by E&P Support Bill Watterson's New Sunday Size/format Requirement While Others Oppose It

Article excerpt

While most newspaper editors going public with their feelings have criticized the Sunday "Calvin and Hobbes" size/format requirement, cartoonists have mixed opinions.

For instance, "The Family Circus" creator Bil Keane vehemently opposes Bill Watterson's half-page requirement while "Fox Trot" creator Bill Amended enthusiastically supports it.

"Newspaper editors complain that the Sunday |Calvin and Hobbes' restricts their options," stated Amend. "My response is that cartoonists have been operating under tight restrictions for many, many years. I embrace any progress toward loosening that."

Amend said cartoonists often see the top row of their Sunday comics lopped off, their panels arranged in various configurations, and their strips as a whole reduced in size.

He observed that all this affects the creative process, including the way cartoonists use color, where they place their characters, and so on. Amend added that cartoonists have to make sure all their art and dialogue can withstand extensive shrinkage, which can lead to simplified and mediocre efforts.

Amend--who, like Watterson, is with Universal Press Syndicate--said he would rather see Sunday comics sections carry a small number of big, well-done strips than a lot of "generic things the size of post cards."

Many newspapers, Amend stated, are too concerned with quantity and variety in their comics sections. "Quality ought to count as well," he declared.

Amend noted that many broadsheet papers have been conducting "business as usual" since Watterson returned from sabbatical February 2 by cramming the half-page tabloid version of "Calvin" into their pages. While Amend observed that Watterson's format is still intact--clients can no longer drop or rearrange "Calvin" panels--he believes these broadsheets are still doing a disservice to their readers.

"I hope they'll sit back and see that if they have this big, beautiful comic, why ruin the page by squishing a vertical strip nest to it?" said Amend.

Watterson, he continued, will be "putting on a little clinic" during the next few months--showing newspaper editors, cartoonists, and readers what can be done with the new "Calvin" size and format.

"As a trailbrazer, Bill is the perfect guy to do it," declared Amend. "If anyone is up to the challenge to deliver the goods artistically, he's the one."

Amend said he himself has a "feeling of anticipation" when turning to the post-sabbatical "Calvin" every Sunday, wondering what "unexpected" things Watterson will do with the size of his panels and so on. He added that he hopes readers getting the same sort of enjoyment from "Calvin" will express this to their newspapers.

What about the perception that it was arrogant of Watterson to seek the half-page requirement? "He wasn't just asking for the space out of some ego trip," said Amend, who corresponds periodically with the reclusive cartoonist. "He really has a vision of what he wants to do with the space, and he knows he has a serious responsibility now that he's gotten it . . . . Bill is a conscientious artist with a great passion for the art form."

The "Fox Trot" creator added, "Bill would be one of the first to jump for joy if all cartoonists were given a half page to work with. But |Calvin and Hobbes' is te only comic he has a say over. I'm thrilled Universal backed him."

Keane was not as complimentary about Watterson and his size/format requirement.

"I don't agree with it," said the King Features Syndicate creator. "I can see why he wants to do it for himself, but it is a disservice to other cartoonists. It diminishes the space other cartoonists get or forces newspapers to drop strips."

While papers could theoretically enlarge their Sunday comics sections to prevent his, Keane noted that he bad economy and the cost of newsprint makes such an expansion unlikely. …

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