Unlike his fellow illustrators, Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbesnever redeemed. There were no hot collabs and no immersive experiences that promise to plunge fans into its whimsical world; Devil, watterson doesn’t even have licensed t-shirts and souvenir coffee mugs. But this rejection of commercialism has not diminished the value of the American cartoonist work– if anything, it increased it.
At auction on November 17, an original hand-colored work by Watterson sold for an artist-record $480,000. The Sunday strip, which shows six-year-old Calvin and his tiger companion attempting to travel through time, has been launched market through Heritage Auctions at his Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction.
Dated May 24, 1987, it is only the second such Watterson film to appear at auction. As with the last auction a decade ago, the strip was a gift, in this case to Lee Salem, the influential editor and later president of Universal Press Syndicate, which gave the Ohio native his breakthrough. The nine-part work is signed with the words: “To Lee with best wishes – Bill.”
“We felt strongly that this would be a record, especially given the backstory and the quality of the strip,” Todd Hignite, vice president of Heritage Auctions, told Artnet News. “But given the scarcity of these gems, we never knew how far that would go. To say that we and the consignor were delighted would be an understatement.”
The only other flick to have nearly hit half a million dollars is the very first Flash Gordon by Alex Raymond, published in 1934 and also sold for $480,000. The auction included a second lot of Watterson’s iconic characters, a one-piece ink drawing from 1988 showing Calvin and Hobbes reading a newspaper. It sold for $120,000.
First printed in 1985, the charming and often quiet, profound adventures Watterson created ran through 1995. At their peak, the cartoons appeared in more than 2,400 newspapers and are now among the most popular comic strips ever created.
“Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise Calvin and Hobbes is easily one of the most popular comics of all time,” said Hignite. “That strip was emblematic of the qualities that made it so popular. It deserves to be the most valuable one, at least until the next one shows up at auction.”
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