Jewish World Review August 5, 2003 / 7 Menachem-Av, 5763
Where have you gone, Calvin, Opus and Cow?; fine feathered friend pecking on itself
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Q: What are Bill Watterson, Gary Larson and Berke Breathed up to these days, having bailed out on the wonderful world of comics? - Daniel
A: They were the Three Musketeers of the comics page - innovative, funny and cool. Then acck phht! Bill the Cat was no more. The insects and cows and bears wandered off. And bop! Calvin hit a big bump on his toboggan and flew right out of the paper.
In 1995 Breathed stopped giving life to Opus and the gang in Bloom County and Larson stopped teaching the funniest natural science class in the country in The Far Side. The next year, Calvin and Hobbes skipped off the comics page (and, in decal form, onto the back window of pickups all over America).
But where did those swashbuckling cartoonists go?
The answer, mostly, is away. All three said the pressure to deliver a creative strip to millions of fans day after day for years finally wore them down.
That was particularly true for Watterson. The 44-year-old has virtually disappeared. He lives in the village of Hudson, Ohio, where locals leave him alone. He paints, spends time with his wife, Melissa, and avoids the media and fans at all costs.
Perhaps two facts best illustrate Watterson's absolute insistence on privacy:
1. He tells those close to him that he still regrets posing for a newspaper photographer - in 1986. That photo is the last public picture of him that shows his full face.
2. While he could be making millions on Calvin and Hobbes merchandising, he has never pursued licensing. He doesn't want to cheapen his strip - or to deal with the hassle or publicity.
Breathed, 45, lives in Southern California with his wife, wildlife photographer and psychotherapist, Jody Boyman, their daughter Sophie, their son Milo, and three rescued mutts. He continues to work on greeting cards featuring his Bloom County characters, and has written children's books and animated films for TV.
Larson, 52, also hasn't entirely abandoned cartooning. He's made two animated films and written a children's book. He lives in Seattle, where he has an office in a high-rise.
Which brings us to our favorite Larson story. When the Dayton Daily News of Ohio picked up the Far Side, the paper positioned it next to another one-panel strip, Dennis the Menace. One day the newspaper accidentally switched the captions for the two strips. The result was that Dennis said to his doting mom, "I see your little, petrified skull labeled and resting on a shelf somewhere." This Larson line was supposed to come from a Neolithic fortune teller, talking to a caveman.
FINE FEATHERED FRIEND PECKING ON ITSELF
Q: For nearly two weeks now, a redbird has been flying into our patio window. For the first week or so, the bird would do it at least a hundred times a day. Why? - Bill Hensley
A: We occasionally look in the mirror and see our worst enemy. This birdy, seeing its reflection, thinks it has a rival and is trying to fight.
What you want to do is eliminate the bird's reflection. There are several different approaches you can take:
Turn on a light inside the window.
Spray soapy water on the window with a plant mister and allow it to dry.
Place a temporary, non-adhesive decal near the bird's favorite spot on the window.
Tape a few strips of paper on the outside of the window.
Name the musicals in which the following Broadway show tune lines appear.
1. "Ev'ry night my honey lamb and I sit alone and talk and watch a hawk makin' lazy circles in the sky."
2. "Tote that barge. Lift that bale. Get a little drunk and ya land in jail."
3. "Would it spoil some vast, eternal plan, if I were a wealthy man?"
4. "Touch me. It's so easy to leave me."
3. "Fiddler on the Roof"
Appreciate this column? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.