Comic books

'Calvin and Hobbes' creator secretly returned to comics pages

June 7, 2014 at 12:34 PM ET

"Calvin and Hobbes" said goodbye in 1995, but unbeknownst to many fans, creator Bill Watterson had quietly snuck back into the comics pages the week of June 2. It turns out that the cartoonist has been contributing to the syndicated strip, "Pearls Before Swine" by Stephan Pastis.

Pastis hinted on Monday that something big was happening, but didn't reveal the surprise until Friday.

It turns out that Watterson contributed art and dialogue to three of the week's strips.

Pastis explained in his blog that the collaboration came about after he gave a nod to the beloved "Calvin and Hobbes" in his strip and emailed it to Watterson. To the "Pearls" creator's surprise, Watterson responded and said he wanted to run a comic strip idea by him. Pastis' reply? "I will do whatever you want, including setting my hair on fire."

And so the two began working together on "Pearls Before Swine," with Pastis introducing the character —second-grader Libby — for Watterson. (Shorten the little girl's name to "Lib," spell it backwards and fans of the strip got a hint about Pastis' big surprise.)

Pastis paid tribute to "Calvin and Hobbes" again in Saturday's "Pearls" strip, having little Libby say goodbye to the comics pages by preparing to sled off. The final strip of "Calvin and Hobbes," which ran on Dec. 31, 1995, featured the little boy and his stuffed tiger gliding off over fresh snow in search of new adventures.

The "Pearls" creator revealed that the reason for all the secrecy was Watterson himself.

"The only thing Bill ever asked of me was that I not reveal he had worked on 'Pearls' until all three of his strips had run," Pastis wrote. "And so I did not reveal his participation until now. And it was the hardest secret I've ever had to keep."

But Watterson's return to the comic strip pages wasn't just a fun project to share with fans — it's also going to raise money for charity. 

"I thought maybe Stephan and I could do this goofy collaboration and then use the result to raise some money for Parkinson's research in honor of ("Cul de Sac" comic strip creator) Richard Thompson," Watterson told The Washington Post. "It just seemed like a perfect convergence."

According to The Washington Post, the "Pearls Before Swine" originals that Watterson worked on will be auctioned off for charity some time after they are displayed this month at the Heroes Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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