A quarter-century ago, Brian Basset and Bill Watterson did what
many cartooning peers do as an act of camaraderie: They swapped
Then access to Watterson's dazzling original artwork from "Calvin and Hobbes" became an increasingly rare thing - both before and after he ended his legendary strip in 1995. So it made headlines when Basset - creator of the strips "Red and Rover" and "AdamHome" - decided to put his prized 1986 Watterson original up for auction, citing that he was in need of money because of a financial pinch.
The record windfall from the Watterson gift should certainly help.
Last weekend, the hand-colored Sunday original - a 13-by-9-inch marker-pen-and-watercolor on Bristol board - sold for a record- shattering $203,150, Dallas-based Heritage Auctions said. The hammer price before tacked-on premiums was $170,000, a Heritage official said.
"A world record price like this is a testament to just how beloved 'Calvin & Hobbes' was and is," Todd Hignite, Heritage Auctions vice president, said in a news release, referring to the creators of "Peanuts," "Little Nemo in Slumberland" and "Popeye." "The final price realized tops any offering from any cartoonist ever, including the giants like Charles (Schulz), Winsor McKay and Elzie Segar."
"I am absolutely thrilled and blown away with the final tally," Basset said.
As is customary with many Heritage auctions, the house declined to identify the buyer out of respect to the buyer's wishes. But Basset was able to convey the recipient's reaction.
"I did find out, though, from the auction house that the proud new owner - a cartoon collector - of the Watterson original is equally thrilled with their purchase.
"This makes me feel great," continued Basset, who has noted he had economic needs with a divorce in the rear-view mirror and matrimony on his road ahead. "I was hoping it would go to someone who would enjoy it as much (as) I had for all the years I owned it."
Heritage noted that this was "the first time this century that a 'Calvin and Hobbes' comic strip original (was) being offered at public auction." Heritage included the Universal Press Syndicate artwork as part of its weekend-long Vintage Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction.
In February, a Watterson original illustration (not a strip), first published in a 1989-90 "Calvin and Hobbes" calendar, sold at auction for $107,550.
And in July, an original Watterson oil-on-board painting of "Cul de Sac" character Petey Otterloop - created for the Team Cul de Sac charity auction/book for Parkinson's research - fetched $13,000 at auction. The 2011 painting was believed to be Watterson's first public art in more than 15 years.
In a rare interview, Watterson talked about this interpretation of Petey Otterloop last year: "I thought it might be funny to paint Petey 'seriously,' as if this were the actual boy Richard hired as a model for his character."
The previous reported record for the sale of a comic-strip original at auction was $113,500, in 2007, for a "Peanuts" original.
Bill Watterson's "Calvin and Hobbes" began publishing in syndication Nov. 18, 1985. The strip focused on the exploits of a young boy and his stuffed tiger.
On Sunday, Dec. 31, 1995, the 3,160th and final strip of the series ran.
The final scene depicted them both walking off into a snowy scene, where Calvin said to Hobbes, "It's a magical world, Hobbes ol' buddy! Let's go exploring!"
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