Last year, self-described pop culture archaeologist Nevin Martell embarked on a quest to find reclusive Calvin and Hobbes creator and Chagrin Falls resident Bill Watterson. The 35-year-old chronicled his journey in Looking for Calvin and Hobbes, (Continuum, $24.95). We talked to Martell about his book on Watterson and his work.
You write that getting an interview with Watterson is “tantamount to catching the Loch Ness Monster with a 5-pound fishing line.” What motivated you to try?
I was really drawn to the singularity of the path he chose to take. He never licensed [Calvin and Hobbes]. There’s really no one out there like him who is offered an eight-digit salary a year and turns it down.
You wrote a letter to Watterson humbly requesting any form of correspondence. How long did it take to write?
I rewrote that letter more times than I rewrote my wedding vows. [I thought,] Maybe if I wrote it just right, the next thing I know he’d be calling me up and we’d be having coffee together. It took me a couple weeks to rewrite and a couple more weeks to get up the gumption to send it.
What’s the most satisfying thing you found out about Watterson?
No one had ever done any long-form writing on him before. I uncovered a series of editorial cartoons he did for the Sun newspapers just when he came out of school.
What did you learn about yourself?
It was far more challenging a project than I could have ever imagined. It reconnected me with my childhood and why I love to write. I’m really glad I did it, not just as a book but as a journey.