A QUARTER-CENTURY ago, Brian Basset and Bill Watterson did what many cartooning peers do as an act of camaraderie: They swapped originals.
As with interview access to the “Calvin and Hobbes” creator himself, though, access to Watterson’s dazzling original artwork soon became an increasingly rare thing — both before and after he ended his legendary strip in 1995. So it made headlines recently when Basset — creator of the strips “Red and Rover” and “Adam@Home” — decided to put his prized 1986 Watterson original up for auction, citing that he was in a financial pinch.
Now, the record windfall from the Watterson gift should certainly help.
Over the 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, the Dallas-based Heritage Auctions told Comic Riffs on Saturday. (The hammer price before tacked-on premiums was $170,000, a Heritage official told us.)
“A world record price like this is a testament to just how beloved ‘Calvin & Hobbes’ was and is,” Todd Hignite, Heritage Auctions vice president, says 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.”
The previous reported record for the sale of a comic-strip original at auction was $113,500, in 2007, for a “Peanuts” original.
“I am absolutely thrilled and blown away with the final tally,” Basset tells Comic Riffs on Monday.
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,” continues 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 year I owned it.”
In putting the piece under the gavel, Heritage said 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 expressly 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 told Comic Riffs 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.”)