Say I wrote a book and it took off and then one day I got a call from a Hollywood producer who was offering me a hundred thousand dollars to option it for a film. Would I stop for one moment to ask if that is the right thing to do? Or would I say “A hundred grand? You kiddin’ me? Where do I sign?!” Sigh. Probably the latter.
It is that sorry fact that makes me admire those who would pause to consider if it is the right thing (and not simply whether this is the best offer). And it makes me admire all the more those who turn down such offers on principle.
That’s the most important reason why “Calvin and Hobbes” is my favorite cartoon strip (though hilarity, boundless creativity and philosophical profundity help too). Bill Watterson always refused to license Calvin and Hobbes for any products because he recognized that the world has enough junk but not enough laughter.
I first learned about Watterson’s commitment not to commercialize Calvin and Hobbes in the article “A tale of two kitties” from Christianity Today which contrasted Watterson with the intense attempts to commercialize the most marketable aspects of C.S. Lewis’ literary estate, Narnia and that other kitty, Aslan.
I thought of this today when I read the article “Is Garfield supposed to be funny?” in Slate which discusses how Jim Davis created that utterly banal third kitty Garfield with the specific intent of developing a brand that could exploit the marketplace and end up on all those blank calendars and mugs that Bill Watterson would pass by.
I think what most depressed me was not that Jim Davis had always been motivated by the bottom line (I never much cared for Garfield anyway) but rather that I’m like that too, more a Garfield than a Hobbes … sans the success of course.