For Joel Schroeder, the director of the documentary ”Dear Mr. Watterson” (which will be screened at the Cleveland International Film Festival in April), the decision not to contact Watterson was fairly clear from the days of pre-production. After reading Martell’s book in 2009, the choice became even more obvious — respect Watterson’s privacy. Don’t even try to reach out.
“Our choice not to pursue Watterson for an interview was the right fit for our film,” said Schroeder. “When we went to Chagrin Falls, for example, we did not pursue interviews with his parents, we did not drive past his parent’s house. It was a hands-off approach. And the reason was to try to be clear and communicate that [Dear Mr. Watterson] is not about the sensational idea of trying to track him down. It is really about the impact he had through his comic strip.”
That might be worth watching. I’ve always said that reading Calvin and Hobbes was one of the formative experiences of my life, but I’ve been equally impressed since then by the strength of Watterson’s reclusive conviction. Not that I’m producing anything of remotely comparable quality here, of course, but I can certainly relate to his need to ground his work in a humdrum, prosaic lifestyle:
“As happy as I was that the strip seemed to be catching on, I was not prepared for the resulting attention,” Watterson wrote in the introduction to The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, a 2012 compilation of all his work weighing in at more than 14 pounds. “Cartoonists are a very low grade of celebrity, but any amount of it is weird. Besides disliking the diminished privacy and the inhibiting quality of feeling watched, I valued my anonymous, boring life. In fact, I didn’t see how I could write honestly without it.”