Is Bill Watterson Guest-drawing on Pearls Before Swine?

At the beginning of this week Pearls Before Swine cartoonist Stephan Pastis mentioned that something “mind-blowing” was upcoming in this week’s story-line:


In Monday’s strip, Pastis’s neighbor (Pastis appears as a character in the strip), a little girl named Libby, taunts Pastis about his drawing ability. In the following strip, she shows off her own drawing chops in the strip’s second panel:

pb140604The panel here didn’t strike me as being as Watterson-y as it did to some people. Watterson had a very distinctive way of drawing trees and that tree with the spot black leaf area didn’t jibe. Also, the mixed case lettering here looks a lot like the lettering in Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley:


This, though, is probably just because it’s in mixed case, which you don’t see a whole ton in newspaper comics. Unlike the rest of the characters–and unlike Calvin and Hobbes–the crocs in Pearls Before Swine speak in mixed case rather than all caps.

Those shoes, though, really do look like Watterson-drawn shoes.  Here’re some shoes from Pearls,  C&H, and Watterson’s recent illustration for the Stripped documentary:


The following strip (Thursday, July 5th) pulled out all the stops Watterson-wise:



The second panel features some very Watterson-y stuff–the way the skyline fades into the ground, the spaceships with “headlights”:


The final panel’s “if I had more space” gag could easily be a reference to Watterson’s well-known battles with newspapers over the ever-shrinking space allotted to newspaper comics.

In both strips, the guest lettering is remarkably similar to Watterson’s, including Watterson’s tendency to write “A”s slightly smaller than the other letters.

If this isn’t Watterson’s work, then it’s the best Watterson imitation I’ve ever seen. His style is notoriously hard to mimic and his work is so well-loved that imitations tend to stand out like a sore thumb. (Oy, don’t get me started on that “Zen Pencils” thing…)

If it is Watterson, it wouldn’t be a total surprise. He hasn’t done any strip cartooning since he retired Calvin and Hobbes, but he has engaged with the comics scene a bit of late, which he’s not done in a long, long time. He granted an interview earlier this year, wrote the introduction to the forthcoming Complete Cul de Sac, and (as referenced above) did an illustration for the comics documentary, Stripped.

Stay tuned for Friday’s Pearls Before Swine


Friday’s strip again featured a guest panel from “Libby” and folks seemed to find it the least Watterson-y of them all and I’d agree with them…


…except for the drafting table and chair. Note that they’re virtually identical–down to the way the in progress comic strip is taped down–to the drafting table and chair in the Stripped poster:


Update the Second:

Yep, it’s Watterson.

Here’s the whole story on Stephan Pastis’s blog.

And here’s a write-up in the Washington Post… that obliquely mentions this very post!



  1. Josh Renaud says:

    It is worth noting that Pastis always uses up-down lettering for the crocodiles in Pearls. It makes them seem more juvenile. So Watterson is just continuing that style.

  2. Ben says:

    Yeah, I mention that above. Also: the Gasoline Alley lettering has the little “hook” on the bottom of the “t” and the guest lettering in Pearls does not.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>