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‘Calvin and Hobbes’ Creator Contributes Rare Artwork

Web cartoonist Dave Kellett did a voice-only interview with cartoonist Bill Watterson for his new comics documentary, “Stripped.” Watterson, who retired his beloved “Calvin and Hobbes” strip in 1995, further supported the project with this poster art. “Stripped” will be released on April 1.  Illustrates WATTERSON (category e), by Michael Cavna © 2014, The Washington Post. Moved Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Courtesy of Sequential Films)

Web cartoonist Dave Kellett did a voice-only interview with cartoonist Bill Watterson for his new comics documentary, “Stripped.” Watterson, who retired his beloved “Calvin and Hobbes” strip in 1995, further supported the project with this poster art. “Stripped” will be released on April 1. Illustrates WATTERSON (category e), by Michael Cavna © 2014, The Washington Post. Moved Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Courtesy of Sequential Films)

Nearly two decades after he last sent Calvin and Hobbes exploring, Bill Watterson got an offer he decided not to refuse.

Web cartoonist Dave Kellett had done a voice-only interview with Watterson for his new comics documentary, Stripped. Now, Kellett had an even bolder proposal: Would Watterson — who retired his beloved Calvin and Hobbes strip in 1995 — consider providing the film’s poster art?

“Aside from supplying a few sentences to the documentary, I’m not involved with the film, so Dave’s request to draw the poster came completely out of the blue,” Watterson said recently in an exclusive interview. “It sounded like fun, and maybe something people wouldn’t expect, so I decided to give it a try.

“Dave sent me a rough cut of the film and I dusted the cobwebs off my ink bottle.”

Soon, Watterson was rendering an image that never would have passed the syndicate censors during his Calvin and Hobbes days: An adult springing to full-color life in all his dorsal nudity.

“Given the movie’s title and the fact that there are few things funnier than human nudity, the idea popped into my head largely intact,” Watterson told The Washington Post. “The film is a big valentine to comics, so I tried to do something really cartoon-y. I had thought of having it colored with off-registered printing dots like newspaper comics, but Dave asked if I’d paint it instead, and I think he made the right call.”

Stripped, by Kellett and fellow Los Angeles-based filmmaker Frederick Schroeder, features more than 60 cartoonists who talk about the state of the comic-strip industry. In the film, Watterson eloquently speaks to the emotional bond that readers form with comic-strip characters as a function of the daily strip ritual.

In a rare interview, Watterson spoke to The Post in 2011 about his professional admiration for Cul de Sac creator Richard Thompson. That same year, in support of the Team Cul de Sac charity for Parkinson’s research, Watterson created his first public art since the mid-1990s.

Next month, the work of Watterson and Thompson will go on exhibit in a two-man show at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University in Columbus. “His originals are just incredible to see up close,” Watterson said last year of Thompson’s work.

As for his second public artwork since 1995, Watterson said told The Post Wednesday: “It’s a silly picture that sums up my reaction to the current publishing upheaval, so I had a good time, and I hope it brings the film some attention.”

The Stripped DVD will be available April 1.