Bill Watterson, creator of the legendary Calvin & Hobbes, in a rare interview with Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum curator Jenny Robb:
I can’t really picture the average person going to the trouble of curating his own little comic section, much less reading a new and unfamiliar strip for months to build up a relationship with it. There’s so much other content available—instantly and all for free—that there’s no reason to stick around if you’re not immediately enthralled. We consume everything like potato chips now. In this environment, I suspect the cartoonist’s connection with readers is likely to be superficial and fleeting, unless he taps into some fervent special interest niche. And that audience, almost by definition, will be tiny. It’s a very different world from the days when everyone in America knew who Popeye, Dick Tracy or Charlie Brown was.
Though he probably has a point that the audience for a given comic may never again reach the sizes common in the pre-internet era, I think the rest of this statement is inaccurate. There are lots of people enthusiastically following cartoonists’ work today – my guess is, way more than there were in Calvin & Hobbes‘s heyday. And new comics are finding success all the time, with their creators forming extremely strong connections with their readers (ask Ryan North or Kate Beaton or Joey Comeau/Emily Horne, or some other cartoonists who aren’t from Canada).
I’m sure the world of cartooning has changed a million different ways over the last decade or two, but on the whole I suspect things are much better now – for creators and for readers.
There’s a lot of other good stuff in the interview. Bill Watterson is a great guy whose work I love, and Robb also spoke with Richard Thompson, a longtime Washington Post institution as creator of, among other things, Cul de Sac.