When Mental Floss interviewed Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson back in 2013, the artist was enjoying retirement and busy painting for his own enjoyment rather than public exhibition. “I don’t paint ambitiously,” he said. “It’s all catch and release—just tiny fish that aren’t really worth the trouble to clean and cook.”
In the interim, it appears Watterson has found something worth the effort. On Tuesday, October 10, Andrews McMeel Publishing released The Mysteries ($18), a 72-page “illustrated fable for grown-ups” from Watterson and artist John Kascht. The plot: “A long-ago kingdom is afflicted with unexplainable calamities. Hoping to end the torment, the king dispatches his knights to discover the source of the mysterious events. Years later, a single battered knight returns.”
Watterson is credited as the author and both Watterson and Kascht as the illustrators. According to the publisher, Watterson worked “in unusually close collaboration” with Kascht for several years and both artists stepped away from their established methodology for the project, “inventing images together that neither could anticipate—a mysterious process in its own right.”
Andrews McMeel released a video detailing their creative process, which Watterson likens to "driving a car with two steering wheels," a challenge the two grew to appreciate. The footage also reveals the structure behind the images, which includes collage, clay, and model work.
The Mysteries comes roughly 28 years after Watterson concluded Calvin and Hobbes in 1995. The strip became a cultural sensation: Calvin’s anti-authoritarian attitude and wild imagination struck a chord with readers. Watterson opted to end it after just 10 years, a rarity for newspaper strips that can run for decades and eventually see work subcontracted to other artists. Famously, Watterson also avoided exploiting his creations, limiting merchandising to a few calendars.
His work has appeared only sporadically since. In 2014, he drew strips for artist Stephan Pastis’s Pearls Before Swine. That same year, he created the poster art for the comic strip documentary Stripped.
The Pennsylvania-based Kascht is best known for his watercolor and line caricatures of public figures, including Conan O’Brien and Stephen King. Some of his works are housed in the National Portrait Gallery.
You can find The Mysteries on Amazon for $18.
A version of this story ran in February 2023; it was updated in October 2023.