WHEN BILL Watterson and Stephan Pastis decided to collaborate on three “secret” comic strips for charity, they didn’t know just how much they might raise for Parkinson’s research.
Over the weekend, to their surprise and satisfaction, they got their answer.
Three separate collectors paid more than $74,000 total for the original cartoons, according to Dallas-based Heritage Auctions. The three syndicated “Pearls Before Swine” strips — which ran in hundreds of newspapers in early June — featured Watterson’s return to the comics page for the first time since he ended his beloved strip “Calvin and Hobbes” nearly two decades ago, at the end of 1995.
“I had no idea what collectors would think of these collaborative strips, but the result was certainly fantastic,” Watterson tells The Post’s Comic Riffs, “and I’m very pleased we were able to raise so much money for Team Cul de Sac.”
Team Cul de Sac is the charity founded by Virginia-based “Cul de Sac” creator Richard Thompson and web designer Chris Sparks after Thompson received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
“I’d like to thank Stephan Pastis for agreeing to do this, Chris Sparks for organizing and promoting the auction, Heritage Auctions for giving their percentage to the charity, and all the bidders who made this so successful,” Watterson tells Comic Riffs.
The strip that drew the highest bid — of $30,000, prior to the buyer’s premium — features a large robot rendered in Watterson’s inimitable style. All three winning bidders chose to remain anonymous, the auction house said.
“Wow, I never thought they would sell for so much money,” Pastis, the “Pearls Before Swine” creator, tells Comic Riffs. “That’s the power of Bill. [It] feels great to just be a part of it.”
Neither cartoonist announced Watterson’s brief return to the comics page prior to the June publication of the three strips, which Pastis scripted. The strip’s shift in artistic style set off some optimistic speculation among die-hard Watterson fans, and his return made international headlines after the two cartoonists officially announced the collaboration via Comic Riffs at the end of that week.
The three strips combined sold for about $62,000 prior to the auction house’s premium — about half of which Heritage is donating to Team Cul de Sac, which is affiliated with the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
“Since we started in 2010, the response and love to Team Cul de Sac has been astounding,” Sparks tells Comic Riffs. “Richard and I have some wonderful friends, and we just want to say thank you for the continuous support — Stephan Pastis and Bill Watterson has been involved with TCDS from early on, and we are so proud to have their ongoing support.”
Watterson and Thompson had a joint exhibit of career retrospectives at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at the Ohio State University in Columbus; the shows ran through last week.
Team Cul de Sac has raised more than $82,000 this year for Parkinson’s research, Sparks says, placing it among the Fox Foundation’s top team fundraisers.