The Los Angeles Review of Books put out an article called “Selling Out the Newspaper Comic Strip” recently. Most of the article deals with Bill Watterson of Calvin & Hobbes fame and his fiery criticism of merchandising one’s art.
The article compares him to the legendary Charles Schulz (Peanuts) and to a lesser extent, Jim Davis (Garfield), the latter of which specifically designed his creation to be mass-merchandised.
The article is worth reading in its entirety as it is too long to be posted here, but Watterson’s general attitude is carried in the following quote:
“Cartoonists who think they can be taken seriously as artists while using the strip’s protagonists to sell boxers shorts are deluding themselves.”
Watterson’s view isn’t unique. Dave Sim voiced similar views in not wanting Cerebus the Aardvark on t-shirts, lunchboxes, posters and so on sold in Sears, K-Mart or other chain stores.
So where do I stand on all this? These are differing opinions that I can’t say as being right or wrong. In the end, it is entirely up to the creator.
As for me, I wouldn’t mind having Rusty and Sam on t-shirts or as plushes. I already do limited merchandising in the form of prints I sell on DeviantArt. If anyone wants to do so with my characters, please contact me!