The Cartoonists

   by Susanna McLeod            Susanna@thecartoonists.ca

Cathy Guisewite, Creator of Cathy

20 April 2001

   Cartoonists are often asked how they came up with the idea for their strips and how they continue to find ideas. The answer was easy for Cathy Guisewite, creator of Cathy. She drew her life.

    The cartoonist drew her personal foibles into panels, sketching her problems and successes with weight, the frustration of dating and a guilt-producing mother. (She had been 50 lbs overweight in college, but is now a svelt 5' 2" and 100 lbs.) Guisewite added her love of fashion and her career-woman life into the mix and Ta-Da: The comic strip Cathy was created. The popular cartoon hits a nerve with millions of readers, especially women.

    Cathy Guisewite was born in Dayton, Ohio on September 5, 1950 to parents William Lee, now a retired president of an advertising agency, and Anne Guisewite, a retired advertising copywriter. She has two sisters, Mickey (Michelle) and Mary Ann. She attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and earned a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1972. Cathy spent five years working as a writer with advertising agencies after graduation and left her position of Vice-President with W.B. Doner & Co. Advertising in 1977.

cathy1

   As Cathy drew her cartoons, "summing up my disasters of the day," she frequently showed them to her parents. Her mother insisted often that Cathy must send them into syndicates and researched the possibilities for her daughter at the library. Cathy finally gave in and said, "I sent the drawings just to get Mom off my back." She had a contract from Universal within a week's time. A rare opportunity for a new cartoonist.

The comic strip Cathy appeared in a few dozen newspapers under syndication with Universal Press on November 22, 1976. It was the first cartoon to portray the dilemmas and joys of a young and single working woman.

    Cathy now is in print in almost 1500 newspapers world-wide with 70 million fans and translated into more than a dozen languages. There are more than 30 books and an array of licenced products that include watches, mugs sleep wear and panties, stationery, cake pans and much more.

   Cathy Guisewite has several television specials. She won an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program in 1987 for her first animated program. In 1993 she won the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year from the National Cartoonists Society. She was only the second woman to win the award after Lynn Johnston (creator of For Better or For Worse).

    Guisewite insists on doing her own art and writing, and has assistants who take care of everything else. She finds that listening to depressing music and munching m&m's produces her best writing.

    She asked her syndicate that the strip be called anything but Cathy because, as she said on CBS "This Morning", "You know, it's fairly humiliating, because I've, you know, I think that most of my best work comes out of real moments, you know, the moments -- the fight between a woman and her freezer at 3 in the morning and the fight between a woman and her closet. And these are things you don't necessarily want to admit to 70 million people."

    Cathy adopted her daughter Ivy as a newborn in 1992 when Cathy was in her early forties. She married husband Christopher Wilkinson, a Hollywood screenwriter/director, in 1997. He brought to the new family his son Cooper, born in 1996. They met at her daughter's playgroup and celebrated their engagement at a Chuck E Cheese restaurant in Los Angeles. Their home is in the San Fernando Valley in California.

    For leisure, Cathy likes to shop, play tennis, ski and go to movies. Her cartoon favourites include Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes. Cathy's words of wisdom: "Anything is possible if you listen to your mother."

cathy2

UPDATE 2004:
   Cathy Guisewite has decided to take a turn in the plotline of Cathy. The cartoon Cathy will marry Irving, her long-time, on-and-off boyfriend in February, 2005. The year will be filled with the hilarity of wedding planning and future plans.

Cathy cartoons can be enjoyed at: http://www.gocomics.com/cathy/

 

Cathy Collectibles can be found at: http://www.janicewise.com/cathy.html

 
© Susanna McLeod 2001
TheCartoonists.ca  
         
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on suite101.com.)