Tom Wilson and Tom Wilson II, Creators of Ziggy

21 September 2001

   Goodness! Ziggy creators, Tom Wilson and his son Tom Wilson II, are celebrating Ziggy's 30th birthday this year! Ziggy is a short little character, a chubby, round-headed fellow who is bursting with optimism. The adorable character has no neck. He has no hair. His feet resemble plasticene molded into a general foot shape. And he is most definitely loveable and huggable.

    With captivating little black eyes, Ziggy wears an expression of both naivete and wisdom. Those eyes draw the reader in to share his successes and troubles. How can two small dots and a squiggle for a mouth do all that?

    Ziggy not only appeals to all types of people, he appeals to all generations. Occasionally, the cartoons carry a theological message of awe and hope,kindness and compassion. There is no hostility to be found in the Ziggy cartoon.

    The character's captivating nature did not come around by accident. OnZiggyzone.com, Tom Wilson, creator of Ziggy, said he wanted his character to appeal to a mass audience, and so he was careful to avoid things like age, occupation and background.

ziggy

    Wilson noted that, "I wanted readers not just to laugh at Ziggy, I wanted them to know him, to empathize with him and of course, to enjoy him. To help achieve this, I tried in many of the daily panels to establish eye contact between Ziggy and the reader. My objective was to create an emotional rapport between Ziggy and his audience." He smoothly reached his goal with a character almost every one can sympathize and identify with.

    The Ziggy panel emerged, rather than burst, from Tom's imagination. The character, who just kept showing up in Wilson's earlier work, demanded to be seen. Ziggy finally meandered into circulation in 15 US newspapers under the Universal Syndicate in 1971. Ziggy, his dog Fuzz (who looks a lot like his owner except he has a dog body and dog ears), his parrot Josh, cat Sid, duck Wack and goldfish Goldie have entertained approximately 75 million fans world-wide in nearly 600 newspapers.

    Tom Wilson is a creative man who can spot a good thing before its time. As Creative Head with American Greetings for 35 years, he displayed a strong intuition for anticipating successful future trends in greeting card lines. He also was involved in the licensing of characters such as "Care Bears" and "Strawberry Shortcake". (And Ziggy, too!)

    The creative spirit has led Wilson into fine art and his works are shown in exhibits throughout America. He participates in the Society of Illustrator's New York annual show.

    Tom Wilson II, the son of Tom Wilson, is a creative man in his own right. He studied graphic design at Miami University, and continued in fine art and illustration at Boston University. He graduated in 1981 with a BFA. Tom II took a position at Amtoy in New York City as Director of New Product Development.

    Surrounded by an artistic family, it was the childhood dream of Tom II to be a cartoonist. He achieved his aim in 1987 when he took over the drawing of Ziggy. He also left Amtoy and now uses his expertise as Vice President of Ziggy and Friends, the company established by his father. The senior Tom has retired from the daily operations.

    Tom II seems truly as fond of Ziggy as his dad. "I've always felt that Ziggy speaks to us and for us in a very special and intimate way... Many cartoon characters are very funny, but very few have come to occupy such an important place in so many hearts and lives."

ziggy2

    The CBS Christmas special, Ziggy's Gift won an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Special in 1982. In the show, Ziggy plays the part of a street corner Santa collecting money for charity. He finds out that the donations are only going to the boss, not to charities.

    Ziggy continues to be a big hit in the greeting card industry. He has sold millions of cards in a cross section of messages, from weddings and birthdays to comfort and graduations. The character is now being licensed through Ziggy & Friends for use by a number of companies.

    It will soon indeed be a Ziggy world with his expressive round face appearing on posters, mugs, rubber stamps, bookmarks, t-shirts, photo frames, magnets, pencils, notebooks, stickers, keychains, backpacks, calendars and different dolls.

    Ziggy can be enjoyed in books, from collections to treasuries. The newest book isZiggy's Friends for Life, a 30th Anniversary Tribute to Zig from All of His Friends, Andrews and McMeel, publisher. Other titles (by the same publisher) give a taste of the humour to be savoured inside:

Working is a lousy way to earn a living. Ziggy
A rumor in his own time.
Never get too personally involved in your own life.
Plants are some of my favorite people.
Life is just a bunch of Ziggys.

    The wonderful sense of humour radiating from both Tom and Tom II shines throughZiggy and his friends. They give readers a feeling of connection and a really satisfying chuckle.

Ziggy's home page is great. Lots of interesting stuff here. Look under free stuff to find a large selection of wallpaper to download to your computer:
http://www.ziggyzone.com

Read Ziggy's daily panel:
http://www.gocomics.com/ziggy/home/strip.phtml

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