CLEVELAND (AP) Tom Wilson Sr., the creator of the hard-luck comic strip character Ziggy, has died, his family said Monday. He was 80.
Tom Wilson Jr., who took over the comic in 1987, said his father died Friday of pneumonia at a Cincinnati hospital. The elder Wilson had moved from Cleveland to a Cincinnati nursing home about eight years ago to be near his family, his son said.
Wilson was an artist at American Greetings card company in Cleveland for more than 35 years and first published Ziggy in a 1969 cartoon collection, "When You're Not Around."
Ziggy was launched in 15 newspapers in 1971 and now appears in more than 500 daily and Sunday newspapers. It also has appeared in books, calendars and greeting cards.
Tom Wilson Jr. said the name Ziggy derived from his father's school experience of being the last alphabetically. When a new classmate arrived with a last name beginning with "Z," the idea took root with the friendly sounding "y'' ending, such as Billy or Tommy.
"Ziggy is a last-in-line character," the son said in a phone interview. "The last picked for everything and kind of a lovable kind of loser character."
"I had a 'y' at the end and 'z' at the beginning, so the word Ziggy just fell into place. That became his name," was the way Tom Wilson Sr. described it, according to his son.
Tom Wilson Jr. said his father was always optimistic.
"He was a passionate and charismatic man, it came out in everything he did," he said. "He loved ideas and he loved creating that was really what drove him. He wasn't a loser in that sense because his passion just came out and inspired everyone around him."
Wilson was "a visionary cartoonist," said John McMeel, chairman and president of Andrews McMeel Universal, which owns Universal Uclick, formerly known as Universal Press Syndicate.
"Tom leaves behind a wonderful legacy in Ziggy, a hard-luck comics page hero who serves as a reflection of Tom's endearing wit and optimism in the face of adversity," he said in a statement.
Ziggy also starred in the ABC Christmas special, "Ziggy's Gift," which won a 1983 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program and was re-released on DVD in 2005.
Universal Uclick, which syndicated the Ziggy column, said Wilson also was head of a creative team that developed the Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears character licensing.
"Tom Wilson had a unique gift for producing creations that stirred imaginations and touched people's lives," said Hugh Andrews, chief executive officer and president of Andrews McMeel Publishing.
Besides his son, Wilson is survived by his wife, Carol, and daughters Ava and Julie.
This message has been edited by AnnyBoo on Nov 9, 2011 2:06 PM
May all the bastions of insipid mediocrity perish as soon as possible.
EDIT: Holy shit that sounded cold - I don't mean I wish death on any of the creators. I mean I want the strips to disappear. Ideally the editors of the newspapers of the world would sack up and do what everyone wishes they would and excise these demons from our daily perception by failing to renew their syndication contracts.
A friend and I in college used to "re-purpose" Family Circus cartoons and hang them on bulletin boards throughout the school.
I remember one I did that was a picture of the family playing miniature golf and one of the kids is holding up a club and saying something insipid about how he likes holes in one the best. I changed the caption to read, "Time out? TIME OUT? I'll bash your fucking head in, old man!"
I loved the confused looks on professors and students alike when they would read the captions expecting some saccharine bullshit and get that stuff instead.
And then there's the absolute genius of Garfield without Garfield:
Thanks for the link, Hep. Garfield minus Garfield is brilliant and hilarious in a sad kind of way.
Family Circus may have been one of the worst ever. How that dude made a living on that steaming crap pile boggles the mind. Didn't you love the "Bill Keane takes a vacation so this week little Billy will draw for him" strips. Seriously? That's all you can come up with this week? WTF?
I think what these insipid strips are is SAFE. They don't generate letters to editors. They take up space without doing anything controversial, so they run on and on in their zero value added torpor and people don't expect to actually be enteratained by the funny pages any more and zzzzzzzzzz
I used to work in a print shop in California. Bill Keane came in one time to make a copy of his comic strip while he was visiting a relative. The girl I worked wanted to tell him that she never laughed at a single comic strip he wrote.
Does this mean "little Billy" will take over full time now? Or will they be smart enough to admit that this strip was targeted at an American sensibility that no longer exists?
Are we listing our hopes for the next strip to die? I would not wish for a person to die.
I guess I'd be satisfied with ending all instances of reprinting comics from currently dead guys, like papers that print 'classic' versions of Dennis the Menace (1950's audience?) and Peanuts (60's and 70's?)...
Agreed, Squid. There hasn't been even one redeeming drop of ink in the comics for...probably decades. Though, I was never a big fan of most of the classics, either (Garfield, Peanuts, Beetle Bailey, etc). The "funny pages", for me, started and ended with Bloom County. Berke Breathed is a gawd among men. Oh, and Calvin was good.
I read some quote (to lazy to find it) in an article today that said Bil Keane realized when he published a strip (can you call a one panel comic a strip? but Jude digresses...) where Jeffy says to his parents something about needing a hug and he got more mail about that then when he published the "funny". So, he goes on to say that he realized that his comic wasn't really about the funny, but the relating. So, there's that.
I remember as a kid that I loved the ones where he would track the kid's path through the yard, the neighbors, the house, whatev after mom asked the kid to take out the garbage or whatever. Totally loved those!
ETA: And TEAM DJ... i loved Peanuts. Especially when the holiday specials were on TV. We got to eat in the living room, in front of the TV, on TV trays!