Last September the world of Cartooning lost one of its greats. Tom Wilson was indeed a legend. His single panel strip “ZIGGY” could say so much with so little space. And although it’s been since 1987, when he handed the reigns over to his son Tom Wilson Jr., the affects of senior’s efforts will continue to live on in so many syndicated papers.
Thomas Albert Wilson (August 1, 1931 – September 16, 2011), better known as Tom Wilson, was an American cartoonist. Wilson was the creator of the comic strip Ziggy, which he drew from 1971 to 1987. The strip was then continued by his son, Tom Wilson, Jr.
Wilson’s career began in 1950, doing advertisement layouts for Uniontown Newspapers, Inc. In 1955, he joined American Greetings (AG) as a designer, becoming Creative Director in 1957 and vice-president of creative development in 1978.While at AG he developed the Soft Touch greeting card line.He also served as president of Those Characters From Cleveland, AG’s character licensing subsidiary.
The Ziggy comics panel, syndicated by Universal Uclick (formerly Universal Press Syndicate), launched in 15 newspapers in June 1971. It expanded to appear in more than 500 daily and Sunday newspapers and has been featured in bestselling books and calendars. Ziggy merchandising has included plaques, T-shirts, buttons, glass tumblers, lunch boxes, coffee mugs and greeting cards. In 2002, Ziggy became the official spokescharacter for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Throughout his career, Wilson demonstrated a remarkable ability to anticipate future trends in the marketplace. A veteran of the licensing business, Wilson headed up the creative team that developed such character licensing blockbusters as Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears.
Ziggy first appeared in the 1969 collection When You’re Not Around, published by American Greetings. The newspaper strip began in June 1971. In 1987 the strip was taken over by Tom Wilson II.
There are annual calendars produced as well as various books and promotional items.
Tom Wilson has acknowledged that one in five Ziggy cartoons makes direct reference to the mathematical concept of the Axiom of choice. In his 2009 autobiography, Wilson stated that this recurrent theme is “my own unique way of expressing my love for mathematical analysis. Cartooning has been a career for me, but math was always my passion.”
In 1987, Wilson passed the Ziggy torch to his son, Tom Wilson Jr., after the younger Wilson had served as an assistant on the strip for many years.Even though Tom Sr. lived in Cleveland and Tom Jr. lived in Cincinnati, the two worked as a team, collaborating by fax and phone.
He received the Purchase award in the Butler Institute of American Art‘s annual exhibition.
Wilson was a survivor of lung cancer. He died in his sleep on the night of September 16, 2011 of pneumonia at a Cincinnati hospital. He was 80.