Celebrate Ziggy's 50th Anniversary Jubilee!by GoComics Team
Sunday, June 27, marked 50 years of Ziggy, originally created by late cartoonist Tom Wilson Sr. and continued by his son, Tom Wilson Jr. for the past 35 years. We are grateful to have worked alongside the Wilson family and for their kindness, consistency, and creativity.
We spoke with Tom Wilson Jr. as he reflected on his journey with Ziggy and why it resonates so deeply with both him and his readers.
What is one of your favorite strips/cartoons that you have created throughout your time with Ziggy? Do you receive feedback from readers—anything particularly noteworthy?
I have so many favorites from over the decades ... for a variety of different reasons, but the ones I remember most are the ones which come with their own stories connected to them.
One in particular came as a result of a fan letter sent by young man. He wrote about how much he identified with Ziggy, as he felt he was always losing, but somehow managed to keep moving forward no matter what difficulties life threw at him each day.
As a result, I wrote a bit where Ziggy is saying something along the lines of "There's no Future in spending our Present worrying about our Past."
I told the young man it was written for him ... because he taught me something about my own character that I somehow managed to completely overlook.
Ziggy, I realized, is not just "America's Lovable Loser" as he's often been billed. He's also an inspirational character because, no matter what misfortune befalls him ... he keeps showing up for work, life and his readers each new day in The Funny Pages.
Ever since, I haven't really looked at Ziggy as any kind of an actual loser. After all these years ... Ziggy has, literally, managed to Win for Losing.
What about Ziggy do you think makes it relatable and lovable to your audience?
I remember Dad saying how, when he was a kid, he loved watching Laurel & Hardy films.
He said his favorite instances in those films were when Laurel would do something dumb ... and Hardy would deliberately turn his head directly
toward the audience, while rolling his eyes or grimacing or something ... as if to wordlessly say: "Can you folks out there believe this guy?"
Dad said that connection gave those characters a direct and personal relationship with their audience. It let the viewer know that the characters were just as aware of their audience as their audience was aware of them. Ziggy, he told me, was designed with that in mind; to be a direct communicator with an audience he knew was right there with him.
Greeting cards, Dad's other "day job" as Creative Director at American Greetings Corp., utilized the reader/character communication process in every card ... to communicate ME-to-YOU messaging for all sorts of occasions and situations.
Ziggy's immensely popular lines of greeting cards over the many years also show how this can contribute to a long, reciprocal relationship between a character and its readers.
Do you see Ziggy as an alter ego of your dad or yourself?
It's funny, I never saw Ziggy in any way reflective of Dad's character ... at least from the position of always looking up to him.
In just about every way, to myself and everyone around him ... Dad was a winner at everything he put his incredibly creative mind to. Dad intentionally creating a "loser" character made about as much sense to me as Albert Einstein writing an equation on the physics of lighting farts. But, that's how Dad rolled ... when a great idea arrives, no matter how unusual, it is treated with respect and given every opportunity to achieve its full potential as a new creation.
However, like so many noted artists and creators, I think their fans never really see them as they truly see themselves. Elvis comes to mind.
Sometimes, I think we can personify our greatest fears within our own work ... and maybe that gives us a certain amount of control over them. That, at least, was what I did with Ziggy when I found myself in the very scary position of having to fill the largest pair of shoes I had ever known.
Growing up with Ziggy as my very successful little brother gave me a lot of initial understanding and insight into the character Dad had not only created but trained me to help look after.
I think I used my own fear of letting down Dad and the faith he placed in me as impetus to never intentionally let down Ziggy or his many fans.
After growing up with Ziggy and drawing him for over 35 of Ziggy's 50 years, he's been a big part of my life, much longer than he hasn't. I think, over all those years, we've managed to develop a lot in common.
What is your favorite part about working on Ziggy? What drives your creative inspiration?
It never fails ... whenever I sit down to write Ziggy gags ... or draw up Ziggy cartoons ... I always catch myself smiling while I'm movin' that pen around. I'm sure I look like a happy idiot while I'm doing my favorite job ... and I love it when all the thinking and drawing finally comes together in that little black-and-white comic panel in front of me. There is nothing I don't absolutely love about working with and for Ziggy every day ... except, maybe, the deadlines.
As to what drives inspiration? It's always the character himself.
Everything must come directly from Ziggy as to how he would not only see but respond to any potentially humorous situation he is placed within.
Do you think your dad ever envisioned Ziggy reaching 50 years?
I know that Dad, in addition to everything else he was always working on, took Ziggy one day/one deadline at a time ... just like I do today. So, Dad was always working in the moment when he did his comic strip.
Long term? I don't think he thought too much about how many years Ziggy would run, but I think Dad knew his creation had some real longevity in him ... at least, based upon the response of his readers and the fact that Ziggy seems to personify something very universal.
So, long story short ... Do I think Dad knew Zig would be around 50 years after he was created?
I'd have to say he probably would not have been at all surprised that Ziggy would be celebrating 50 years of syndication on June 27, 2021. Dad always had faith in his creations.
What do you hope to see in the years to come with Ziggy?
It's hard to see too far ahead these days. The world and its industries have changed so much over the past five decades.
My goal, as Ziggy's cartoonist, remains to continue to keep Ziggy true to Ziggy throughout these changing times and to make sure Ziggy continues to show up for work each day to, hopefully, share another little smile or laugh at himself with his readers.
Be sure to follow Ziggy on GoComics where it's updated daily, and happy 50th to everyone involved!