Ziggy creatorTom Wilson

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An artist (he graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 1955), Wilson started his career doing newspaper advertising layouts. In 1955, he started working for American Greetings as a designer, rising to Creative Director in 1957, and vice-president of creative development in 1978. But he’ll be best remembered as a cartoonist: he created “Ziggy” in 1971, and grew it to syndication in 500 newspapers worldwide. He drew the panel until 1987, when it was taken over by his son, Tom II.

A Ziggy panel.

“The name Ziggy derived from his father’s school experience of being the last alphabetically” Tom II says. “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 last picked for everything and kind of a lovable kind of loser character.” The senior Wilson died September 16 after fighting lung cancer. He was 80.

From This is True for 18 September 2011