Ziggy and Fuzz. Artist: Tom Wilson.

ZIGGY

Original medium: Cartoon book
Published by: Ameican Greetings
First Appeared: 1968
Creator: Tom Wilson
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It's no accident that Ziggy is one of the most visually appealing characters in American comics. Cartoonist Tom Wilson designed the character with …

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… that purpose uppermost in his mind, and he ought to know how to make a character appealing. He's spent 35 years running the creative end of American Greeting Cards, honing his ability to make a character reach out from a shelf to grab a customer — an ability he lavished not just on Ziggy, but also on such aggressively appealing characters as Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears.

Ziggy is two heads tall (that is, his head constitutes half his total height), giving him proportions more like a Smurf than a human being. He is as universal as a character can be, lacking location, type of work, economic status, ethnic features, or any other demographic descriptor except adult male (and we're not so sure about "adult" — or "male", for that matter). He has a broad, expressive face — a big asset, since he has so much to express. His main schtick is to respond to the frustrations, ironies and disappointments of daily life, and he often does so most eloquently when he doesn't say a word. Sometimes those frustrations, etc. are of ordinary proportion, and sometimes monstrous, as, for example, when he was stranded on his roof in a flood, and the rescue boat was picking people up in alphabetical order.

His supporting cast includes a dog, Fuzz, whose main function is to echo and amplify Ziggy's actions; a cat, Sid, who is afraid of mice; a parrot, Josh, who seldom has anything encouraging to say; a duck, Wack; and a fish, Goldie. These are augmented by an endless stream of auto mechanics, department store clerks, fortune tellers, psychoanalists, waitresses, etc., none of whom do much to brighten his life. He does not have a girlfriend.

Wilson says Ziggy never had a beginning, but was always with him. That may be, but it wasn't until 1968 that When You're Not Around, the little guy's first collection of panels, was published by American Greetings. It sold over two million copies. Universal Press Syndicate (which also handles Doonesbury, FoxTrot and other popular features) signed it up as a daily panel and Sunday strip, which started during June, 1971, in only 15 newspapers. It now appears in over 600.

Ziggy has since appeared on innumerable calendars, coffee mugs, T-shirts and, of course, greeting cards. Andrews & McMeel has published many collections of his panels. He's been translated into over a dozen languages.

Ziggy became an animated star in 1982 with the broadcast of Ziggy's Gift, an Emmy-winning Christmas special. Harry Nilsson (whose other toon-related work includes The Point and the 1980 live-action Popeye) wrote and performed the best-known song from it, "Give, Love, Joy".

Tom Wilson retired from direct involvement with the feature in 1987, but it's stayed in the family. Tom Wilson II now writes and draws it. Ziggy's appeal doesn't seem to have been affected by the transition.

— DDM

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Text ©2002-05 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Ziggy and Friends, Inc.