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Tom Wilson Sr., 1931-2011
posted January 1, 2012

imageTom Wilson Sr., the creator of greeting card and comic strip success story Ziggy, died on September 16 according to a statement from his family and the syndicate behind the Ziggy comic. He turned 80 on August 1st.

Wilson served a two-year term in the US Army from 1953 to 1955 in and around his attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, from which he graduated in the year of his military discharge. He was briefly employed by a newspaper company in Uniontown. In 1955 he joined American Greetings in cleveland as a designer. He was promoted to a creative director position two years later and would eventually become a company vice-president, at some point serving as the president of the company's licensing subsidiary Those Characters From Cleveland (now American Greetings Properties).

In addition to Ziggy, Wilson was also involved on the creative team that developed the successful licensing characters Strawberry Shortcake and the Care Bears, and is responsible for the company's Soft Touch line of cards.

Ziggy was created in 1969 for the American Greetings collection When You're Not Around. The comics panel followed in the summer of 1971. Launching in a scant 15 papers, Ziggy became one of that decade's bigger syndicated hits. Ziggy, designed around the nearly featureless character's daily misfortunes in dealing with situations both archly broad and specific to the perils of modern life, drove several collections for Andrews McMeel as that company seized a significant market position within American bookstores. Perhaps unique to modern comics licenses, Ziggy also sold millions of greeting cards through his put-upon yet hopeful everyman appeal, and moved several years' worth of calendars. The feature currently has over 500 clients between daily and Sunday newspaper editions, only slightly down from a peak of over 600 outlets. Wilson turned the feature over to his son, Tom Wilson Jr., in 1987.

In addition to his work at American Greetings and the initial years of the Ziggy comic, Wilson's paintings were exhibited in a number of North American venues (including a show at the Cleveland Museum of Art and a place in the Society of Illustrations annual New York show, according to his syndicate biography). He received a writing credit on the 1982 animated television special Ziggy's Gift. The special won a 1983 Emmy Award.

Wilson had suffered at one point from lung cancer, and while reports of his passing have him dying after a long illness and peacefully in his sleep, the exact cause hasn't been mentioned.

Wilson is survived by a wife, a son, and two daughters.