Working at Andrews McMeel Universal is really special. I get to contribute to the company that had a direct influence on developing my sense of humor. Because for me and for so many people my age, our comic sensibilities were formed in the pages of our local newspaper. All the great comic characters shaped not only what we laugh at, but also how we look at the world: Calvin and Hobbes. Garfield. Cathy. Ziggy.
"Ziggy?" you might be thinking. Yes, Ziggy. The original "no shoes, no pants, no problemo" cartoon. He took in all the absurdities of life and in his own sweet way made it easier to laugh at it all. And 45 years in, thanks to Tom Wilson Sr. and Tom Wilson Jr., Ziggy is still facing down daily indignities one quip at a time.
But don't take it from me; here's Tom Jr. in his own words on what Ziggy means to him so many years after his dad introduced the lovable little guy to us all. (It has been slightly edited for length.)
It's true. Time flies when you're having fun ... and 45 years, by any standard, is a long, long time. But each time I sit down to write and draw one more day of Ziggy's life and I see the little guy looking back at me from the panel, it seems to me as if we have been having fun every single day of all of these years we've been together.
Let's face it: I love this character. It has been not just a responsibility but also an honor to help bring him to life for millions of readers over the years.
Like my own sons, I've watched Ziggy grow up. I've seen the little fellow stumble and fall time and again, as he initially tried to find his footing and started walking out into the big world that awaited him. I've watched him with concern and with pride as he kept picking himself up day in and day out, eventually becoming a self-made success at failing.
To me, Ziggy personifies the human spirit -- along with all the wonder, hesitation, insecurities, imperfections and ultimate perseverance we drag along as we make our way through a life filled with daily surprises and disappointments. (Taking a little humor with us along the way is never a bad thing, either).
As Ziggy has gotten older, has he gotten any wiser? Picasso said: "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child." I'm as close to being a Picasso as a Ziggy comic is to being a Raphael painting, but I think I understand the idea behind old Pablo's words. As Ziggy and I have gotten older together, practical things such as drawing, writing and meeting those ever-present deadlines have become easier with experience and the passage of time.
What takes more effort as the years pass is trying to preserve Ziggy's childlike wonder and innocence after we've shared a lifetime of experiences. I don't ever want to see Ziggy lose that gift ... I hope I never completely lose it myself. Even after 45 years, it keeps Ziggy ageless while reminding his cartoonist that the more he learns, the more he realizes how little he actually knows.
And if I've learned anything over my years with Ziggy, it's that just because life is hard, it doesn't have to be negative. Day-to-day difficulties teach us that life is a journey composed of getting past things in our present so we can keep looking and moving forward. I've also learned from years of making mistakes that they only weaken us if we fail to learn something from them. I have learned a lot, but creating Ziggy each and every day has taught me to appreciate the fine art of screwing up on a regular basis.
Where do I see Ziggy headed? I don't know what the future holds for either of us. I believe that as long as there is a path forward for Ziggy to travel, he'll continue to see it through ... wherever it may ultimately lead.
One thing I do know for certain: As long as I'm able, I'll be by his side every step of the way, continuing to enjoy our journey together.