Goodbye mutts, hello Ziggy: Mutts creator Patrick McDonnell takes a sabbatical to work on a special project. Ziggy will launch and return to the Cincinnati comic book pages starting Monday, July 5. Check it out daily on The Enquirer’s Fun page.
Ziggy, the seemingly ageless main character of the newspaper comic, is a Cincinnatian – or at least the guy who draws him and puts words in his mouth.
And this year, this band celebrates its 50 years.
Tom Wilson II worked on “Ziggy” for over 30 of those 50 years, first assisting his namesake father, who created the band, and then taking charge of the entire operation.
And Wilson, 64, says he expects the daily comics to continue for many more years to come.
He recently spoke about the anniversary on the phone from his suburban home.
Question: Your father’s obituaries from 2011 indicate that he died in Cincinnati. What is your history related to Cincinnati?
Answer: Dad actually lived in Cleveland. This is where I grew up. I have lived in Cincinnati since the early 90s, I guess. I would go back and forth to the Cleveland office when I started years ago and worked there and then came back. Daddy’s a man from Cleveland, and I’m pretty much just a guy from Ohio. He came here when he got too sick, and he spent time at Seasons, and that’s where he died a few years ago.
Q: Where do you live?
A: I am in the South Lebanon region.
Q: And you attended the University of Miami?
A right. Miami U and Boston University. I started in Miami and transferred to Boston and got a Bachelor of Arts there, and then I went to New York and worked there for a while, and then I came back to Ohio. I got married and eventually moved to Clifton.
Q: Didn’t you like Miami?
A: No, I loved Miami. It’s such a cool place. I actually went in to study graphic design and changed. I decided I liked fine art and painting better, and Boston was perfect for that. Graphics were always a part of it, but I enjoy painting and drawing a lot more.
Q: Was “Ziggy” a success from the start?
A: I think he started in 18 newspapers. It’s not a bad start but it’s not great either. Thus, for a few years, “Ziggy” struggled to gain a foothold. Gradually, it took up more and more space and became more and more popular.
Q: At its peak, how many papers had “Ziggy on it?” “
A: In the 800s, I think. It’s hard to say internationally. In Cincinnati, we have been at the Post Office for a long time. They were good big newspapers in the big cities, and that was in the 1980s or so.
Q: Is Ziggy a fan of the Browns or the Bengals?
A: I’m not going to answer that one, because like me, daddy was never a big fan of sports. He was taking me to a game in Cleveland. We saw the Browns and watched the Indian games. When I’m in Cincinnati, I’m a Cincinnati fan. My son is very fond of sports. He lives here too. He’s a big fan of Cincinnati.
Q: Was there a seamless transition between you and your dad doing “Ziggy? “
A: Everything went well, because we worked so much together, by phone, fax, in person, exchanging ideas. It was years in the making. I tried to calculate this. I started doing all of the drawing in ’84 or ’85, so I’ve been doing it for 37 years or something like that.
Q: Who was the best “Ziggy” designer between the two of you?
A: We have our own styles. I try to stay true to his way of writing and drawing. There will naturally be my own influences in there, but “Ziggy” is his creation, and I basically follow his example and try to keep the character true to how he was originally conceived. Dad was just a wonderful artist and painter.
Q: Do you draw and write all the content?
A: One hundred percent, I work here from home.
Q: How many “Ziggy” cartoons have been released over the years?
A: You are probably better at math than I am. It’s seven days a week, so multiply 365 by 50, and you get the number. (Editor’s note: This equates to 18,250.) It’s a bit mind-boggling when I think about it.
Q: What is the secret of its popularity?
A: I think it’s because he’s an ordinary man. Everyone’s had some sort of Ziggy experience. They used to call him America’s lovable loser when he first came out because things always happened to him, and people could say, “Oh yeah, I can relate to that. ” But now I think he’s gained a certain element as an inspiring character, from a 50-year-old perspective and he still comes back every day to be with his fans in the diary. No matter what life has in store for him, he gets up and starts over.
Q: Are you still working at home, or could people see you in Lebanon, in a cafe or on a park bench, maybe, working on “Ziggy?” “
A: No, I am a bit of a homebody. I work outside the home. I like the kitchen table setup here. I take out all my things and draw.
Q: What does the 50th anniversary mean to you?
A: It slipped. It means a lot to me from my dad’s point of view. I don’t know when dad started if he was very careful about how long it would last. I know he had a lot of faith in the character to have a certain longevity because he was very sure of his ideas and thoughts. I had a dream some time ago. Dad entered my dream. It was shortly after his death. He just told me the word “jubilee” in the dream and just disappeared. And I thought, it’s still a long way off. Now, I think maybe it’s important enough to him that his character continues for as long as he can. He seems to have the power to stay. He’s been through pretty much everything we’ve been through in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s and the last horrible things we’ve had to deal with in the last couple of years. It means a lot from a character perspective, I have to say. I want to see Ziggy continue for as long as he can.
Goodbye mutts, hello Ziggy
Mutts creator Patrick McDonnell takes a sabbatical to work on a special project. Ziggy will step in and return to the pages of Cincinnati comics starting today. Find out daily on The Enquirer’s Fun page.