Latest book, Zig-Zagging
(Health Communications, Inc. 2009)
Has been drawing Ziggy since 1987
Founder of Character Matters, a branding and marketing firm
B.F.A., Boston University
Tom Wilson II: Ziggy's Family Heritage
By Heather Salon and Mimi Elliott
The 700 Club
Tom Wilson II learned to appreciate what a gift his father gave him on Saturday mornings when he was young. They were special times between father and son. Tom, Sr., would make time in his busy schedule to take his son to the Bob’s Big Boy chain restaurant for breakfast. Each time they went, he would draw Ziggy in a different, perilous situation. Tom had to “Save Ziggy” and draw him out of his predicament. He was never allowed to use the first idea that came into his mind or take the “easy way out.” He had to creatively get Ziggy out of his problem. Tom says those were valuble lessons in problem solving, reaching higher, as well as using Ziggy to help him through the process. He started to see Ziggy as an innate friend, a support, and an unlikely hero. Especially when he was grieving for his wife, creating Ziggy was what kept him going –he had to save Ziggy and Ziggy saved Tom by helping him to continue to move forward.
Initially, Tom started writing, then began illustrating. Since 1987, he has been drawing Ziggy when Tom, Sr.’s health began to suffer and he retired. Syndicated since 1971, nearly everyone is familiar with this lonely, insecure cartoon who encourages us to laugh at ourselves and take everything in stride in his own optimistic style. Ziggy is a beacon of hope when life seems difficult and reminds us not to take life too seriously. Tom says much of Ziggy’s character is drawn from his own personal experiences and passions. When his wife Susan died nine years ago from breast cancer, he dedicated a cartoon to her memory (see page 49 in Character Matters).
“The one thing that Ziggy reminds us is that all of life’s things happen to each of us,” Tom said. “Ziggy reflects, in a hopefully humorous way, the negative things that happen to us.”
After Susan died, an acquaintance gave Tom a journal with the famous poem “Footprints” on it, which would become Tom’s life memoir. He never meant for his journal to be published, but another friend urged him to release it as a memoir instead of as the framework of a business “how to” book.
Through his journaling experience, Tom was reconnected with lessons that God had been teaching him before. One of these lessons being, “In life we learn to want what we need; it is not always in a straight line – life is not as we see it, there are detours,” which is where the title of his memoir Zig-Zagging came from. He also gained a new understanding between the person that creates and what is created, and saw the parallel of God being his Creator and him being God’s creation. Also, Tom had always looked at drawing Ziggy as taking on the family business. Over the years, he’s come to appreciate the greater purpose in Ziggy.
People who have read his memoir want to pass it on to help others; it is beyond him. Ziggy has been ever present in Tom’s life and a positive messenger.
Now, Tom finds his prime joy and responsibility in being a father. One of his sons is in college and the other is a senior in high school. He lives in the moment and doesn’t make plans. He lets his passion lead him and prayer is a connecting point to God. He finds inspiration all around and believes that God gives you what you need, not always necessarily what you want.
Tom likes not knowing what’s ahead and he has a new found understanding of his relationship with God. When he was going through the most challenging times in his life he thought he lost his faith, but he has come to learn he had never lost the ability to have faith. Through these challenging experiences he found another connection with God; God did not abandon him. God became much closer to him.
“I think Ziggy is first, a wonderful communicator and second, a great symbol for personal projection and reflection,” Tom said. He believes the reason people have grown to care about Ziggy is that while many cartoon characters are funny, few have come to occupy such an important place in the hearts and lives of people. Some readers have told Tom that Ziggy has helped them see the bigger picture of problems they are dealing with in their lives.
“Ziggy and I have grown from our many years together,” Tom said. “He’s taken us through smiley faces, disco, bad hair days and cyberspace. And Ziggy will take us into the new millennium with equal finesse.”
Tom has a business called, Character Matters (www.charactermatters.net), which he says has been a dream of his for a long time. The company specializes in creating and developing unique, original characters for brands, products and services.
FOR THE LOVE OF ZIGGY
Over the years, Ziggy has sold tens of millions of greeting cards. He’s appeared in more than 600 newspapers and has reached over 75 million faithful readers who identify with his hopes, worries and inspirations. His cartoon clippings cover refrigerator doors, computer screens and desktops around the world. Ziggy’s character has consistently personified kindness, perseverance and a loving nature.
Tom, Sr., started drawing Ziggy about 40 years ago. He created Ziggy to be clumsy and unsure, yet wide-eyed and full of wonder. He wanted Ziggy to be loved by everyone, so he designed him to be rounded, like a teddy bear, to make him more huggable. Most people love Ziggy because his character depicts many of life’s daily mishaps. Tom II says, “Ziggy is general in his goodness and kindness.”
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