Obscurity of the Day: Ug


Tom Wilson Sr. made his indelible mark on the comic strip world with Ziggy in the 1970s. His son, Tom, Jr., after an unrewarding stint as an artist and product designer, determined to follow in his dad’s footsteps in the 1980s. He came up with Ug, a strip starring a gentle and somewhat befuddled furry giant of indeterminate species, and his pal, Bogey, a worldy wise bird who serves as the George to his Lennie. 

Ug was bought by Universal Press Syndicate (which also syndicated Ziggy), and after extensive tweaking the strip was loosed on the world to a claimed 75 newspapers as a Sunday and daily strip. That’s not a bad start at all, if true, but evidently it didn’t take off to the extent hoped for by the cartoonist or his syndicate. The daily strip ran from April 2 1984 to December 14 1985, and the Sunday ran April 8 1984 to December 8 1985*.

My guess is that Wilson’s famous name, while it may have helped him get the syndicate contract, worked against him when newspaper editors were looking at the strip. There’s a certain Ziggy-ish quality to the feature that seems much amplified when you know the identity of the creator. I can see editors rejecting the feature, saying that we don’t need a another Ziggy, thanks anyway. 

Tom Jr. wasn’t to remain on the sidelines for long. Around 1987 he began assisting his dad on Ziggy, eventually taking it over in the 1990s. So if Ug was not a lasting success, it did serve its creator well as training for taking over his dad’s feature.

*Source: All dates from John Lund based on Boston Herald.

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