“Ziggy” creator Tom Wilson Sr. has died at age 80, says his publisher, Andrews McMeel Universal.

“It speaks volumes about Tom that Ziggy, a character he held very near to his heart, has been a mainstay on the comics page for more than 40 years and continues to make new fans worldwide to this day,” Hugh Andrews, president of Andrews McMeel Publishing, said in a statement.

(TOM WILSON SR. & TOM II/Andrews McMeel Universal)

“Ziggy” was first published in a 1969 collection titled “When You’re Not Around.”

“In 1971, a year after Universal’s founding, ‘Ziggy' was launched into 15 newspapers,” Lee Salem, Universal Uclick president and editor, tells Comic Riffs on Monday. “It did not take long for the character to take off in newspapers, greeting cards and calendars. This company would be a very different one without the substantial revenues generated from Tom’s creative work over the early and later years.

“More significantly,” Salem continues, “those who met Tom could not help but befriend such a warm, outgoing, talented man.”

Wilson Sr., who served for decades as a creative director at American Greetings, also worked on the teams that helped develop Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears.

In 1983, Wilson shared an Emmy Award for the animated program “Ziggy’s Gift.” Four years later, the cartoonist handed the reins of the comic panel over to his son (and assistant), Tom Wilson Jr..

Wilson, born Aug. 1, 1931, died Friday died of pneumonia at a Cincinnati hospital, his son told the Associated Press.

“Tom leaves behind a wonderful legacy in Ziggy, a hard-luck comics-page hero who serves as a reflection of Tom’s endearing wit and optimisim in the face of adversity,” John McMeel, president and chairman of Andrews McMeel Universal, said in a statement, calling him a longtime friend and visionary cartoonist.

“Out hearts are with the Wilson family during this time of loss.”