You know how much we love getting feedback from the horse’s mouth, and in this case, we equally love getting feedback from the horse’s nephew’s mouth. Behold the following email from Marc:
I was explaining to my aunt your explanation about why Where’s Wally? is called Where’s Waldo? in the US, as she used to work in children’s publishing (for the company who published Where’s Wally?), and she is friends with Martin Handford. She got quite cross – but then she’s a bit mental and tends to get cross about most things – like errant apostrophes and men with obvious haircuts.
I’m afraid you got the Where’s Wally? thing wrong on both counts.
Martin Handford didn’t name the book. He was an illustrator who liked doing complex crowd scenes. A writer friend of his suggested that he do a kind of puzzle book in which you have to find a character in the crowd scene. So he drew this hapless stripy geeky bloke. An editor at Walker Books gave him the name Wally – because it was a word in popular usage at the time.
When they sold the rights to the US, the American publishers were worried about copyright infringement because there was already a children’s book called Where’s Wallace?. Waldo seemed like a good alternative. No focus groups were involved. Publishing, especially children’s book publishing, in the 1980s was not that advanced.
So hope that clears things up. We used to get hand drawn Christmas cards from Martin Handford back in the 80s – to be honest I always used to hate the Wally books though. We had all of them. Plus all the merchandise – such as it was. All shit. Much preferred TinTin and Asterix books.
OUCH. I hope Martin Handford is not reading this.