About the Author * Martin Handford

(Source Wikipedia and Waldo Wiki) Martin Handford is an English children's author and illustrator who had gained worldwide frame in the mid-1980s with the creation of the Where's Wally series (better known as Where's Waldo in North America). He was born on September 27, 1956 in Hampstead, London, England. He didn't have any siblings. His parents divorced when he was young. Martin began to draw from an early age. He was roughly 4-5 years old when he first began to draw crowds by making stick figures on paper. After school, whereas many children would go out and play games and socialize, he choose to draw pictures instead.

"My earliest influences," he says, "were cinema epics and playing with toy soldiers. I attempted to recapture the excitement in my drawings, which started out as crowds of crude stick figures." As an adult, Martin Handford worked for 3 years in an insurance office, Crusader Insurance Company in order to finance his degree at an art college. He studied at UCA (University for the Creative Arts) formly known as KIAD (Kent Institute of Art and Design) in Maidstone, Kent. He continued to draw "what were always busy and militarily correct battle scenes" during his years enrolled at the art college. After graduating, Martin worked as a freelance illustrator who specialized in drawing crowded scenes for numerous clients.

In 1981, Martin created the album cover for The Vapors': Magnets. The cover features an darker route to his infamous Where's Waldo book series where a crowd of people forms the shape of an eye.

The turning point for his career came when Martin Handford was asked to create a book that showcased his singular talent of drawing crowds. In 1986, Martin's art director at Walter Books asked him to sketch up a character with peculiar features so that his crowded illustrations had a focal point. After much deliberation, Martin came up with the idea of a character named "Wally", a world and time travelling character who always dresses up in the familiar red and white striped shirt, blue pants and round black glasses. Thus, the character Waldo was born to provide a link between each scene illustration. "That is who Waldo is - an afterthought," he says. "As it turns out, the fans were more interested in the character than the crowd scenes."

Later on, Wally is joined by several other characters in his book series. Wenda is one of Waldo's closest friends who shares his uncanny knack for fashionable attire. She is a fellow explorer and a keen photographer. She is always recording the action and fun on their journeys. Woof is another character that joins Waldo on his journey. He is Waldo's best friend and most loyal companion. Woof can sniff out danger in a flash and he's hot on the trail for his lost bone. Wherever Waldo goes, Woof is never far behind, but you can only see his tail unless you are reading the book 'The Land of Woofs'. The next character that joins Waldo on his journey is his magical mentor, Wizard Whitebeard. He is the one that sends Waldo off on his incredible journeys. Wizard Whitebeard has limitless wisdom and common sense for Waldo and his friends. The final character is the villain in the story, Odlaw (Waldo spelled backwards) is Waldo's sneaky alter ego and the only character that isn't dressed in a red, white and blue attire. Odlaw is devious to the core, obssessed with thwarting Waldo at every opporunity he gets. But, it is Odlaw's plans that usually wind up being foiled.

As an artist, Martin's Where's Waldo book series have been immensely successful, selling more than 43 million copies worldwide in over 33 counties and in 22 different languages. For each illustration in the book series, it takes Martin up to 8 weeks to draw. "As I work my way through a picture, I add Waldo when I come to what I feel is a good place to hide him," Martin explains. Handford describes his illustration as a "full of both activity and entertainment. I have a love of situations which contain visual puns." He has described his personal favorite illustration of Waldo as 'A Tremendous Song and Dance' from Where's Waldo in Hollywood.

As an immensely successful artist and writer, he says "I can't tell you how pleased I am that Waldo has taken a life of his own." Even though, he never meant for the character to be such a key factor in his books, Martin is glad that his character is such a success in the minds of children and adults alike. "I'd like to inspire children--to open their minds to explore subjects more--to just be aware of what's going on around them. I'd like them to see wonder in places that might not have occurred to them."