Martin Handford

Martin Handford
Martin Handford
Born 1956 (age 54–55)
Hampstead, London
Occupation Children's Author and Illustrator

Martin Handford (born 1956 in Hampstead, London)[1] is an English children's author and illustrator who gained worldwide fame in the mid-1980s with his Where's Wally? creation (known as Where's Waldo? in North America).

Handford began drawing as a child, making stick figures on paper. His inspiration to draw such figures came from classic films and the toy soldiers he played with during that era.

As an adult, Handford worked for three years in an insurance office to pay for his degree at art college. After graduating, Martin worked as a freelance illustrator specialising in drawing crowd scenes for numerous clients.[1]

In 1986, Handford was asked by his art director at Walker Books to draw a character with peculiar features so that his pictures of crowd had a focal point. After much thinking, he came up with the idea of "Wally", a world traveller and time travel aficionado who always dresses in red and white.[2] Wally was joined on most of his travels by a girlfriend who wore clothes with the same colours as Wally's, and by an evil character named Odlaw (Waldo spelled backwards) who dresses in yellow and black.

Handford became a minor celebrity with the success of Where's Wally?. The Where's Wally? trademark sold in 28 different countries. Beginning in 1987, Handford produced a total of six "classic" Where's Wally? books, but his character was branched out into other products, such as notebooks, pillows, posters, video games and many others. There was even a syndicated comic strip as well as an animated TV series.

Handford is a methodical and diligent worker. Sometimes it would take him up to eight weeks to draw a two-page sketch of the equally reclusive "Wally" and the characters surrounding him.[1]

The Where's Wally? books were published in the UK by Walker Books and in the US under the title Where's Waldo? first by Little, Brown and Company before being taken on by Candlewick Press (Walker Books' American subsidiary publishing company). The first four titles were originally printed in Italy, but later reprinted in China.

A film based on the Where's Wally? series of books was planned for filming in 2005 by Nickelodeon Movies but was cancelled due to a management change at Paramount Pictures.

In 2007, Handford sold the rights to Where's Wally? to the Entertainment Rights Group, the world's biggest independent owner of children's brands.[3]

The style of art executed by Handford is probably the most famous example of "WimmelBilderBuch" drawings, originally popularised by Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Brueghel the Elder and Hans Jürgen Press.


  1. ^ a b c "Interview with Martin Handford", Scholastic Book Club. Retrieved 7 Feb 2010.
  2. ^ "Up Against the Waldo", by Cyndi Stivers, 14 December 1990, Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 8 Feb 2010.
  3. ^ "Where's Wally founder tracks down a fortune", Fiona Walsh, The Guardian, 22 January 2007. Retrieved 7 Feb 2010.

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