27 September 1956 (age 62)|
Hampstead, London, England
|Occupation||Children's author and illustrator|
Martin Handford (born 27 September 1956) 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).
Born in Hampstead, London, Handford was a solitary child, born to divorced parents. He began drawing crowds when he was 4 or 5 years old, and later as a child, making stick figures on paper. After school, when most other children he knew would go out and play games, he would draw pictures instead. 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 (Crusader Insurance Company) to pay for his degree at art college. He studied art at UCA (University for the Creative Arts) formerly KIAD (Kent Institute of Art and Design) in Maidstone, Kent. After graduating, Martin worked as a freelance illustrator specialising in drawing crowd scenes for numerous clients.
In 1986, Handford was asked by his art director at Walker Books to draw a character with peculiar features so that his pictures of crowds 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. Wally is joined on most of his travels by his friend, Wenda, who wears 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 seven "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 has gained the reputation of being a methodical and diligent worker: sometimes it would take him up to eight weeks to draw one two-page sketch "Wally" and the characters surrounding him. The drawings are drawn to the same scale as in the books and each 2-page spread usually contains about 300 to 500 figures, with Wally often being the last character drawn into the crowd. 
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.
According to his publishers Handford is a shy, creative genius who is very dedicated to his work and has no interest in publicity. He listens to the Bee Gees, the Clash or old Sergeant Bilko tapes while he works. 
- "Interview with Martin Handford", Scholastic Book Club. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
- Children's Books and Their Creators. p. 668.
- "Up Against the Waldo", by Cyndi Stivers, 14 December 1990, Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
- "Where's the brains behind Wally?", Paul Bignell, The Independent, 13 November 2011. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
- "Where's Wally founder tracks down a fortune", Fiona Walsh, The Guardian, 22 January 2007. Retrieved 7 February 2010.