In 1981, Guy Gilchrist, with his brother Brad Gilchrist as writer, created the daily comic strip The Muppets, which was printed worldwide in over 660 newspapers from 1981 to 1986. He was 24 years old when the strip began. Guy was the artist and occasional writer for the strip.
Beetle Bailey creator Mort Walker had recommended Gilchrist for the job. There was a lengthy audition process. Gilchrist's early strips were based directly on the television show, the puppets and the work of Michael Frith. His art style became more simplified and streamlined as the strip continued.
Said Jim Henson in 1982, "We worked for a long time. We spent a year and a half or two years working with different cartoon teams trying to find a good combination before we found Guy and Brad Gilchrist, and I'm very happy with the way they're coming, and the strip is growing quite nicely. ... It was immediately bought very broadly and it sold to more newspapers than most strips ever launch with. We immediately had - I don't know the figure right now - but several hundreds of newspapers, but after that first little bloom, a lot of people dropped it. Not a lot, but a few. Actually, I don't think it's gone down that much, but to me the guys are doing really a nice job and I think it's catching on. It's a growth process and all these characters always take a bit of time to settle in."
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan invited Gilchrist to be guest of honor at the Easter at the White House celebration. Later that week, Gilchrist's Muppets artwork was permanently enshrined in the Smithsonian Institution. Gilchrist's Muppet artwork was chosen to be part of the touring The Art of the Muppets exhibit and has appeared in museums worldwide.Muppet Magazine. The characters were also seen in a storybook style for the 1984 computer game Kermit's Electronic StoryMaker, and in a coloring-book and comic-book-like Western story for the Crayola Colorfun Theater .
He also drew licensed merchandise for Henson, most notably material with Muppet Babies and Fraggle Rock characters. A Gilchrist Kermit can be recognized by the three lines around each side of the smile on his face. This style of Kermit persisted for many years and can still be seen on some merchandise.
Notable merchandise line for the Muppet Babies included a long line of Dixie cups, coloring books, child-sized drum sets , a board game , a toy guitar, a Baby Rowlf Piano, and a lunch box for Thermos spoofing Star Wars, fairy tales and Raiders of the Lost Ark (which can be seen as a prop in 2011's The Muppets ). Fraggle Rock merchandise includes a stationery set by Empire. Merchandise such as a child's puzzle was also created for the short-lived Little Muppet Monsters series. Gilchrist also drew envelope artwork for the launch of the U.S. Postal Service's 1986 "Love Stamp." The stamp bears an image of a childlike drawing of a puppy, while the cachet depicts Rowlf the Dog as a postmaster. Gilchrist also drew several sample comics for an unpublished Muppet Babies comic strip.
During the 1980s, Guy Gilchrist created a fairly popular line of children's books called the Tiny Dinos, which was merchandised by LJN and Applause. Tiny Dinos puppets (in the Muppet style) were built for Toy Fair appearances and two TV commercials, with Gilchrist himself voicing Rex and Sir Waldo, and Noel MacNeal puppeteering Plateo. Gilchrist voiced many characters on a Tiny Dinos 900 number that children could call, and an animated pilot was storyboarded but never produced.
With Greg Walker, Guy drew the comic strip The Rock Channel, spoofing MTV culture in a style similar to the TV series WKRP in Cincinatti.
His other possible franchises of the early 80s were Little Ages (starring a tiny wizard) and Mudpie (a young-boy cat character who appeared in several children's books and later starred in the religiously-themed comic strip Night Lights and Fairy Flights). He also attempted to sell Jack B. Nimble, a Calvin-and-Hobbes-like strip about a young boy with an overactive imagination, and Bearly Angels, a group of angelic bears (later merchandised as sculptures in 2013). There were other ideas, such as a line for women called PositiveEnergy (starring a Fido Dido like female character), and Screams, a single-panel strip about monsters.
In about 1988 he wrote and drew Night Lights & Pillow Fights: A Trip To Storyland, a collection of illustrated poems for children, inspired by his heroes Dr. Seuss, Arthur Rackham and Walt Kelly, with coloring by Tom Brenner and Marie Andersen Gilchrist. A shorter sequel, Just Imagine, was published as a Little Golden Book. He continued to write and draw poems in the same style, drawn more simply as roughs with a ball-point pen. These went unpublished until 1997, when he pulled them out of boxes and published Night Lights & Pillow Fights Two: The Box Set, as well as a comic strip titled Night Lights and Fairy Flights which featured new and old poems and the Mudpie character. Another comic strip featured idealized male and female angels.
During the 80s and 90s, Guy Gilchrist and his studio created many children's books based on popular characters like the Looney Tunes, Tiny Toons, Minnie & Me (Minnie Mouse), The X-Men, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Wild West C.O.W.Boys of Moo Mesa, and so on.
In 1995, Guy and Brad Gilchrist were asked to take over Ernie Bushmiller's classic comic strip Nancy.
From Guy's website:
"Guy Gilchrist has been an artist and writer of world renown for over two decades. As the writer and illustrator of children’s books, his work has won international acclaim and multiple awards. The National Cartoonists Society has nominated Guy for the prestigious Reuben Award in the Best Book Illustrator category three years in a row. Guy won the award in both 1998 and 1999. As the syndicated cartoonist of Nancy, Your Angels Speak, Night Lights & Pillow Fights, Mudpie, Screams, The Poetry Guy, The Muppets and The Rock Channel, his work has been shown in both newspapers and museums worldwide, and is permanently enshrined in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. Guy is a member of the National Cartoonists Society, Artists & Writers, and on the Board of Directors of the Newspaper Features Council.
"Today, with millions reading his syndicated cartoon classic Nancy, Your Angels Speak, as well as Night Lights & Pillow Fights, and so many more enjoying his 40 plus books, Guy is enjoying the popularity that comes from so many years of doing the work he truly loves. His drawings and stories are filled with wit, charm, and honest down-to-earth appeal, with roots in the country roads & rivers of rural Connecticut, where he was born and raised.
"Guy Gilchrist was born on January 30th, 1957 in Winsted, Connecticut. Raised in the Farmington Valley, he learned to draw cartoons from his mother, Louise, and by copying the pictures from Walt Disney Golden Books & Dr. Seuss stories. An enterprising as well as talented boy, Guy sold his first cartoons on shirt cardboard clothes-pinned to a rope outside of his stepfather’s shop.
"During his high school years, he studied the diverse styles and works of Bridgeman, Rackham, Botticelli, Rockwell and Parrish in addition to his cartoon heroes in order to forge a style that while fanciful, had deep roots in reality.
"'I got a rejection letter from Mad Magazine when I was sixteen. It told me that "cartoons were one step away from reality"... and I was "too many steps away". It told me to do life drawing, continuous line drawing, gesture drawing ... all real subjects. I was heartbroken over the rejection, but it was such a blessing to me. I started drawing REAL! And I’ve never stopped. Never stopped learning. Never stopped seeing ... and getting my hand to draw what the eye sees ... or ... what my imagination sees.'
"After high school, Guy Gilchrist started his children’s book and cartoon career with Weekly Reader Books. Then, in 1980, he would audition for a job that would change his life: Jim Henson’s Muppets! In 1981, Guy, with his brother Brad as co-writer, created The Muppets comic strip for the late, great Jim Henson. The Muppets comic strip was printed worldwide in over 660 newspapers daily from 1981 - 1986. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan invited Guy to be guest of honor at the Easter At The White House celebration. It was later that week that Guy’s Muppets art work was permanently enshrined in the Smithsonian Institute. Guy’s Muppet artwork was chosen to be part of the touring “Art Of The Muppets” exhibit and has appeared in museums worldwide. Also in 1984, Guy Gilchrist, his brother Brad, and syndicated cartoonist Greg Walker (Beetle Bailey) created The Rock Channel comic for Cowles Syndicate.
"Since 1986, Guy Gilchrist has written 42 children’s books and opened the Tokyo branch of Guy Gilchrist Studios based on the success of his award-winning, best-selling Tiny Dinos and Mudpie book series. In 1989, Guy’s books won 3 Children’s Choice Awards as best books of the year voted by the International Reading Council and the National Reading Council.
"In 1992, Guy created the first of four sports logos for minor league teams. The Portland Sea Dogs (AA Florida Marlins affiliate), became the best selling logo in the history of minor league baseball. Since 1992, he has created the logos for the Norwich Navigators (AA Yankees), New Britain Rock Cats (AA Twins), and Binghamton Mets (AA New York Mets). He also created the S-Pulse logo for Sony Creative Japanese Soccer Team.
"In 1997, Guy and his wife Angie began their own international publishing company. Gilchrist Publishing began with two books of poems and pictures written for children of all ages. Night Lights & Pillow Fights II: The Box Set is a sequel to the critically acclaimed Night Lights & Pillow Fights: A Trip To Storyland. In 1999, The Bank Street College Of Education voted Night Lights & Pillow Fights one of the Best Children’s Book of the Year. Most recently published are four paperback books. Night Lights & Pillow Fights Comics featuring Mudpie is a collection of the earliest daily Mudpie comics and Night Lights & Pillow Fights Genius Club: Let’s Draw Cartoons! features drawing lessons from the syndicated Night Lights & Pillow Fights newspaper feature. Plan Nine Publishing recently published two more Mudpie collections, I’m Having A Bad Fur Day, and When Cats Fly.
"The Night Lights & Pillow Fights newspaper feature, a wonderful family feature based on his award winning children’s books of the same name, is Guy’s self-syndicated venture. This popular feature is available as a black and white or color Sunday. It is enjoyed by millions of readers around the world.
"Guy enjoys writing and drawing the classic Nancy comic strip as well, which appears in 400 newspapers worldwide, distributed by United Feature Syndicate. 'As a kid, I opened The Hartford Times every day and Nancy is the first strip I remember,' recalls Guy, who with his brother Brad returned Nancy to its legendary style beginning September 3rd, 1995. 'The clean style of art was like nothing else and I thought that whoever drew this must be the best artist in the world. I grew up with Nancy like everybody else did and it feels incredible to be bringing her back in the classic tradition.'
"Your Angels Speak is Guy's most recently syndicated feature, launched by United Feature Syndicate on March 18, 2002. A weekly inspiration drawing created by Guy in hopes of bringing strength and joy to people, much like the angels that inspire them. 'I believe my job is to be a positive influence, if I can, and to write and draw from the heart. Your Angels Speak is the best opportunity I have to inspire people with thoughts about the nature of contentment, peace, faith, love, success and their own inner beauty,' says Guy.
"Guy founded his GUY GILCHRIST'S CARTOONIST'S ACADEMY in 2005, in hopes of sharing his Cartooning, Illustrating, and Writing knowledge with others.
"Guy lists as his greatest accomplishments: his daughter Lauren (26), his son Garrett (25), and his stepdaughter Julia (16), and convincing Angie Brown to marry him. He enjoys a good day of bad golf, cheering on The Boston Red Sox and the Washington Redskins, writing hillbilly songs, singing ol’ Hank & Elvis tunes, and most of all, looking forward to the mystery & magic of tomorrow."