Throwback Thursday: SpongeBob SquarePants Started As A Comic Book (VIDEO)
Earlier this week it was announced that SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg had tragically passed away following a year-long battle with ALS. Hillenburg had long been a creative force within animation industry, having contributed to Nickelodeon’s Rocko’s Modern Life and notably spearheading the widely-beloved TV animated series SpongeBob SquarePants.
Hillenburg’s spongy creation had been a huge success since since its debut in 1999 and has since spawned nearly 20 years of TV episodes, feature films, and an endless assortment of top-tier internet memes. While the aquatic-themed cartoon is ascendantly enjoyable today, Spongebob and its lovable cast of characters actually stem from considerably more humble beginnings.
Having a lifelong love of the ocean, Stephen Hillenburg had seemed almost destined for a career in marine biology, a milestone finally fulfilled in 1984 after becoming an instructor for the Ocean Institute in California. As he also had an affinity for art, Hillenburg’s talent for sketching eventually caught the eye of a fellow educator, who suggested he craft a comic book about foreshore sea creatures.
Running with this idea, Hillenburg came up with The Intertidal Zone, an educational comic depicting an odd cast of undersea critters. Various tide-pool animals such as a sea stars, shore crabs, and barnacles were given an informal spotlight alongside a starring protagonist called Rocky the Shrimp. The intertidal proceedings were notably kicked off by character Bob the Sponge, an anthropomorphic sea sponge sporting a pair of stylish sunglasses.
This piece of cartoony non-fiction impressed with its cleverly imagery and unique subject matter, but ultimately wasn’t enough to get comic officially published. However, what this endeavor did accomplish was set Hillenburg on a path in animation, with the imaginative artist going on to hone his talents at the California Institute of the Arts and eventually landing a job at Nickelodeon in 1993 working as a director for the classic cartoon Rocko’s Modern Life.
Following a respectable 4-year stint on the animated series, the opportunity had arrived for Hillenburg to pitch an original cartoon, an idea he initially showed little interest in. It was only after ‘Rocko’ writer Martin Olson had suggested he revisit The Intertidal Zone when Hillenburg began to embrace the idea of his own under-the-sea series. Utilizing the oddball creatures and ideas from his simple comic, he proceeded to adapt and shape an aquatic-themed franchise we know today as SpongeBob SquarePants.
Stephen Hillenburg’s interest in the ocean was one inspired by wonder and discovery, an attitude that especially carried through to his pursuits as a cartoonist. Spongebob’s goofy and imaginative humor was the reflection of both these passions and it has clearly resonated given the franchise’s massive fanbase and its continued modern-day success. While Hillenburg is no longer among us, his legacy as a game-changing presence in the realm of animation will undoubtedly live on in the eyes of children and adults alike.
What do you think? Were you a fan of Stephen Hillenburg’s work? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to follow Don’t Feed the Gamers on Twitter and Facebook to be informed of the latest gaming and entertainment news 24 hours a day. Also, be on the lookout for the next Throwback Thursday where we’ll highlight yet another piece of trivia from the past. For entries from previous weeks, check out these next few news stories:
Eric Hall2712 Posts
Phone-browsing Wikipedia in one hand and clutching his trusty controller in the other, the legendary Eric Hall spreads his wealth of knowledge as a writer for Don't Feed the Gamers. Be sure to catch his biweekly "Throwback Thursday" segment for a nostalgic look at trivia from the past.