According to his mother, he started his career as an artist by drawing on the household walls. Later on in high school, Bill would even sketch during class lectures. “I would draw a cartoon based on what the teacher was saying, and it would go around the class until the teacher confiscated it,” he recalls. “It would get laughs from the class and laughs from the teacher, too.” One chemistry teacher remained angry until he realized that Bill was drawing cartoons based on the material presented in class. “He realized I was paying attention,” Bill says.
Bill majored in Illustration and Visual Design at Auburn University in Alabama. He was the Art Director of the student newspaper, where he produced a weekly comic strip. He also did the paper’s editorial cartoons, and was published regularly in the Huntsville Times and the Monroe (Ala.) Journal. After graduation in 1980, Bill joined the Atlanta Constitution as an editorial staff artist. But his ambition remained to do a syndicated strip of his own.
During a 1982 visit to relatives on the West Coast, Bill was able to meet with Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. The comic-strip legend advised him to continually work on comic strip ideas, “weeding out the bad, keeping the good, rather than waiting for one big concept.”
Armed with that advice, Bill created a strip in the fall of that year about a college graduate working in a run-down diner. It did not stir syndicate interest, but what he learned on the strip helped the young cartoonist create his first winner, On the Fastrack.
Eleven days before Fastrack made its syndicated debut on March 19, 1984, Bill met Teri Peitso on a blind date. They were married on Pearl Harbor Day, 1985, and now have two daughters, Chandler and Haviland. Teri, whose novels were nominated for Edgar and Agatha Awards, is currently an assistant professor in literacy education at Georgia State University. The family lives in the Atlanta area.
In October 1989, Bill launched his second strip, Safe Havens. Initially about a day care center, this strip evolved into the adventures of Samantha Argus and her friends.
In September 1995, Bill began a third strip called Kevin & Kell. When Kevin Kindle and Kell Dewclaw met online, it was instant romance. Only when they met in person did they discover the horrible truth: Kevin was a rabbit, while Kell was a wolf. And wolves eat rabbits! But in this case love is stronger than instinct, and not only did love bloom but it led to marriage. Add Kevin’s adopted hedgehog daughter Lindesfarne, Kell’s angst-ridden son Rudy, and their toddler Coney (a carnivorous rabbit) and you have the makings of a functional family in a dysfunctional world. The strip is available online, and also in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.