William Wilson was born in the latter half of the 1700s to a family of farmers. Disease at the time was rampant with many of the young children of William's age growing sick and dying, as a result he grew to be a boy very preoccupied with warding off death, and with healthy living in general.
William's home town of Stayling, in Yorkshire had a local legend about a man who had managed to hold a large rock (the Grieve Stone) above his head for a count of 10 seconds. As a young adult William had come to the conclusion that strength was gained by strict exercise and the constant surmounting of obstacles, so he decided that one day he would lift the rock himself and beat the previous record.
William lived off the land training to lift the rock for many years, eventually he met a wise old hermit named Matthew, who claimed to be 170 years old. Matthew explained that the secret of his long-life was due to the drinking of a special concoction he had discovered that slowed his heartbeat. Matthew promised to teach William how to create this potion if and when William managed to lift the Grieve Stone, in the meantime he educated Wilson about a variety of different things.
William eventually managed to lift the Grieve Stone, but unfortunately by this stage Matthew had died in a cave-in, fortunately Matthew had left details of his life-preserving potion for William.
William Wilson was created by Gilbert Lawford Dalton under the pen name of W S K Webb for DC Thomson's story paper, The Wizard, which carried an anthology of illustrated text stories.
By the 50s and 60s these story papers were losing popularity and were being replaced by comic books, as such when DC Thomson brought the character back it was as a comic strip in The Hornet.
The character moved from The Hornet to The Hotspur when the two were combined, and then much later reappeared in another DC Thomson comic, Spike during the mid 1980s.