Wonka was a candy maker who made the most (to barrow a Dahl-isous word) "scrumdiliumcious" candies which were all very unique. He sold ice cream that wouldn't melt, and many other exciting new inventions in the world of candy making. However, his competitors sent in spies and stole some of Mr. Wonka's Inventions. So, one day like any other, Mr. Wonka told all the workers to go home and he closed his factory gates forever. However, not long after that, the factory started up again and Wonka candy started pouring out, but no one had seen the man himself sense the day he closed his factories.
However, one day also like any other, an announcement shook the world: Willy Wonka was going to open his factory to five lucky golden ticket winners and their guest for one day. Of the Winners was Augustus Gloop (he ate too much), Violet Beauregarde (Chew too much gum), Veruca Salt (a spoiled little brat), and Mike Teavee (who watched too much tv). The Fifth and final golden ticket winner was Charlie Bucket, a poor school boy who only had a candy bar once a year on his birthday.
In their visit, four of the five golden ticket winners met certain... shall we say...tragedies, which made them leave the factory. Finally, only Charlie Bucket and his Grandpa Joe were left. Mr. Wonka revealed the whole reason for the golden tickets was to find someone good hearted to run the factory when he was gone. Joyfully, Charlie went with Mr. Wonka and his Grandpa Jo to retrieve the rest of the Bucket Family.
Of course, when retrieving someone in a glass elevator anything can happen and it did. They ended up being the first humans to be in the great Space Hotel (located, of course in space). They also fought the vicious Knids (which are worm like space creatures which can only spell one word and that is "Scram"), de-aged Charlie's grandparents and then reaged them. As the sunset ended on their second adventure, they were also invited to the white House by President of the United States, Lancelot R. Gilligrass.
What awaited Mr. Wonka on his journeys after that, we may never know, but let it be known for certain it would be exciting, daring and Wonkish (its a word! look it up!).
He was created by the great Roald Dahl in his book "Charlie and the Choclate Factory" and its sequel "Charlie and the glass elevator". Dahl had planned on third book (supposedly) about Charlie's trip to the White House (called "Charlie and the White House"), but never finished. This could also be just an internet rumor.
In these books, he was illustrated by Joseph Schindelman, Quentin Blake, and Michael Foreman (none of which have worked in comics, just in the illustration of books).
His only appearance in comics, like many folk figures, was in MAD Magazine. In his 2008 appearance along side such greats as Waldo, Oprah, and Alfred E. Neuman, he was most likely parodied in some way.
He's been played by Gene Wilder in 1971 and (*Editor spits*) Johnny Depp in 2005.