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Stephen Hillenburg thought of the characters for SpongeBob SquarePants in 1984, while teaching and studying marine biology. During this time, Hillenburg began working on animation and began writing a comic book called The Intertidal Zone, which featured a number of sea creatures as the main characters. Many of them would eventually become SpongeBob SquarePants characters, including "Bob the Sponge."
There are seven main characters in SpongeBob SquarePants: SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick Star, Squidward Tentacles, Eugene H. Krabs, Sandy Cheeks, Sheldon J. Plankton and Gary the Snail. These seven characters are seen in a majority of the series' episodes. Other than the main seven, there are more than 20 recurring characters throughout the nine seasons.
While most of the characters gained a lot of popularity, none earned more than the main character, SpongeBob. In 2002, SpongeBob SquarePants dolls sold at an astounding rate of 75,000 per week, which was faster than how Tickle Me Elmo dolls were selling at the time.
After gaining much notoriety, SpongeBob made appearances in several other animated shows such as South Park, Family Guy, The Simpsons and others.
Image courtesy of Roger Wong/INFGoff.com