April 8, 2007

Johnny Hart, RIP

Comic strips used to be one of my passions. I learned to read from Peanuts strips and books, and ever since, my subscriptions to the newspapers in the various places I have lived had as much to do with the comics section as the op-ed pages and news articles. In a way, the comic strips created the passion for news that has led me to becoming a full-time blogger.

One of those comic strip artists I particularly enjoyed was Johnny Hart, who wrote "B.C." and co-wrote "The Wizard of Id". Hart passed away yesterday at 76:

Cartoonist Johnny Hart, whose award-winning "B.C." comic strip appeared in more than 1,300 newspapers worldwide, died at his home on Saturday. He was 76.

"He had a stroke," Hart's wife, Bobby, said on today. "He died at his storyboard."

"B.C.," populated by prehistoric cavemen and dinosaurs, was launched in 1958 and eventually appeared in more than 1,300 newspapers with an audience of 100 million, according to Creators Syndicate, Inc., which distributes it.

Hart used his characters in both strips, set in the past, to skewer the foibles of modern people and governments. He especially liked to poke fun at the egotistical and self-important. His consistent theme was the primacy of the common man.

In later years, Hart showed his courage by allowing his faith to enter his art. Charles Schulz did that decades earlier in gentle ways, while Hart tended towards more confrontational and controversial uses. Some claimed him as a triumphalist, but Hart tried to show what he felt was the importance of Christianity to Western civilization, and he never apologized for incorporating his faith into his work.

It seems especially fitting that Hart went to his Lord on this Easter weekend, and passed away at the storyboard. May the Lord accept Hart with open arms. Godspeed, Johnny, and thank you.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has some fitting words and remembrances of Johnny Hart. Be sure to read the whole thing.

UPDATE II: Check out Hart's entry for today. "It is finished." What a wonderful valediction for Hart. (h/t: CQ reader Brian K)

UPDATE III: I missed this in the article the first time, but Hart passed away yesterday, not today. My apologies, and I've made the corrections above. Thanks to Bill Peschel in the comments for the correction.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments (8)

Posted by Nick Kasoff - The Thug Report [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 8, 2007 8:15 PM

Hart was a man of special talent, indeed. But Peanuts will always be first in my heart. I remember as a kid, the holidays couldn't officially occur until the appropriate Peanuts cartoon had been watched. The sad thing is, my kids don't get Peanuts at all.

Nick Kasoff
The Thug Report

Posted by numbersix [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 8, 2007 8:42 PM

Man, this is tough, BC has been my
favourite strip for as long as I can
remember, and I always looked forward
to the next strip, especially hopeful
that he would express a little more of
his personal beliefs. The world
has become far too PC, and Johnny Hart
would have none of it.

So long Johnny, we'll miss you.

Posted by Bill Peschel [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 8, 2007 9:33 PM

Correction: Hart died on Saturday, not Sunday.

AP quotes Creators Syndicate that B.C. will carry on, with family members reusing Hart's archive of artwork.

Posted by Gbear [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 8, 2007 9:34 PM

I am not over Dondi and Gasoline Ally being gone. I will miss BC in the same way. A voice of sanity and humor in an insane world
Viva con Dios Johnny.

Posted by Woody [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 8, 2007 9:49 PM

My favorite BC comic had a story line that went:

"The answer to all the problems in the world today is........ "Skudzo", the mouthwash that really scrolls your nerd!"

I spotted.


" If you want security, buy a gun. If you want longevity, learn how to use it. If you want freedom, carry it. There is nothing worth more than freedom you win for yourself. There is nothing more valuable to that end than the tools of the right that make it possible."

Posted by rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 9, 2007 8:19 AM

I pretty much only get the newspaper for the comics and sports -- to read at breakfast.

RIP, Johnny Hart.

Posted by Rod [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 9, 2007 1:20 PM

Hart was very influential and much respected by the “eggheads” when I was in high school 50 years ago. He was so much respected by the college kids in the early 60’s that the UC Irvine held an election to determine their mascot and slogan/motto. Hart won by a landslide similar to Ronnie’s in 84. The UCI mascot is an anteater and UCI’s slogan/motto is ZOT! Hart’s cartoon character got more than all the others combined!

Posted by EOCostello [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 9, 2007 7:30 PM

I confess to somewhat mixed feelings about Hart's passing. Much of this results from the decision of the family to continue the script using archival art. One of the things I find about the state of comics today is a virtual sclerosis, with hardly any fresh material. There are strips today that have been running 30, 40 and 50 years, and for the last 10-20-30 have not had much new to say. B.C., I believe, debuted in the late 1950s. While certainly the religious tone of some of the Sunday strips in B.C. was unusual, the dailies were increasingly dull. And the fact that Peanuts is still running takes space that could be given to new artists. The chance to allow a Watterson or a Breathed to emerge is pretty slim when you have a family almost literally recycling work.

Let B.C. and Id rest in peace, and give someone else a chance. Yes, there will be failures, and artists with bad draughtsmanship. But we'll never find that one artist of genius if the comics readers are so, forgive the term, reactionary as to shun any change.