April 10, 2007
RIP, Johnny Hart

Didn't get to this yesterday - Johnny Hart, the creator of the comic "BC" and co-creator of "The Wizard of Id" has passed away at the age of 76. I haven't read either strip in years, partly because I couldn't stand Hart's politics and proselytizing, but mostly because I hadn't found either of them to be funny in awhile. Which is not to say that they were never funny - I've got an old "BC" paperback (not this one, but contemporary to it), and I'm here to tell you, it's witty and clever. But somewhere along the line, Hart stopped relying on his characters for humor, and started doing gag-a-day strips, which just gets old after awhile. Throw in the religion and the right-wing slant, and there was less than nothing to recommend his work as far as I was concerned.

And unfortunately, it looks like his "work" will continue on past his death:

Richard Newcombe, founder and president of Creators Syndicate, said Hart was the first cartoonist to sign on when the syndicate was created 20 years ago. "Traditionally, comic strips were owned by syndicates," Newcombe said. "We were different because we allowed cartoonists to own their own work. It was because of Johnny's commitment to this idea that made us a success."

Newcombe said "B.C." and "Wizard of Id," which Hart co-created, would continue. Family members have been helping produce the strips for years, and they have an extensive computer archive of Hart's drawings to work with, he said.

Ugh. You already know how I feel about this sort of thing, so let me just quote the Comics Curmudgeon (link via Chad Orzel), who sums it up nicely:

If I have any pull at all in the comics industry, I have to beg and plead for this not to happen. Say what you will for good or for ill about Hart's work, but it has always struck me (despite that note about help from family members) as being indisputably his work. The best way to honor that would be for it to stand on its own, not to be continued by assistants cutting and pasting new dialogue into scans of old strips. Because of the way that comics publishing works, there will be a few weeks worth of Hart-authored strips still to run, but after that it should bow gracefully out. It may be hard to believe for younger folks, but Hart was one of a generation of young turks who shook up the comics page in the 1970s, and letting his strip continue in other hands denies that chance to others and diminishes what went before.

Amen. I'm gonna draft me an email to Kyrie O'Connor and ask her to please please take this opportunity to find a fresh new voice for the Chron's comics pages. Please feel free to join me in this effort.

Finally, since Mark Evanier is always the best source of celebrity obituaries, let me recommend these two posts of his, the latter of which points to this nice obit for Hart. Check 'em out.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 10, 2007 to Society and cultcha

I want to be one of those people recalling the "golden days" of "good BC", and all I can do is think about the "fat broad is fat" jokes, the "clumsy is clumsy" jokes, and the "cute chick is cute, but ditzy" jokes.

There was a lot that wasn't funny and was just sexist or mean.

Maybe I started after he'd already started sliding, but I don't think the good old days were all that.

Posted by: Michael Croft on April 10, 2007 6:51 AM

I always glanced at BC and the Wizard, but I stopped really paying attention to them a long while ago.

If you don't already get Pearls before Swine, suggest that to O'Connor as a replacement.

Posted by: Linkmeister on April 10, 2007 6:13 PM