Johnny Hart is extinct

My uncle Ed, my fun uncle who took a long, long time to grow up, had two favorite comics on the funny pages: The Wizard of Id and B.C. I liked them, too, and we followed them regularly. Of course, that was in the 1960s and early 70s, and I’m afraid they were afflicted with that syndrome common to long running strips: fading relevancy, recycled humor, the growing impression that the caroonist was phoning it in and didn’t really care anymore, as long as he got his syndication check. Johnny Hart, the creator of those strips, was a particularly sad case, because compounding the problem of staleness was an especially annoying and intrusive simple-minded religious stupidity. And now he’s gone. It’s unfortunate, in part because I regret any death, but also because he wasted so many of his last years cranking out crap and soiling his reputation.

I’ll forget about his religion, and remember instead my uncle chuckling over the Sunday funny pages.


  1. says

    I really loved his early stuff.

    Let’s see how well I remember this one:

    Wiz (at cauldron): May the Lone Haranguer’s tongue swell up like a sponge!

    (King’s bedroom. King in bed. Sound effects of a horse galluping up.)

    LH (off-camera, through window): NA KEEM IB NA FEEENG!

  2. says

    I too liked early B.C. In fact, I did a report in High School on how to draw the characters. However, his more recent strips were completely unreadable, and I gave up on him years ago. Perhaps now, I will peruse the old collections that I have.

  3. says

    One of my favorite B.C. moments:

    When Hydrogen U Played Oxygen Tech
    The game had just begun,
    When Hydrogen scored 2 fast goals
    and Oxygen Still had none.
    Oxygen scored a single goal,
    and thus it did remain
    Hydrogen 2, Oxygen 1
    Called because of rain.

  4. Sakurai says

    I found a decrepit old collection of B.C. cartoons in a friends’ collection and was stunned at how sharp and witty Hart had been in his prime. He even did a short series about one of the cavemen (B.C. himself?) becoming distraught at the idea that they’d evolved from apelike ancestors and trying to deny it, eventually finding himself speechless in the face of the ‘missing link’, Grog. I suppose he probably regretted doing those, later.

  5. says

    I really liked BC before it got marred by Christian Fundie propaganda and anti-evolution and young earth crap. Afterwards, I didn’t like the strip anymore. But I still like The Wizard of ID, though. Even though I did remembered one strip featuring a young kid being caught praying for the king and was taken to the king who told the guard who arrested the boy to release him with a warning to not pray again in public and the final panel shows the boy walking past buildings full of porn houses, abortion clinics, etc.

    I still remembered that strip to this very day.

  6. stogoe says

    Johnny Hart is now a corpse. I can’t help but feel ambivalvent. As an aside, his clams were especially annoying.

  7. Mrs Tilton says

    When I was very young, I remember BC being funny. Later, not so much. I can forgive the religious fundamentalism, but not the unfunniness. (As somebody recently wrote somewhere, GK Chesterton was a religious bigot, but at least a witty one.) Let us not forget Charles Schulz, who was, IIANM, just as much an evangelical Christian as Hart, but seemed somehow not to lose it for all that.

  8. Will E. says

    No, I’ve read Schulz was a secular humanist… Bil Keane, now, that’s another story.

  9. Shem says

    For my money, the most horrific thing about this is that the Hart family apparently plans to continue B.C. and Wizard of Id by pasting new (well, new-ish) gags into computer scans of Johnny’s old panels. And another valuable bit of space on the comics page ossifies, while good new strips like Big Top wither away …

    I doubt it’ll do much good to write to the syndicate, but I’ll at least be contacting my local paper and asking them to please drop Zombie B.C.

  10. Christian Burnham says

    Schulz did once describe himself as a secular humanist. It’s also true that he was a keen student of the Bible.

    There’s a couple of differences between Schulz and J. Hart.

    1) Schulz didn’t use his cartoons to preach. Indeed, he very much disliked B. C. because of Hart’s tendency to pontificate about ill-thought out religious rhetoric. Schulz’s religion was much more private and he showed much more humility about his beliefs.

    2) Schulz was perhaps the most important American cartoonist of the last half-century. Genius forgives a lot of things.

    Hart was generally disliked by other cartoonists, whereas Schulz was universally revered by his peers.

  11. peter says

    RIP. good cartoonist, know nothing of his latest works, but for me Calvin&Hobbes still rule :)

  12. ben says

    I despised Johnny Hart with a vituperative hate while he was alive and I’m not changing my tune now. The man was an evil, bitter, twisted, misanthropic liar and a sworn enemy of humour.

    A commentator on The Comics Curmudgeon ( has the first and last word on the subject in my book.

    “We should only speak good of the dead.

    Johnny Hart is dead.


  13. Mrs Tilton says


    I agree with your sentiment if not your historiography. What made Hart tragic is that he was (a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away) quite funny. A comments thread on another blog has called to memory his catfishing vs. catfish-fishing strip; ’nuff said.

  14. Crudely Wrott says

    Hart did a B. C. strip back some time ago; the 70s? To me it was his funniest and should amuse readers of this blog-

    Thor and BC are near a river with a volcano in the background. One of them is holding up a rock and scrutinizing it. He says, “Look at this! There is an impression of a bug in this rock.”

    They both look at the rock. The other looks thoughtful and says, “Amazing. Can you imagine how fast that sucker must have been going?”

  15. Doc Bill says

    Early B.C. were classics in the true sense of the word. Funny, dry, sardonic, witty.

    Find a book of B.C. comics from the early 60’s and you’ll laugh your ass off.

    Then, in the 70’s something weird happened and the strip became flat, dull and soppy.

    Hart ran the series for nearly 50 years. Although I lament the loss of Calvin and Hobbs in my life, maybe Bill Watterson made the right decision. Get out at the top of your game.

  16. says

    For me, Charles Schulz inspired me to try to draw comic strips. I loved Peanuts, as well as Calvin and Hobbes and For Better and For Worse.

    Schulz used religion as thought provoking in his strips. But some people believed that he had no idea about he wrote, after he received several letters about a strip where Marcie asks “Has the Lord only spoken through Moses?”

    I never really liked B.C. (one of the first computer games I played was based on the comic strip in the mid 1980s). The only strips I remember is that Easter strip that upset the Jews, “I-Slam” and the talking clams on Mount Everest.

  17. One Eyed Jack says

    It’s a sad fact that the comic strip industry is controlled by the syndication companies. In order to get any type of decent circulation, an artist must sign over the rights to their strip. So, long after they have tired of creating the strip or have passed away, the synication company just hires other artists to keep pounding out a lesser form of the comic.

    Take Peanuts as an example. That strip hasn’t been funny for 25 years, but it’s still run in nearly every paper across the country.


  18. CortxVortx says

    I remember the B.C. characters in Dr Pepper commercials in the 1960s. Where else would we learn that dinosaurs went “Gronk!”, that the Apteryx was a flightless bird with hairy feathers, that the Dorselectivus elusivii was a rare fish, that the fat broad was jealous of the cute chick, that Wiley hated water and Curls had a sarcastic wit.

    Back in the Stone Age, anyway.

    Clams got legs. “B.C.” don’t.

    — CV

  19. Jon H says

    Given his frequent subject matter, it might be best to wait until the third day before making a definitive announcement.

  20. William Nicholls says

    I agree that zombie comics should be dropped. Without the creator to enforce some kind of relevance and quality, running old strips just dilutes their impact. The “Salt Lake Tribune” runs “Peanuts” but doesn’t have the decency to preserve the artwork in its original format. To make it fit the new, narrower comic strip panels, the art is squashed horizontally so the round-headed kids have football heads. That’s a contemptible corruption of the artist’s work just to milk a few more bucks for heirs, syndicates and newspapers.

    One great thing that Hart could have done is make sure his strips passed-on with him and ensure open spots for new talent. Sounds like such a legacy wasn’t in his character.

  21. peter says

    as far as comic scripts go – only (amongst above mentioned) Bill Watterson was the one that was true to himself, he was independent, he knew when to quit, he was the true master of the comic trade. peanuts, Garfield and lots of others – booooring stuff for years and years…

  22. justpaul says

    B.C. has been pretty pathetic for years, sorry they’re going to continue it instead of making room for something fresh. I will ALWAYS miss Calvin & Hobbes, and inwardly groan every day when I pass the Dennis the Menace strip. To this day, I sorely miss Pogo (“We have met the enemy, and he is us.”). Walt Kelly must be spinning in his grave over the theocons, fundagelicals and Dear Leader’s ‘unitary executive’. Wish he were still around to have Pogo & Company skewer it all.
    Also – did Hart do Wizard of Id using a pseudonym Parker?

  23. Viadd says

    As Theodore Sturgeon said of H.G. Wells, “He sold his birthright for a pot of message”.

    Bill Waterson and Gary Larson decided to close out their comics while they were still good because saw what had become of comics like B.C. and Peanuts.

    (And in answer to #24, Hart and Brant Parker collaborated on Wizard of Id.)

  24. Don Price says

    I’m glad that someone finally mentioned Gary Larson. Now if only we could do something about Dennis Miller… (To continue on the topic of people who were funny “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”) When he sold his soul to Satan, I lost one of my last remaining shreds of belief in the goodness of humanity; he was someone I had admired a great deal. At this point Rush Limbaugh is funnier.

  25. aiabx says

    I’ll throw in an agreement that Johnny Hart was very funny once, and it is doubly tragic that he died before he snapped out of the idiocy he sank into.

    Thank the lack of God that we still have Gary Larson in the world, and although I’m glad he quit while he was ahead, I’m sorry that I don’t get new Far Side cartoons every morning.

  26. Kseniya says

    Doesn’t Berk Breathed get an honorable mention alongside Waterson and Larson for deep-sixing his own comic before it lost its edge (or heart, or both)?

    BTW, I have seen an old B.C. book, really old, from when my dad was a kid (he hangs on to all kinds of old paperbacks; I’m pretty sure this one was pre-1970) and I thought it was a hoot. I guess I was about 12 when I found it on the shelf and read it cover-to-cover. The strip I remember best involved …

    … a couple of ants on the ground. One ant climbs a pole. He finds himself on a sign of some kind. As he walks along the face of the sign, the lettering on the sign is revealed, panel by panel…


    Ant climbs down pole, turns to the other ant on the ground and says, simply, “You’re not going to believe this.”

    I dunno why exactly, but that one makes me grin even now. The fly-in-the-rock thing is a lot funnier, really, but… *shrug* … Somehow the understated absurdity of the ant thing really tickled my nascent funnybone.

    The B.C. strips in the papers were never funny, though. It took me a while to figure out how the book could be so good and the currents strips could be so lame.

  27. Pieter B says

    I remember one from the very early ’60s. A snake with two legs walks (body horizontal) past B.C. and another character. BC says, “This world is younger than I thought . . .”

  28. djlactin says

    one of my early BC recollections: Peter (?), still experimenting with the wheel, comes up with a square one. Thinks a bit. Makes a triagular one. sez he: “Eliminates one bump.”

  29. csrster says

    What? Not a mention of Trudeau/Doonesbury? Now there’s a guy who has somehow managed to avoid becoming stale. Part of his secret is the ongoing soap-opera aspect of the strip – characters growing old, their children growing up etc. – so the strip is continually being updated. Also being contemporary political satire means it’s never short of new material.

  30. says

    BTW, I have seen an old B.C. book, really old, from when my dad was a kid (he hangs on to all kinds of old paperbacks; I’m pretty sure this one was pre-1970) and I thought it was a hoot. I guess I was about 12 when I found it on the shelf and read it cover-to-cover. The strip I remember best involved …

    Oh, thankyewverymuch for the “really old” line — I have that exact BC book (and several others) and I bought it new sometime around 1970. Guess I’m old enough to be your dad ;-). Yeah: those old strips were funny. Hart explored the caveman situational humour (invention of fire, wheel, sex, etc….) AND sometimes turnd it into commentary on our society (Peter speaking from the TRVTH pedstal holding forth like a modern politician). Then that vein played out, he got religion, and the strip descended into pious platitudes.

  31. Ducky says

    How can y’all be bitching so much about the comics pages when great work like Mallard Fillmore is now around to entertain us?

  32. Kseniya says

    Mallard Fillmore… *gak* …

    Eamon, please accept my apology, I will try to keep the subjective date/age assessments to a minimum in the future. (FYI my dad is almost 50.)

  33. CortxVortx says

    B.C. and the cute chick were sitting on the hillside, watching the sunset.

    Cute chick: “Wanna hold hands?”

    B.C.: “Sure!” and he holds his own hands.

    Cute chick: “The end of the human race is in sight…”

    But that was looong ago…

    — CV

  34. Laser Potato says

    I say we nuke Peanuts from the papers and put EVERY SINGLE STRIP in a multi-volume collection of mega-sized hardbacks, where they belong!