Now we know who still reads B.C.

I remember reading Johnny Hart’s B.C. back in the late 1960s. It was stale then, relying on feeble non sequiturs and unfunny one-liners, and it just got worse over the years as it became increasingly religious (You want to suck all the joy out of something? Just add Jesus.), and now of course, it’s the classic example of a zombie comic strip, the original creator is dead, and his successors just keep phoning it in.

But someone still reads it: Ken Ham, of course. He was quite amused by this piece of crap.


Just to hammer home why it’s not funny: no, no new evidence for the existence of Brontosaurus was discovered. A taxonomic justification for restoring the genus name was made.

Evidence for the coexistence of humans and dinosaurs has never been found.

Leave it to a creationist to find misconceptions and stupidity and lies funny.


  1. Sili says

    I didn’t get this when it was on CIDU either.

    Isn’t “eat your heart out” a taunt?

  2. jrobie says

    If I recall correctly, it’s not even that his Hart’s successors are just phoning it in, they’re actually just cutting up old panels and adding new words. It’s the worst.

  3. peterh says

    What Ham fails to mention (taxonomic niceties aside) is that the brontosaurus and man are separated by many millions of years, quite inimical to Ham’s comic book version of reality.

  4. borax says

    One more reason B.C. sucks. The two women characters were named The Fat Broad and The cute Chick. Fuck you Johnny Hart.

  5. Saad: Openly Feminist Gamer says

    Sili, #2

    I interpret it as the guy saying “You’re right, Ken but I’m the one that has the evidence you’ve been looking for.”

  6. tuibguy says

    I thought it was funny as a kid, this and The Wizard of ID, but I rapidly grew out of that phase. I just don’t get this one, I mean the final panel is not a punchline. Is it?

    I seem to remember some panels with references to Jesus and was puzzled that Hart would use an anachronism so blatantly.

  7. Deacon Duncan says

    So that’s why scientists aren’t finding evidence of Creation — they’ve been looking at real fossils, and created dinosaurs live in the comics.

  8. Usernames! (ᵔᴥᵔ) says

    From Hamm-bone:

    However a new statistical analysis of the fossils by Oxford University has seen the dinosaur resurrected. Scientists have ruled that it is unique and should have its own genus.

    No, Brontosaur the dinosaur was not “resurrected” (haw, haw). Brontosaurus parvus and Brontosaurus yahnahpin were determined to be separate and distinct from Apatosaurus.

    This is the basic stumbling block religious folk have: they assume that any “changes” are evidence of error instead of refinement. Of course, when one points how how their god changed from the evil, angry giant of the OT to the whatever-whatever of the NT, they do a lot of handwaving to make it okay.

    To quote Dr. Asimov: “…when people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”

  9. opposablethumbs says

    The cartoon strip is indeed utter dreck – but I kind of find this one mildly amusing in spite of itself: it’s a loud and proud admission that the only “evidence” of the coexistence of humans and dinosaurs is this roughly drawn fictional character. Eat your heart out ken ham – because this little drawing is the best you’ll ever get. The taxonomical decision regarding brontosaurus just puts the icing on the cake for the many who get the fact that it’s a change in nomenclature, not in the nature of reality.

    The cartoon thus shoots itself in the foot twice over (not that ken ham gets it, presumably).

  10. says

    I have this odd fondness for the medium that is the daily strip. With all respect to the absolutely brilliant and lamented artists who vacated the space as the printing got steadily more gratuitously microscopic in the cutthroat media economics of the late 80s/90s, I think it’s actually the essential limitations that are part of what makes it magic. You’ve got black, you’ve got white, you’ve got this little oblong, and let’s see what you can do with that. And there’s whole essays on that principle at work in art in general, and this is some of the same thing that makes haiku powerful: the rigid rules can, indeed, channel creativity, and what actually works is likely to have a certain brilliant minimism, but anyway…

    Anyway, so while I’d like to say the issue of zombie strips (and the dreadful, deliberately dumb dreck that is BC is only one small part of the overall pathetic waste of limited space that is the phenomenon) bother me little today, now that there’s all the web and web strips and a dazzling proliferation of voices and styles that this new world has opened up, and dead tree media begins to seem almost quaint, against all that, in that it’s somehow refused entirely to die as yet…

    Well, given that maybe increasingly archaic affection for that antique form itself, I can’t. Not quite, not yet…

    So geez, to Creators Syndicate and the papers that are still carrying the asinine, artless emptinesses that are the zombies, my only conclusion remains: you increasingly feel like fossils, and, by now, actually want to die. And, as in so many lingering, undignified deaths, the mourners are probably best advised just to do their best to remember the increasingly distant better days.

  11. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I know why Hammy is a fan of BC: it humorously shows how wrong scientists ARE, that scientists just game their findings by reclassifying their “findings” to fit their current paradigm. Scientists declassified Bronto~~, as not fitting in their schema, but now they’ve changed their mind!!! So scientists are just flippant bozos, while Hammy is the true thinker of deepity thoughts and oh so seriously analyzes the bones to reveal the truth that scientists try to hide. The Flood wiped out most life and put those layers of fossils/rock/fossils/rock/… . Scientists are always changing the story, first “eggs are goodfood” then “eggs are unhealthy”, now “eggs are perfect food”, what is one to believe? Ham *believes* (so completely, that he *knows*).
    As much as I mock Hamster, I do envy his arrogant certitudes, claiming to have a “science” mindset, means I have to always question, verify, etc. always be in doubt etc..
    bah, I likes the way I think. (I can be arrogant, too)

  12. tbp1 says

    I found some of my old BC books a few years ago, from the days before he got religion. A mixed bag. Some of it still strikes me as very funny (I don’t know why, but the whole “clams got legs” thing still cracks me up) but as someone else pointed out, it’s really, really sexist and it’s even more monochromatic and repetitive than most comic strips. He just ran out of things to do after a while, and of course once he found Jesus it completely lost whatever small spark it might still have possessed.

  13. says

    BC was one of several comic strips that Hart had been dashing off in his longstanding uninspired way. The Wizard of Id was another, and I’m sure there’s at least one more I’m not making any effort to remember right now. This was at the same time as Mort Walker and Dik Browne were dashing off Hi & Lois, Hagar the Horrible (which I actually liked in its first two years or so), and at least one other. Just three hacks making their money on quantity instead of quality.

    I read an interview with Hart, where he showed himself to be a truly hateful passive-aggressive piece of work hiding behind the standard “I’m just a sweet innocent little lamb of God, I have nothing but love and compassion for all the people who God condemns to eternity in Hell for not being worthy of his love” schtick. Just as uninspired and one-dimensional as his comic strips.

  14. woozy says

    1) This particular comic strip could be seen as an anti-creationist strip. We suspect we’ll never find evidence coexistence of humans and dinosaurs because they never coexisted. But since I’m a fictional comic strip character so I can have the evidence in spades. Eat your heart out, Ken Ham.

    Well, maybe I’m being too generous when it doesn’t deserve it.

    2) I haven’t read B.C. since it zombified. Given Hart’s unique and extreme right-wing bigotry it seems weird a syndicate would attempt to replicate that weird individual aspect of a strip.

    3) Before hart’s public nervous breakdown B.C. was without doubt one of my all-time top favorite strips. He *was* (back in the 60s and 70s) witty and clever and just nerdily logical enough to really speak to my math type humor. I’m disappointed folks here didn’t appreciate the strip it was as much as I did. Although, to be fair, after Hart’s embarrassing a public personality-changing religious conversion, the strip was a piece of shit.

    4) Fat Broad and Cute Chick. Yeah…. those *did* always rub me the wrong way. I had a liberal-libertarian friend who argued that it was intentional to explicitly point out the sexist objectification of women and satirize it and I *wanted* to believe that but… well, it never really went down well with me.

  15. says

    “Zombie strips” with dead creators are uniformly awful (Blondie, Hagar, Snuffy Smith…take your pick), but B.C. was so insufferable in the ’90s and early ’00s that the initial post-Hart strips actually felt like improvements.

    I recall reading somewhere that Johnny Hart was “converted” at some point by televangelists. How the heck does that happen, and what was he before??

  16. says

    I’ve always had a soft spot for one strip (from waaaay back) where a couple of the characters are watching a chicken that suddenly does a sharp right and then a sharp left, at which point one of the characters saya “OK, then we’ll build the road there”.

  17. says

    Although, to be fair, after Hart’s embarrassing a public personality-changing religious conversion…

    Do tell. I never heard of this.

    4) Fat Broad and Cute Chick. Yeah…. those *did* always rub me the wrong way. I had a liberal-libertarian friend who argued that it was intentional to explicitly point out the sexist objectification of women and satirize it and I *wanted* to believe that but… well, it never really went down well with me.

    If you can’t tell whether something is serious, or a satire of the serious thing depicted, then the work is crap.

    And no, I don’t believe for a second that Hart was “satirizing” sexist objectification. Those two female characters never came off as anything more than lazy stereotypes by a lazy creator — the ugly belligerent nag and the hot but frigid and unattainable young woman showing nothing but one-dimensional contempt for all the men who want her body. Anyone who calls such hackery “satire” is probably trying to rationalize his/her liking of the work in question — sort of like a fan of Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh insisting their hateful nonsense was all just kidding.

  18. daved says

    The Wizard of Id was drawn by Hart, but also by Brant Parker, if I recall correctly. It never “got religion” as far as I know. Not all that funny, most of the time, though better than BC in recent years.

  19. sugarfrosted says

    Papers still carry BC? My local paper dumped it years ago after his antisemitic screed comic.

  20. Rich Woods says

    @rietpluim #14:

    Ham has a heart?

    Of course he has a heart. How else could his sins be measured against a feather on the scales of Ma’at, if he doesn’t have a heart? But let’s not tell him that’s really what will happen when he dies. It might spoil his fun.

  21. woozy says

    Although, to be fair, after Hart’s embarrassing a public personality-changing religious conversion…

    Do tell. I never heard of this.

    Um, he became a born-again christian. I consider this personality changing. And as he was creating published media that reflected his views , I consider that to be public. And as his strip went from funny and clever (albeit cold and impersonal) to horrifyingly awful, I consider it to be embarrassing.

    And no, I don’t believe for a second that Hart was “satirizing” sexist objectification.

    No. I don’t either. I *wanted* to because otherwise I liked his humor (of the time). His entire strip was stripping everything to existential abstractions. So he did the same for women but that was so dehumanizing and from such a sexist perception that it was the one thing I couldn’t swallow and it left me cold.

    How the heck does that happen, and what was he before??

    How? No idea but apparently painfully and embarrassingly. What was he before? An engineering type nerd who reveled in logical abstractions and meta-logical absurdities and existential puns. (And an old-school sexist… *sigh*) Which (except for the sexism) does *not* go well will heavy-handed right-wing religious judgmental bashing.

    I’m still fond of the strip where Peter (*sigh*, the men got *names*) attempts to prove parrellel lines never meet by walking the circumference of the globe dragging a forked branch in the dirt.

  22. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    Dear pop culture: misrepresenting disagreements and/or changes in the prevailing thinking, among scientists, regarding how to classify A Thing, with supposed confusion over whether The Thing itself exists, CONTINUES TO CONTINUE TO CONTINUE TO BE NEITHER CUTE NOR CLEVER.

    That is all.

  23. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    …damnit. “as,” not “with”. I wanted it to be quotable too. :(

  24. shadow says

    @14 rietpluim:

    Ham has a heart?

    According to the hellish babble, the blood pump does double duty with the thinky bits.

    Hamster (sorry rodents) has one that is shriveled and frozen, so the thinky part doesn’t work well.

  25. pacal says

    Of course a strip can become a zombie comic strip before the originator dies. The classic example of this is Peanuts.

  26. woozy says

    @29 and @30. Are you being literal or snarky? Literally, Peanuts was not “zombie” as Shultz wrote it until he retired and then put it in reruns (he never gave gave control over to a production staff). Beetle Bailey and Garfield are literally zombies in that the cartoonists did.

    If you are being snarky and claiming later Peanuts was uninspired and of low quality, well…. okay.

  27. Al Dente says


    Both Peanuts and Garfield started off being good strips. However after a while they became mediocre and then downright bad strips. This happened when their original cartoonists were still cartooning (Jim Davis is still alive and still pumping out unfunny cartoons). Another example is Scott Adams and Dilbert.

  28. woozy says


    I don’t disagree. (Although I never liked Garfield even in the early days.) I’m just clarifying whether your and Pacal’s use of the term “zombie” is a subjective “it’s just not as good and lumbering along” vs. a more literal “the original cartoonist has abandoned the strip and left it to syndicated staffers”. Jim Davis is still alive and maintains nominal creative control over the strip but he does not write or draw them and hasn’t for decades. His staff does everything. Same with Mort Walker (who discreetly died unnoticed while handing his corporation in name over to his son). Schultz on the other hand, bad as the later Peanuts were, never actually handed off the strip to a zombie crew.

    Of course, “zombie crew” is subjective too, I suppose. All comic strips have inkers and fillers and letterers and sketchers that it’s hard to say whether, say, Doonesbury is a “zombie” strip or not. I’m pretty sure Gary Trudeau still writes and scripts the Sundays but I doubt he actually draws very much any more. And he probably has an “ideas” staff.

  29. says

    The earliest BC comic strips were very good. That’s how they became popular enough to become zombies. Hart used to write very funny jokes about philosophy, the battle of the sexes as it was called in the sixties, science and sports. I loved them when I was a kid. Same with Wizard of Id. I still have some of those paperbacks on my bathroom shelf. I guess Hart got himself born again sometime in the 70’s because they stopped being funny around the same time.

  30. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Whew, I am so glad to see that no one dare throw Bill Watterson into this ‘fracas’ over cartoonists failures. We all know his Calvin and Hobbes comic was the pinnacle of success with Watterson supremely ethical about how he would profit from its popularity. He refused to zombiefy it, when he decided to retire, he just pulled it from every paper. Refusing, all along, any use of Calvin in product advertisements, etc. Watterson was so witty, all comic artists should try to emulate his behavior.
    okay, Done. Just trying to derail all the vitriol against the zombie comics out there. BC is just another example of how Ham is bad for everything. (even sammiches)

  31. Menyambal says

    I liked B.C. when it first came out. I was a kid, and didn’t take the sexism as seriously as I now would, but I did notice it. But there was a nerd guy and an inventor guy, and the humor was about my level. (And I liked the Wizard of Id, too.)

    But dang, the Jesus stuff that came later was creepy. The strip had worn out before then, so finding it that way was two kinds of wrong. And so horribly unsubtle and unfunny – like most Christian “humor”.

    Zombie strips are sad. I have to give Bill Watterson big ups for letting go of Calvin and Hobbes before it faded (and major worship for the comic in the first place). Another old favorite was Pogo, and somebody tried to bring it back with a completely different artist who had never seen the strip, but who was said to draw like Walt Kelly – “abomination” was the right word for that.

    Anyhow, that strip up there makes no sense. I didn’t get it on first reading, and the best explanation so far still makes it poorly written, and not at all funny.

    Ham, by the way, was the person who really hammered the “fact” that Brontosaurus never existed. He said that because the wrong head was put on the skeleton, it didn’t exist. He didn’t say that the animal existed, but nobody knows what the head really looked like. He didn’t say that the name should have been something else. No, he said that it never existed, and he used exclamation marks!

    Which is kinda funny coming from a man of faith. Not only did his god never exist, but most of the people in the first half of his holy book. The few that did exist, never did the stuff his book says they did.

    Ham has a thing for names, I guess. (Aristotlean essences, is it?) He can wish a dinosaur out of existence because the name is in error, and he can think a comic strip is great because it has the name of what was once a good one.

  32. birgerjohansson says

    His friend Parker’s “Wizard of Id” has been zombified, but in a nice way. I still read it to get my fix of cynicism, cowardience and corruption. The venal king is my favourite.

  33. birgerjohansson says

    …also, his “Crock” features a supreme bastard as protagonist. Yum.

  34. says

    I now live in the hometown of B.C. – the initials stand for “Before Christ” but also for “Broome County”, and all the county parks around here have a big doofy Hart-drawn dinosaur as their logo. It’s weird, to say the least. Also I met Hart’s widow at a party once. Life is weird.

  35. unclefrogy says

    I suspect that for many of the cartoonist appeal it is the drawing that sells as much if not more than what ever “humor” it tries to convey.
    the BC characters are kind of cute regardless if the joke works or not.
    I knew an artist who tried his hand at cartooning. The strips were funny but the artist did not know what part was the joke.

    uncle frogy

  36. Kermit Sansoo says

    Watterson was the master, for sure, but there were others who let their strips die dignified deaths when they lost interest or inspiration. Gary Larson was one.There are a few fine traditional sort of strips which are quite good; Stone Soup for example. Foxtrot and Doonesbury are reduced but not zombified. Most of the comics I read these days are web comics, and I suspect most have never been printed in a paper.
    I can’t imagine any which would be improved by, or even survive, a born again transformation of the artist.

  37. jesse says

    R: newspaper comics – unfortunately the medium suffers from the same problems as newspapers generally,which is basically the collapse of the industry. That doesn’t help the creative talent, and doesn’t incentivize new stuff. Also, if you’ve never worked in a newspaper office, you’d be amazed at how people get upset over removing their favorite strips. Most of the ones that get the most feedback tend to be older. I suspect part of it is parents who share stuff with their kids. That is there is a strip you liked as a kid and you want to share it with yours, and if the jokes are kid-level, so be it. That dynamic is going to fade out though since people younger than I am who are having families are less likely to have the Sunday paper tradition.

    BC is a bit of an outlier, in that the creator got all religious. But I’ve seen some pretty average and not-so-funny anymore stuff that goes back decades (Blondie is still running).

    Now, I will hear cries of “But *I* wouldn’t share BC with the kids” and such, but that’s you. Newspaper managers listen to the people they get letters and calls and emails from.

    I read BC as a kid, and thought it funny, like the Wizard of Id and Peanuts. Later on, not so much. In all three cases you had authors who started work in the 1950s. I’d say that the problems people have outlined here are likely reflective of that.

    Doonesbury is an interesting case study. I don’t know how much Trudeau still draws and writes. But I suspect it’s a lot. AFAIK he still does it with pen. paper and ink. That’s a lot of hours for a Sunday strip.

    Another interesting case study would be to check how many new strips were introduced over the years. I would strongly suspect that number has dropped as the medium moved to the web. So that contributed to the problem (and incentive) of zombie strips.