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Johnny Hart passes away from stroke at age 76 (UPDATED, again)

Johnny Hart, age 76, has died Saturday from a stroke at his drawing board in Nineveh, NY. Johnny is the creator of B.C. and The Wizard of Id.

From an Washington Post story about Johnny’s history:

John Lewis Hart, a firefighter’s son, was born Feb. 18, 1931, in Endicott, N.Y. As a child, he said he drew “funny pictures, which got me in or out of trouble depending on the circumstances.”

After high school, he served in the Air Force in Korea and produced cartoons for Pacific Stars and Stripes.

The Saturday Evening Post, Colliers and True magazines later published his freelance cartoon submissions while Mr. Hart worked in the art department at General Electric in Johnson City, N.Y. While at GE, he created “B.C.” and based many of the characters and their quirks on his friends and family.

“I tried to reduce my cartoons to the fewest words and the least clutter in the drawing,” he said in 1997. “The simpler you do things, the more genius is required to do it. I used to take ideas as far back as I could take them — back to their origin. So cave men became my favorite thing to do because they are a combination of simplicity and the origin of ideas.”

His survivors include his wife, Bobby Hatcher Hart; two daughters; a brother; a sister; and two grandsons.

I extend my condolences and hope that his family may find solace in their faith.

I’ll post more news as more details roll in.

UPDATE: I’ve received an email from Kathy Kei at Creators and she confirms that the strip will continue, but the details about how and who are still being ironed out. Will post additional news as I get it.

UPDATED AGAIN: I’ve received another email from Kathy Kei at Creators who says this:

“B.C.” and “The Wizard of Id” will definitely be continued. Johnny had always intended for the strips to survive with the participation of his family. They have been involved for years. I think many people would say, and we think Johnny would agree, that after a creator has passed away, memorable cartoon characters take on a life of their own, like Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse, like Charles Shulz’s Snoopy, and like Johnny’s characters. This is why we intend to keep the Johnny Hart byline.

“B.C.” will be continued by the Hart family (Johnny’s daughters and grandsons), and “The Wizard of Id” will go on as usual with the participation of Jeff Parker, Brant Parker’s son, and Hart’s family.

That’s the same language that you’ll now find on the Creator’s web site.

Rick Newcombe has written an In Memoriam as well recounting his personal and business relationship with Johnny over the years.

He was modest, as always, and tried to shift the credit back to me, but I told him that because of his commitment, syndicates no longer insist on ownership when they sign new cartoonists. He had revolutionized an entire industry, and empowered cartoonists to take control of their work and demand the freedoms they enjoy in their contracts today.

After Charles Schulz died in 2000, Johnny told me that he wanted B.C. and The Wizard of Id to continue after his death, and he spoke on that occasion, and subsequently, about how proud he was of his two daughters and two grandsons, all of whom have been involved with both comic strips over the years. I see in them his wit and remarkable sense of humor, as well as his genius for simple but beautiful artwork.

Community Comments

#1 Charles Brubaker
April/8/2007
@ 10:01 pm

Rest in peace, Johnny. You’ve earned your legacy in the cartooning community.

#2 Rich
April/8/2007
@ 10:08 pm

Amen. One of the greats.

#3 Neal
April/8/2007
@ 11:20 pm

A cartoonist who never compromised his art for the sake of others, his work was not always among my favorites, but I have nothing but respect for the man and his legacy. That he died at his drawing board was appropriate for someone so committed to his craft. I do hope that his strip is allowed to pass with him, since it was obviously as much a part of him as his own hands.

#4 The Poster Formally known as Mike
April/9/2007
@ 1:53 am

Rest in Peace, Mr. Hart.

I agree with you Neal, but I did read on the Comic curmudgeon site that its possible that BC will continue. This a quote copied from their article:

“Newcombe (founder and president of Creators Syndicate)said B.C. and Wizard of Id would continue. Family members have been helping produce the strips for years, and they have an extensive computer archive of Hartâ??s drawings to work with, he said.”

I can tell you I really,really, really hope that won’t happen. I’d hope Johnny Hart wouldn’t want that either.

#5 David James
April/9/2007
@ 8:27 am

What a GREAT cartoonist. I met him years ago and was a very gracious to me. He encouraged me and sent me a nice critique of one of my strips.

BC has always been one of the few strips that makes me laugh out loud.

I will miss you Johnny.

#6 Rob Tornoe
April/9/2007
@ 9:00 am

Terrible news. I contacted him a while back because I was doing spoof cartoons on New Jersey governor Corzine as the “Wizard of Trenton,” and he was amazingly supportive.

I hope they do not continue the strip. Let it rest in peace, as I hope Mr. Hart will.

#7 josh
April/9/2007
@ 10:10 am

He got attention paid to the comics for his religious views, but also, more importantly, for his contribution to the funnies.

He was funny.

#8 JeffM
April/9/2007
@ 2:44 pm

Wow, he was certainly blessed to pass away doing what he was created to do…literally.

To die at your drawing board….He is most certainly resting in peace!

#9 Bruce Robinson, Cartoonist
April/9/2007
@ 3:14 pm

Johnny was a GREAT guy! I really appreciate and admire his stand for the Lord. I feel blessed to have known him personally and also feel blessed that he endorsed my cartoon book GOOD MEDICINE (religious “FAR SIDE”-type cartoons). Since he was a fellow Christian, I KNOW that he is with Jesus now in Paradise (ref. 1 John 5:13), since the Bible talks about a believer being present with the Lord when they are absent from the body (ref. 2 Cor. 5:8)! Please pray for his wife’s (Bobby) and family’s comfort at this time. He will be TRULY missed, but I look forward to the time when I can hang out with him in Heaven and reminisce about cartooning times here on earth. I feel that upon entering Heaven, Jesus may have said to Johnny something to the effect of “Welcome Home, thy good and faithful servant!”

#10 Guy Gilchrist
April/9/2007
@ 3:36 pm

When I first got my job doing The Muppets for King and Henson, Bill Yates, my Editor at King, told me how to write and illustrate a comic strip. He told me to read every paperback by Mort Walker, Johnny Hart, and Dik Browne….then, try to do THAT.
THAT, folks, is a full course in how to be funny in a comic strip.
Johnny Hart was funny.
I have too many memories of Johnny to share them here, but, he was always generous with his art, his talents, his time. He was never, ever rude, or ever to my knowledge did he ever say anything critical of anyone else’s strip, or work. Johnny took the criticism that came his way graciously.
Johnny was real.
I knew him before he found the Lord, and after. He was always himself. Thoroughly comfortable in his own skin, with who he was and how he did things.
I think that being real, being honest, and natural when your at the board drawing and writing is certainly what is the hardest struggle.
Some call it finding your style. Finding your voice.
Johnny’s seemed effortless. Like Wllie Mays catching a fly ball. Effortless. You don’t realize how much work that is until you try to play Center…or do a comic strip. It takes a lot of work to make it look that easy.
I will always treasure the talks we had and the notes passed between us. In the later years, there were good wishes for my own faith based strip. Johnny didn’t have to tell me that it was worth it…but he did. Johnny is with the Lord now, and the Lord has quite a bullpen up there….and the king of the one liners is now cracking that bullpen up.
Johnny Hart was funny.

#11 MJ
April/9/2007
@ 8:35 pm

Another loss to the comic kingdom. I always read these strips wherever I found them. Serious funny material. I can see the point of others hoping the strips are put to rest, but I feel that they should continue I would miss reading the antics of the casted characters.

#12 josh
April/9/2007
@ 9:37 pm

I hate to sully such a positive comment trail, but I have to say that the quote, from Kathy Kei at Creators, is one of the most depressing I’ve seen. We read BC and Wizard of Id for the cartoonist, not the characters. Charles Schultz made the right decision to let Peanuts end. Mickey Mouse, her other example, has become nothing more than a corporate logo. It saddens me to think that vibrant, creative comic strips are being continued for the sake of commerce, not art.

#13 Dave
April/10/2007
@ 12:32 am

B.C. has been one of my favorites comic strips since I was a kid and still is.

I for one will be glad the strip will continue. As a Dad or a Mom, you hope you and your kids have something in commom when they grow up and something you can pass along down the line. Johnny Hart has that. His two daughters and two grandsons, all of whom have been involved with the comic strips over the years.

And although Johnny Hart wrote and drew the strip, I think his family was just as much part of B.C. as Johnny Hart was.

Here’s to more good laughs with B.C.
Rest in Peace Johnny Hart. You’ve done good.

#14 Chris
April/10/2007
@ 5:43 pm

This is incredibly tragic. Johnny Hart was one of the great cartoonists, one whose work is instantly recognizable to many.
“B.C.” could often be hilarious. Hart’s artistic style was sort of minimalist like Schulz, in that he only needed to use a few lines to get the reader to understand a lot (for example, the characters’ body language). I admittedly got kind of uncomfortable reading all of the religious stuff, although I too am a Christian, but I will miss Hart’s work nonetheless.
I only regret that his strip will be perpetuated after his death by his ghostwriting family, but if that was his wish then so be it.
Rest in peace, Mr. Hart.

#15 Mark
April/12/2007
@ 8:23 am

Mr. Hart will be missed by this cartoonist.

On other matters, I have to agree with those comment makers in favor of discontinuing his strips. If comics continue in perpetuation beyond the creators life, there will never be room for new creators or creations. My local paper alone hasn’t changed the comics roster in over 10 years, and many continue to run repeats of past greats. This would be like Hollywood continuing to make John Wayne movies because they can digitize him. I’m sure this will offend some, but there are some strips currently being continued by the creator’s progeny that should have been buried with them. With the collections available in book form for the nostalgic fans, there is no need to keep these going. Let Johnny’s creation go with him to the great beyond – he may need the company.

#16 Monty
April/12/2007
@ 9:45 am

Eh, I guess I’m not the kind for sentimentality. 76 years is a good long full life and I’ll consider myself lucky if I reach 50. Nor is it all that surprising that he died at the drawing board. Considering how many hours he probably spent at the drawing board the only place he had a higher percentage chance of dying is in his bed. For those who were touched by him personally I can understand how his passing is a great loss. You can never replace the people who have been part of your life. However for a lot of people his death is just another reminder of the passage of time.

Regardless of what you thought of his work, time and again it has been proven that creative works are best left in the hands of their original creators. If you want to honor someoneâ??s memory there are a million better ways to do it than piecing together new strips in Photoshop.

#17 Danny Burleson
April/12/2007
@ 10:44 am

Rest in Peace, Johnny, you had a great run. B.C. and Wizard of Id were never my favorites, but I always read them when I got the chance.

@Monty: I said something similar to my wife. It’s poetic that he died at the drawing table, but then, he was probably always at the drawing table {insert inappropriate ‘deadline’ joke here}. And now we’ll never know, but I bet he actually spent more time at the table than in bed. What I really wonder is if he got to finish his last cartoon.

#18 Ann Asbury
April/16/2007
@ 7:42 am

Each morning it was a toss between my husband and
myself to see which one got to read B.C. first.
May it continue forever……………
I was visiting a grandson in Kansas City and
I was disappointed to learn that they do not
have B.C……..
Hart’s life with young people will be missed too.

from Oklahoma City………

#19 The Daily Cartoonist | News and blog about comic strips, editorial cartoons, cartoons
January/2/2008
@ 1:40 am

[…] giant in the industry died. Johnny Hart, creator of B.C. and co-creator of The Wizard of Id passed away at the drawing board at the age of 76. Two weeks later Brant Parker, the other co-creator of Wizard of Id, passed away as well. […]

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