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Hart family grieves while it produces B.C. strip

Local CBS affiliate WBNG is profiling the Hart family who took over the B.C. comic strip after Johnny Hart died last April. The family is working through their loss at their own pace, but all seem to benefit from carrying on the comic feature. One quote struck me as a contradiction to earlier reports regarding Johnny’s wishes for the strip beyond his death.

Creators published a memorium written by Rick Newcombe the day or day after Johnny’s death stating:

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.

His daughter Patty is quoted in this new story that:

“Nobody ever asked dad point blank but I think he would have wanted them both to keep going, as long as it was the right thing for us to be doing,” says Hart’s daughter, Patty Hart-Pomeroy.

I find it unbelievable that Johnny would inform something of this importance to his syndicate only and not to his family members. While I have no inside information on what transpired after Johnny’s death, my impression was that Creators’ response was as much grief for Johnny’s passing as it was for the large revenue that would stop flowing if the strip were to end.

WBNG reports that they’ll air a second segment tonight about some of the changes that the family has made to the feature since they’ve taken over.

Community Comments

#1 josh shalek
November/6/2007
@ 11:44 am

Hoo boy, will this be one of those controversial posts?

I agree with you, Alan. I think that if there was any ambiguity about Hart’s feelings, the syndicate would rather just continue a profitable venture than stop it completely. And if Johnny was already enlisting the help of his family while he was alive, it follows that he probably wouldn’t mind them taking over completely after his death.

Personally, I don’t like the family’s argument that they are drawing the comic as a form of therapy. Art is great for therapy, but I don’t need to see their process.

Work on publishing books of B.C.; get the whole run out in the open like Peanuts or Krazy Kat. Publish his sketch books – I’m sure there is much we can all enjoy from a life of cartooning. But don’t continue a dead comic strip.

#2 John Read
November/6/2007
@ 12:47 pm

Setting aside the arguments about whether comic strips should continue after their creators’ death for a moment, does anyone else think the strip has actually been pretty good in recent months? I have to say I’ve been enjoying Hart’s grandson’s efforts, though, admittedly, I’m not privy to whether he’s writing the strip as well as drawing it. As a longtime fan of the strip, it seems like it reads more like the B.C. of the 70’s and early 80’s.

#3 josh shalek
November/6/2007
@ 1:11 pm

Apologies if I sounded like a broken record. My allegiance lies with the cartoonist first. The characters are a part of the cartoonist, so if the person at the drawing table changes, so the characters change as well. That’s where I was coming from when I made the above argument.

Not that this answers John’s question, but isn’t Grandson Hart the same person who was drawing a new comic strip for Creators just last year? If so, I wonder if he decided against his own comic strip in favor of working on B.C.

#4 Rich Diesslin
November/6/2007
@ 1:43 pm

I continue to read and generally enjoy it. I remember it as a really funny strip especially in its early years. I’d say the quality has been improving lately over what it was say in the 90s, but it probably won’t return to what once was … but it’s moving in a good direction. I’d rather keep it than say Funky, which I have now quit reading (got way too bizarre for me after the death, plus I just don’t read soap opera strips which it is now one).

I like to see new strips get a shot at syndication, but I have no problem with strip continuing to run (even FW) … the market place will decide whether it makes it or not. Many other cartoonists have handed-off their strips to family members (or in the process of doing so) and I don’t recall much backlash for it. It may seem unfair to new cartoonists because inheriting a strip isn’t the same as getting past the huge barrier of original syndication; yet life isn’t fair, we (or I) would jump at the same opportunity and they still have to maintain it once they get it.

I have more of a problem with newspapers continuing to run Peanuts or other “classic” strips in the comic pages where no new content is being created, but I understand the market forces that keep them in.

Ideally I’m for expanding the comics pages (increasing opportunities) because the newspapers these days have little else unique to offer. Of course, I am biased. ;)

#5 Garey Mckee
November/6/2007
@ 5:23 pm

I’ve always enjoyed the loose style of both BC and Id. I would say that a syndicate is always going to choose established revenue over testing new strips in new markets. Artistically and for those trying to get their work syndicated this will always be bad news. However, the fact remains that this is a business. If strips like BC and Id which continue with new content are making money for the syndicate then they going to always choose to continue the work after the original author’s death.

Rich mentioned Peanuts, which I have mixed feelings about. My initial reaction to the re-running of the strip was one of dismay when thinking of other strips that might deserve a spot on the comics page. But I have to admit, probably like many others out there, I’m just not ready to say goodbye to Peanuts.

#6 mark heath
November/7/2007
@ 6:10 am

Your headline reminded me of a Simpsons episode, the one that ends with Homer choking down his beloved pet lobster, cries of sorrow alternating with slobbering appetite.

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