Sunday, April 08, 2007

End of an Era

B.C. creator Johnny Hart passed away on April 7th, one day before the release of what is destined to the final in a controversial series of Christian-themed Easter strips. (Hart is also the co-creator of Wizard of Id, but it's B.C. that is his most personal work, reflecting more of his personal views and values.)

I grew up with B.C., and had felt comfortably at home with its old-school humor, but I have to admit that the strip had begun to show its age in recent years. When Hart wasn't driving home his religious viewpoints with strongly Christian-themed strips (and that always seemed strangely out of place for a strip whose name is an abbreviation for "Before Christ," and whose milieu supposedly takes place long before the establishment of modern society or the Christian faith), he was pretty much going through the motions, relying on tried-and-true jokes and well-established character stereotypes to give the strip its momentum.

B.C. is a gag strip that never relied on continuity, and that made it seem increasingly out of place on a comic strip page where even gag strips frequently have mini-continuity arcs. But Hart, who was 76, delivered a humor strip in which each day's installment could stand on its own. The quality of that humor had declined over the past ten or fifteen years, and the religious elements had begun to appear with such frequency that the strip seem almost proselytizing at times. Still, you have to give Hart credit--he believed in what he said, and he wouldn't back down on religious content regardless of controversy.

Hart died at the age of 76, from a stroke. He leaves behind an enormous body of work that is, unfortunately, largely unavailable. Let's hope that is remedied in the near future.

So long, Johnny. Thanks for the laughs and smiles; I grew up with you, and the comic strip pages will always be a little bit emptier without you.

1 comment:

Lanny said...

I am sad for those of us he left behind, but joyous for Mr. Hart. He lived a good life of conviction metered with humor. And now, I believe, he has moved from that good life to a better one, filled with things previously unseen and yet dearly hoped for.