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Johnny Hart (1931-2007): The Comic Maestro Behind B.C. and The Wizard of Id

Johnny Hart (1931-2007): The Comic Maestro Behind B.C. and The Wizard of Id

Johnny Hart aka. Johnny Lewis Hart, the prolific American cartoonist, etched his name into the annals of comic strip history as the creative force behind the beloved B.C. and The Wizard of Id. Born on February 18, 1931, in Endicott, New York, Hart’s artistic journey was a fascinating tapestry of creativity, controversy, and a deep-rooted commitment to his religious convictions.

Johnny Hart (1931-2007): The Comic Maestro Behind B.C. and The Wizard of Id

John Lewis Hart

Born: February 18, 1931, Endicott, New York, U.S.

Died: April 7, 2007 (aged 76), Nineveh, New York, U.S.

Nationality: American

Area(s): Artist, Writer

Notable Works: B.C., The Wizard of Id

Spouse: Ida Jane “Bobby” Hatcher (1932 – 2018)

Awards: [Full List]

Early Years and Artistic Genesis

Johnny Hart (John Lewis Hart) was born on February 18, 1931, in Endicott, NY, and died of a stroke on April 7, 2007, in Nineveh, NY. He was a cartoonist and author. Hart was best known as the creator of the B.C. and The Wizard of Id comic strips. After completing high school, he was in the U.S. Air Force in the early 1950s. While serving in Korea during the war, he started drawing cartoons for the Pacific Stars and Stripes. 

Johnny Hart (1931-2007): The Comic Maestro Behind B.C. and The Wizard of Id

Immediately after the war ended, he became a freelance cartoonist. Hart found success contributing to such magazines as Collier’s and the Saturday Evening Post but boosted this income with a job in the art department for General Electric. He created B.C., a strip about troglodytes who nevertheless comment on modern society, in 1958. Six years later, working with artist Brant Parker, he also introduced “The Wizard of Id,” which is set during the Dark Ages.

Johnny Hart (1931-2007): The Comic Maestro Behind B.C. and The Wizard of Id

The two strips became mainstays of newspapers across the country. Hart was named Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year in 1968 and won awards from the National Cartoonist Society in 1968, 1969, and 1971. Over the years, many of his cartoons were collected in book form for both series. Success did not necessarily equal happiness for Hart, however, and he began to descend into alcoholism. 

Johnny Hart (1931-2007): The Comic Maestro Behind B.C. and The Wizard of Id

He was living on a 150-acre estate by the 1990s, but his life was troubled. Then, one day, a man and his son came to install cable television in his home. The two men were Christians, and as they worked, they tuned the television to a Christian program. Hart was drawn to it and credited televangelist programs with his new voyage into faith.

Johnny Hart (1931-2007): The Comic Maestro Behind B.C. and The Wizard of Id

Although he generally kept his beliefs out of his cartoons, occasionally, he allowed his B.C. characters to convey messages about Jesus and God. This drew criticism from many readers and sometimes ire from Jews and Muslims, who were offended by particular strips that Hart would later say were not intended to denigrate other faiths. 

Johnny Hart (1931-2007): The Comic Maestro Behind B.C. and The Wizard of Id

Some newspapers pulled B.C. from their comics page, did not print selected strips about religion, or put those strips in the religion section of the papers. Hart insisted on writing such Christian-themed stories when the mood hit him; however, this position led many Christians to see him as a hero, especially during the Christmas season.

It was a view that Hart discouraged, saying that he was only saddened that so many Christians seemed afraid of expressing their faith openly in today’s secularized world. In his later years, Hart suffered from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but it was a stroke that ended his life while he was working at his drawing table. In an odd turn of events, his collaborator Parker passed away eight days later.

Johnny Hart (1931-2007): The Comic Maestro Behind B.C. and The Wizard of Id

Hart’s artistic flair emerged during his service in the United States Air Force in Korea, where he published his initial work in the military publication Stars and Stripes. Following his return in 1953, Hart’s cartoons graced the pages of esteemed publications such as The Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s Weekly, showcasing his burgeoning talent. Before diving into the world of cartooning, Hart worked in diverse roles, from managing a barbecue restaurant to practicing the art of sign painting.

Johnny Hart (1931-2007): The Comic Maestro Behind B.C. and The Wizard of Id

The watershed moment in Hart’s career came in 1957 when he birthed his magnum opus, B.C. The caveman-centric comic strip made its national debut on February 17, 1958, captivating readers with its humor and wit. Simultaneously, Hart co-created and wrote The Wizard of Id, brought to life visually by the talented Brant Parker, and this second venture took flight on November 9, 1964.

Interestingly, in 1960, Hanna-Barbera approached Hart to adapt B.C. into a prime-time animated series. Talks faltered, leading to the eventual creation of the iconic cartoon, The Flintstones.

Johnny Hart (1931-2007): The Comic Maestro Behind B.C. and The Wizard of Id

A Life Committed to Art and Faith

His profound religious convictions complemented John Lewis Hart’s artistic prowess. Raised in a casually religious household, Hart’s spiritual journey significantly turned in 1984 when he and his wife, Ida Jane “Bobby” Hatcher, began attending a Presbyterian Church in Nineveh, New York. The catalyst for this spiritual awakening was a father-son team of contractors who installed a satellite dish at Hart’s home.

Johnny Hart (1931-2007): The Comic Maestro Behind B.C. and The Wizard of Id

As Hart delved deeper into his faith, his work reflected his staunch theological and political conservatism. Integrating religious themes into his comic strips became a focal point of controversy in his later years. In a 1999 interview with The Washington Post, Hart expressed provocative views, including the belief that non-Christian individuals would face damnation and that homosexuality was the work of Satan.

Johnny Hart (1931-2007): The Comic Maestro Behind B.C. and The Wizard of Id

The controversial nature of Hart’s strips reached a pinnacle with two notable instances. The April 15, 2001, B.C. strip, released on Easter, featured a Jewish menorah transforming into a Christian cross, sparking accusations of replacement theology. Another strip from November 10, 2003, drew criticism for allegedly making derogatory comments about Islam.

Johnny Hart (1931-2007): The Comic Maestro Behind B.C. and The Wizard of Id

Personal and Community Contributions

Beyond his artistic endeavors, Hart was an active member of the Greater Binghamton community in Broome County, New York. His generosity extended to providing B.C.-themed drawings and logos free of charge to various local entities, including B.C. Transit, Broome County Parks, and Southern Tier Red Cross. Notably, Hart’s involvement with the B.C. Open PGA Tour Event spanned from the early 1970s to 2006, leaving an indelible mark on the event’s imagery.

Hart’s charitable contributions were not limited to the local community. He participated in auctions with the PBS affiliate, WSKG-TV, contributing original panels of B.C. strips. Additionally, Hart lent his artistic touch to the album cover of the 1999 release, “Still Fresh,” by the renowned jazz vocal group The Four Freshmen.

Johnny Hart (1931-2007): The Comic Maestro Behind B.C. and The Wizard of Id

Legacy and Tributes

Johnny Hart’s untimely demise on April 7, 2007, marked the end of an era. His death, while working at his drawing table, left a void in the world of comics. Tragically, Brant Parker, his co-creator of The Wizard of Id, passed away just eight days later.

Despite the controversies surrounding Hart’s later works, his impact on the comic strip landscape is undeniable. Tributes poured in from fellow cartoonists, with mentions in comic strips like Mother Goose & Grimm, Blondie, and Mallard Fillmore. Even The Wizard of Id paid homage to Hart in a poignant strip on February 14, 2008, where two characters discuss the absence of celebration on Valentine’s Day due to a heavy heart.

Johnny Hart (1931-2007): The Comic Maestro Behind B.C. and The Wizard of Id

Mastroianni Poems and Lasting Recognition

Hart’s tradition of drawing a B.C. cartoon every December 3, portraying his wife Bobby as the ant colony’s queen, became a cherished annual event. After Hart’s passing in 2007, his grandson Mason Mastroianni continued this heartwarming tradition until 2019.

Johnny Hart’s remarkable career garnered numerous awards, a testament to his impact on the world of cartooning. With the release of The Wizard of Id in 1964, Hart became one of the rare cartoonists with two strips in over 1000 papers each. His accolades include the National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben award for B.C. in 1968 and Wizard of Id in 1984, along with an array of international recognitions and honors.

Johnny Hart (1931-2007): The Comic Maestro Behind B.C. and The Wizard of Id

Johnny Hart’s legacy endures not only through his iconic comic strips but also in the hearts of those who appreciated his artistry and embraced the controversies that often accompanied it. His contributions to the world of comics remain eternally engraved, a testament to the indomitable spirit of a man who dared to blend humor with conviction.

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) about John Lewis Hart aka Johnny Hart

Who was John Lewis Hart?

John Lewis Hart (February 18, 1931 – April 7, 2007) was an American cartoonist known for creating the comic strips B.C. and The Wizard of Id.

What are John Lewis Hart’s notable works?

Hart’s notable works include the comic strips B.C. and The Wizard of Id.

When and where was John Lewis Hart born?

John Lewis Hart was born on February 18, 1931, in Endicott, New York, U.S.

When did John Lewis Hart pass away?

John Lewis Hart passed away on April 7, 2007, at 76, in Nineveh, New York, U.S.

What awards did John Lewis Hart receive?

John Lewis Hart received several awards, including the Swedish Adamson Award and five awards from the National Cartoonists Society. He won the Reuben Award for B.C. in 1968 and the Wizard of Id in 1984.

Who were John Lewis Hart’s collaborators on The Wizard of Id?

Brant Parker co-produced and illustrated The Wizard of Id, co-created and written by John Lewis Hart.

What were John Lewis Hart’s religious convictions?

Hart had a shift in spirituality in 1984 and became deeply religious, incorporating Christian themes into his comic strips. His religious and political views sparked controversy later in his life.

Why were some of John Lewis Hart’s strips controversial?

Two strips in particular were controversial, one involving a portrayal of Christianity supplanting Judaism and another perceived as a slur on Islam. These strips faced criticism from various organizations.

What were John Lewis Hart’s contributions to his local community?

Hart was actively involved in the Greater Binghamton area, contributing B.C.-based drawings and logos to various entities, including B.C. Transit and Broome County Parks.

How was John Lewis Hart remembered after his passing?

John Lewis Hart was memorialized in comic strips, including Mother Goose & Grimm and Blondie. He received tributes in The Wizard of Id strip and had a tradition of drawing B.C. cartoons for his wife’s birthday every December 3.

OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

  • Chicago Tribune, April 9, 2007, Section 1, p. 11.
  • Los Angeles Times, April 9, 2007, p. B8.
  • New York Times, April 7, 2007, p. A14; April 14, 2007, p. A2.
  • Times (London, England), April 23, 2007, p. 55.
  • Washington Post, April 9, 2007, p. B5.

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Greetings, fellow toon enthusiasts! Gustav Michalon here, the electric mind behind dynamic action cartoons. Whether it's superheroes soaring through the sky or toon characters caught in a lightning storm of humor, I'm here to charge up your day with electrifying visuals and witty narratives.

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