Hart, Johnny 1931-2007 (John Lewis Hart)

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Hart, Johnny 1931-2007 (John Lewis Hart)


See index for CA sketch: Born February 18, 1931, in Endicott, NY; died of a stroke, April 7, 2007, in Nineveh, NY. Cartoonist and author. Hart was best known as the creator of the B.C. and The Wizard of Id comic strips. He was in the U.S. Air Force in the early 1950s, after completing high school. Serving in Korea during the war there, he started drawing cartoons for the Pacific Stars and Stripes. Immediately after the war ended, he set out to be 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 cavemen 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. 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. 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 he credited televangelist programs with his new voyage into faith. 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. Some newspapers pulled B.C. from their comics page, or did not print selected strips that were 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, especially during the Christmas season, and this position led many Christians to see him as a kind of hero. 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.



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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Hart, Johnny 1931-2007 (John Lewis Hart)

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