Born Brant Julian Parker, August 26, 1920, in Los Angeles, CA; died of complications related toAlzhe-imer‘s diesase and an earlier stroke, April 15, 2007, in Lynchburg, VA. Cartoonist. For more than 40 years, Brant Parker entertained audiences with the antics of medieval residents in his comic, The Wizard of Id. Created with B.C. cartoonist Johnny Hart, The Wizard of Id earned its team Reuben Awards for Cartoonist of the Year. Parker, who worked on such comics as Out of Bounds and Crock, also won the National Cartoonist Society’s Humor Comic Strip Award five times and received the Elzie Seger Award in 1986. “Humor is a very important part of our survival and existence now,” Parker was quoted as having said about his work in the Los Angeles Times. “There’s nothing that eases tension like a good laugh. It can just about solve all the problems if it were used right.”
Born in 1920 in Los Angeles, Parker was the son of a magazine illustrator. Cartooning became a “compulsion” for him as a child, and he often went secretly into the local paper’s newsroom to watch the editorial cartoonist during his school recesses, ac- cording to an article in the Washington Post. “I don’t know how I got past the guard,” he was quoted as having explained. “I guess I was pretty nervy.”
Parker studied at the Otis Art Institute from 1939 to 1942, but he often said that his two-year stint working for Walt Disney studios in the late 1940s was his real art education. He worked on various projects, including the thirty-minute feature Mickey and the Beanstalk and several Donald Duck shorts. Between school and his work for Disney, Parker served in the Navy and fought in World War II.
After marrying Mary Louise Sweet in 1947, Parker moved to Binghamton, New York, where he took a position as a political cartoonist. It was while he was in that position that he met Johnny Hart. Parker was asked to judge an art competition at a local high school, where he discovered Hart’s art work. Parker encouraged Hart to pursue cartooning as a career and served as a mentor as Hart began working in the industry. Parker continued to work in comics, collaborating on projects such as Goosemeyer and working with Bill Rechin and Don Wilder on the strips Out of Bounds and Crock, a strip about the French Foreign Legion.
In 1964, Hart called Parker with an idea for a cartoon set in the Middle Ages. The two met in a New York hotel room, plastered the walls with panels, and invited a syndicate executive to see their work. The Wizard of Id launched soon after and was eventually syndicated in more than 1,000 newspapers. “The original premise was built around the Wizard goofing up and everything backfiring on him,” Parker was quoted as having said in the Chicago Tribune. “Everything kind of grew out of that.” The strip was known for poking fun at politics and culture and became a vehicle for the cartoonists to comment on humans in society.
The strip features a tyrant known only as the King, who calls his subjects Idiots; a hapless wizard; Turn-key, a dungeon guard, and his constantly escaping prisoner, Spook; Sir Rodney, the cowardly knight; and others. Parker was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as having said his favorite character in the strip—one he invented—was Spook. “I think it’s because of the pathos in Spook’s situation. He’s stuck in there for life, and he keeps trying to get out. I love pathos humor.”
Parker drew the strip and credited Hart with coming up with most of the gags, but the final strips were always a collaborative effort. “It’s two different kinds of thinking, always,” Parker was quoted as having said about their collaboration in the Los Angeles Times. “The trick is to find two people who are basically alike . We both enjoy the same kind of humor, so it’s been a great relationship.”
Parker, who had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and a stroke, passed along art duties for The Wizard of Id to his son, Jeff, in 1997. He died on April 15, 2007, eight days after his co-creator, Johnny Hart, died of a stroke. In honor of his and Hart’s death, Jeff Parker posted a The Wizard of Id strip featuring the King and the Wizard looking through a telescope into the sky. The Wizard quips, “Hey! There’s cartoons up there!” Parker died at the nursing home in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he had lived. He was 86 years old. Sources: Chicago Tribune, April 18, 2007, sec. 3, p. 9; Los Angeles Times, April 17, 2007, p. B9; New York Times, April 18, 2007, p. A25; Times (London), April 23, 2007, p. 55; Washington Post, April 17, 2007, p. B7.
—Alana Joli Abbott