Johnny Hart Exhibit “Before BC” — Collection of Pre-BC illustrations, comic strips, photographs and artwork
A collection of Pre BC illustrations, comic strips, photographs and artwork
by Johnny Hart presented by The Hart Family
Johnny Hart (1931-2007)
“As far back as I can remember, I drew funny pictures
which got me in or out of trouble, depending on the circumstances”
John Lewis Hart was born in Endicott, New York, in 1931. As a boy, Johnny demonstrated a talent for art along with an original sense of humor. During his senior year of high school in 1949, Johnny entered an art contest and met one of the judges, Brant Parker. A young cartoonist himself, Parker became a close friend and a prime influence in Johnny’s life.
Johnny spent the Korean War years serving in the military and honing his cartooning skills. In 1952, Johnny met and married Ida Jane “Bobby” Hatcher while stationed at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, where he was working as a cartoonist/photographer for the base newspaper. In 1953, he was sent to Korea, where he produced cartoons for the Pacific Stars and Stripes. After his discharge, the couple lived at Bobby’s mother’s farm in Georgia, where, in 1954, Johnny sold his first freelance cartoon to the Saturday Evening Post.
Eventually Johnny and Bobby returned to Endicott, where he took a position in the art department at General Electric. He continued to draw cartoons in his spare time, occasionally selling them to major magazines. Magazines weren’t interested in his caveman gags, however, in spite of Johnny’s delight in drawing them. Influenced by Charles Schulz’s Peanuts and encouraged by his buddies at work, Johnny decided to create a comic strip of his own. He began drawing little cave guys and, at Bobby’s suggestion, patterned the characters after his friends. B.C. was born!
At first, B.C. was rejected by several syndicates. But finally, in 1958, the New York Herald Tribune decided to take a chance on the budding comic. The Herald Tribune had learned an important lesson after rejecting a strip called Peanuts eight years before.
Emboldened by B.C’s success, Johnny and his gag-writing team, Jack “Clumsy Carp” Caprio and Dick “Curls” Boland, embarked on a second comic strip. In 1964, with Brant as the artist, they launched Wizard of Id, a strip set in medieval times starring a despotic little king and an inept wizard.
Johnny’s dream of joining the distinguished company of cartoonists that he admired more than came true. He became one of only four cartoonists to have two comic strips appearing in over 1000 papers each. Johnny was lauded by his peers and praised by the public. He won numerous awards for his work, including the National Cartoonist Society’s prestigious Reuben award for Cartoonist of the Year, twice. He took home the coveted statue for B.C. in 1968, and again in 1984 for Wizard of Id.
In April of 2007, Johnny Hart passed away quietly at his drawing board doing what he loved. Only eight days later, Brant Parker joined his friend and comic partner. To ensure that their legacy live on, Bobby assembled a team of the duo’s talented offspring. Johnny’s daughters Perri and Patti Hart, grandsons Mason and Mick Mastroianni, and Brant’s son Jeff Parker with wife Nicola, took over production of B.C. and Wizard of Id, continuing to provide a daily dose of laughter to readers worldwide.