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 Johnny Lewis Hart  (1931 - 2007)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: cartoonist-comic strip, illustrator

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Johnny Hart B.C. Sunday Comic Strip Original Art dated 5-24-70
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Johnny Hart was a pioneer of the contemporary, hip, and freewheeling cartoon.  Hart has been a favorite with young adults since he introduced his witty caveman strip, B.C., in 1958.

His formal study of art never progressed beyond high school classes in his hometown of Endicott, New York.  Hart then spent three years in the Air Force, stationed in Korea.  He did cartoons for Stars and Stripes, and on his release made a serious, if not particularly successful assault on the cartoon market.  He lived precariously from occasional sales to the Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, and Bluebook.  In 1957, he accepted a job in the art department of Western Electric.

The concept of a gag strip about cave dwellers was not easy to sell, and five syndicates rejected B.C. before the New York Herald Tribune Syndicate accepted it in February 1958.  It was an immediate success and has remained widely popular.

Sensing that a Stone Age setting limited his range of social satire ("Theres no society to deal with in B.C.," Hart explained), he evolved an idea for another strip set in the middle ages.  The Wizard of Id, drawn by Hart's old friend and mentor Brant Parker, was accepted by Publishers Hall Syndicate, which had taken over B.C. when the Herald Tribune Syndicate folded.  The new strip debuted on November 9, 1964. Wizard then moved on to the North America Syndicate, and B.C. went from Publishers Hall, to Field, to Creators Syndicate; each running in about 400 papers.) Hart shared the scripting of Wizard with Jack Caprio and Dick Boland.

The loose, breezy style of his art and the often mordant wit of his gags have earned Hart many honors in the industry: The National Cartoonists Society voted him Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year (1968) and B.C. Best Humor Strip (1968, 1971). In 1967, Hart won the NCSs Reuben award, and in 1970 the Yellow kid award from the International Congress of Comics.  Hart created several B.C. television specials and provided art for TV commercials and NASA decals and posters.  His two strips have been collected and published in numerous volumes and have been translated into many languages, including Swedish, Finnish, and Japanese.

Johnny Hart died from a stroke in April, 2007 at his home in Endicott, New York.

Sources include:
Ron Goulart, The Encyclopedia of American Comics, edited by Ron Goulart
Scottsdale Tribune, April 9, 2007, p. A11

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