Monday, April 09, 2007

Johnny Hart...RIP

Sunday April 8, 2007 NEWS 'B.C.' creator Johnny Hart dies

Johnny Hart, an Endicott native whose collection of cartoon cave-dwellers amused and sometimes irritated newspaper readers for almost 50 years, died at his Nineveh home on Saturday. He was 76.

Hart is survived by his wife Bobby, and two daughters. Funeral arrangements have not been announced. Hart's B.C. comic strip was launched in 1958 and eventually appeared in more than 1,300 newspapers worldwide with an audience of 100 million. He lent his characters to promote many local agencies and activities, including the Broome Dusters hockey team, BC Transit, Broome County Parks and the professional golf tournament which became the B.C. Open.
B.C. participated in the nation's space program. In 1972, Hart received a public service award from NASA for outstanding contributions.

Later in his career, some of Hart's cartoons addressed religious themes -- a reflection of his own deepening Christian faith -- which dismayed some readers and delighted others.

Hart's biography at the Creators Syndicate web site said he never considered cartoon a serious profession until he graduated from Union-Endicott High School. At 19, he met Brant Parker, a young cartoonist who became a prime influence and who later became a partner in the Wizard of Id, another of Hart's comic strip creations.

"I'm very hard-pressed to find the proper words to express my feelings," said Alex Alexander, founder of the B.C. Open. "I talked to Bobby, his wife, just a few days ago and she told me he was doing quite well. And I was encouraged by that. And then when I found out this morning he had passed away, it came as a shock." Hart designed the bronzed trophy given to B.C. Open champions, showing a caveman following through on his golf swing after hacking out a divot. And Alexander called him "the soul" of the tournament.

"Johnny was very much involved with the tournament," Alexander said. "He was just always very helpful. Always wanted to do anything that he could to help the tournament progress. And he was always there when we needed him. Never said no. Just a great, great influence."

On a personal note...This gentlemen, for me, was very influencial in the crafting of my comic strip work, throughout high school, college and a strip I had worked on for syndication during the 80's. His sharp wit and wonderful way of turning a clever pun still influences the way I look at strip comedy and satire today.

He was truly one of the giants in the comic strip world, and because he had been doing it for so long, he was a constant in our lives (like the sun rising each morning), so I don't think we'll realize what a prize he was, till we no longer get to see any more of his work in each morning paper.

bob luedke

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