B.C.Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: Herald Tribune Syndicate
First Appeared: 1958
Creator: Johnny Hart
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Johnny Hart's B.C. was popular with the public since the very beginning. But it wasn't always popular with editors. It was rejected by five syndicates before finding a home at The New York
Herald Tribune. It finally debuted as a daily on Feb. 17, 1958, and as a Sunday on Oct. 19 of that year — and the first paperback collection of its episodes came out in 1958, too.
B.C. was the 27-year-old Hart's first foray into comics, but not his last. In 1964, he collaborated with Brant Parker (Crock, Out of Bounds) on a second newspaper strip, The Wizard of Id, which has enjoyed similar popularity. For his work on both strips, Hart received the National Cartoonists' Society's prestigious Reuben Award in 1968.
The strip's premise is as simple as can be — contemporary humor in a fantasy setting that includes eyeglasses, cave people, dinosaurs, and other elements that don't quite mesh chronologically. The art style, like that of Charles Schulz's Peanuts, masks sophisticated minimalism with a casually scratchy veneer.
The cast includes B.C., the title character; Thor, inventor of the wheel; Curls, inventor of sarcasm; Peter, inventor of philosophy; Wiley, inventor of poetry; two women whose only names seem to be Fat Broad and Skinny Broad; Clumsy Carp, a klutz; Grog, a not-fully-evolved subhuman; and assorted ants, anteaters, clams, and dinosaurs.
B.C.'s circulation has risen steadily, and it now appears in about 1,300 newspapers. New collections of the strip appear at regular intervals. The characters have appeared in numerous TV commercials, and in a half-hour animated special aired during Christmas season on ABC. Millions of Americans recognize its characteristic sound effects, such as "Zot" (the sound made by an anteater capturing its prey) and "gronk" (the call of a dinosaur).
In recent years, Hart's strongly Christian point of view has been a prominent element of his work — which may seem odd, considering the strip's title, but anachronism has always been the name of the game in B.C. In any case, it seems to have sat well with his audience for quite a few years as the strip was distributed by Creators Syndicate (Momma, Thatch).
However, his strip appearing on Easter, 2001, which depicted a menorah being transformed into a cross, may have gone too far. It was denounced not just by Jewish groups, but also by Catholic and Protestant clergy, as demeaning to Jews. The protests were made after the Sunday comics had already been printed, so it was impossible for newspapers to simply pull the strip — but many seriously considered dropping it permanently in response.
Hart followed the attack a few weeks later by blasting the American Civil Liberties Union for its attempts to keep sectarian religion out of schools which are supported by the taxes of Americans of all faiths, and still later with further evidence of religious intolerance. This sort of religious orientation stands in sharp contrast to that of Latigo, Rick O'Shay and others with a strong Christian point of view, but which are not perceived as attacking other religions or attempting to establish government support for a single one.
Hart died in 2007, leaving the strip's future directions uncertain.