It’s Easter, and today I miss Johnny Hart. The creator of two popular late 20th century comic strips died in 2007.
Neither the Wizard of Id nor B.C. is among my all-time favourite strips. I am more partial to Doonesbury, Dilbert, Calvin and Hobbes and Bloom County. Still, most of the time I would find Hart’s comics to be entertaining, and sometimes downright funny.
Except at Easter. As Easter approached I would begin to anticipate what Hart would do with B.C. And hope that it wasn’t so offensive that my local paper would refuse to carry it.
Easter, of course, is always on a Sunday, and the Sunday comic strips have historically been different. They are not the small four-panel black and white daily strips but full-colour multi-panel extravaganzas. Sunday comics give far more scope to really tell a story. (As a historical aside, when I was a child Canadian newspapers did not publish on Sundays, so the Sunday strips were an added bonus in Saturday’s paper. When Canadian newspapers started putting out Sunday editions they usually left the Sunday strips in their “traditional” Saturday slot.)
Johnny Hart on Easter Sunday did more than tell a story. He told The Story.
He did it at Christmas too, but Christmas seems less offensive somehow. His comics then didn’t provoke the same strong reaction from readers. Easter was different.
I can only assume Hart got away with it because his comic strips really were popular. Newspaper editors allowed him free rein because he was funny the rest of the year. Not that the Easter comics weren’t amusing, but they were blatantly Christian, a rarity in post-Christian Canada and certainly not reflective of the prevailing worldview. He presented the Easter message like it is and didn’t water it down in order to be politically correct (though he did wind up apologizing for at least one strip that offended a large group of people). There was, if you think of it, also a theological message when you have a comic strip about a group of cavemen, obviously set millennia before Christ, yet they celebrate Easter.
So today, in memory of Johnny and to celebrate Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, two of Johnny Hart’s best.(It helps if you are aware that the caveman in the first one is named Peter.)