Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Weingarten on Johnny Hart's death

Gene Weingarten, as a noted comics aficionado was asked about Hart's death during his "Post Magazine: Too Busy to Stop and Hear the Music" (washingtonpost.com, April 9, 2007; 1:00 PM)

Fairfax, VA: For four months you leave us, and now you think you can just walk in here like nothing happened? At least offer us a poop joke and some words about Johnny Hart.

Gene Weingarten: I tried to write an appreciation of Johnny for today's paper, but failed. It was coming out nasty, and that was bad.

Johnny Hart was one of the greatest cartoonists who ever lived. "B.C." during the first few years of the strip was breathtakingly brilliant; really, if you're too young to remember (everyone but me is) go on ebay and buy a few of his very early collections, from before about 1963.

One of my favorites:

Peter, the smart one, declares he is going to travel across the earth dragging a forked stick in the sand, to prove that two parallel lines never meet. He starts out toward the right of the page. In the next several panels, you see him dragging that forked stick through desert and tundra and jungle, with parallel lines following him the whole way. Finally, he returns to his friends from the left of the panel, obviously having completely circumnavigated the globe. They all look down. The two forks of the stick have been abraded down into a single nub. The parallel lines have met.

Another one: The cavement discover this lumpy creature and decide they have to name it. Peter says: "Well, let's name it for its most obvious characteristic. What is it?" And Thor answers: "It eats ants." So they decide to name it an "eatanter."

Another one: They decide to name that muscle in the chest that pumps blood. Peter decides to call it a "Hart." And B.C. yells at him: "Bootlicker!"

Hart was a genius. Then he got weird and scared, and it made him selfish and intolerant and preachy. I hope he's in heaven, because it was REALLY important to him to get there. It warped his priorities.

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