York Stater of the Month: Johnny Hart

Yesterday, April 7th, cartoonist Johnny Hart passed away. A native of Endicott, NY, he passed away at age 76 in his home in Ninevah. Nationally, Hart will probably be best known for his two most famous cartoons: B.C. and the Wizard of Id. According to the Press and Sun Bulletin: "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."

However, in his home community of Broome County, Hart has transformed his style of cartooning into an emblem of local identity. His work adorns the logos of the Binghamton Dusters (former hockey team), the BC Transit, the Broome County Parks, the BC Open and the Broome County Icemen. Growing up next door to a Broome County Park, I fondly remember the smiling "Dudley the Dinosaur" logo adorning the entry sign. The coalescence of the name of the comic "B.C." with the abbreviation for Broome County has been a piece of local lore for at least as long as I have been alive.

Hart has long been controversial locally because of his strong conservative Christian faith--and his willingness to express it through his cartooning. In 2001, his Palm Sunday strip (which always revolved around Christian themes) caused an uproar by implying that Christianity had supplanted Judaism. Honestly, I've never been a big fan of B.C. not simply because of its annoying preachiness, but because I never found it that funny, but I was suprirsed by the controversy, considering that it is pretty standard Pauline theology. That said, I always felt that Hart's Christianity was good hearted and that his strip was aimed towards a different audience than myself.

The purpose of this salute and honor, though comes from Hart's long-time dedication to the community of his birth. Not only did he remain in Broome County--not usually considered a center of the graphic arts--but he also dedicated much of his work towards providing the County with a distinctive aesthetic look. Today, as we mourn that man, we can take some consoliation in knowing that he would probably be pleased that the distinct style remains with us and has passed from being his own possession to one of the community as a whole. B.C. has become Broome County and for that we thank Mr. Hart.


Press and Sun Obituary