B.C., the comic strip turns 50 years old today.
A half-century for a comic strip is a pretty good length of time: most comics never get off the ground; those that do: some die with their creators, some die before that.
Now, in the entire scheme of comic strips, we only rate two strips as being in the Super Excellent Category: Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side, neither which is being drawn anymore.
B.C. always ranked below that--in the "pleasant to read with the occasional really funny strip" category--along with Wizard of Id and Shoe and later, Fox Trot and Dilbert. Of the one-panel strips, Bizarro was in that category.
But, with comics so god-awful these days, B.C. is an old reliable.
B.C. is an American newspaper comic strip created in 1958, written and drawn by Johnny Hart until his 2007 death. It is set in prehistoric times, featuring a group of cavemen and anthropomorphic animals from a variety of geologic eras.
It is among the longest-running strips done by its original creator, having appeared daily in newspapers since February 17, 1958. Hart died last year.
Both Hart's daughter Perri Hart and his grandson Mason Mastroianni were involved with the strip prior to his death and have taken over the drawing and writing duties, with contributions by Mick Mastroianni. It is syndicated by Creators Syndicate.
One of the things that made B.C. such a "steady" strip was its regular cast of characters.
It became the three-panel equivalent to a solid sit-com.
The regular human characters in the strip are:
* BC, a caveman.
* Peter, a philosopher, founder of the Prehistoric Pessimists Society and the Column of Truth.
* Clumsy Carp, a spectacle-wearing conservationist clumsy enough to trip over a beach.
* Curls, a highly cynical individual.
* Thor, inventor of the wheel, the well, the rake, the comb, and many other things.
* Wiley, an unshaven, woman-fearing, water-hating, one-legged poet, and manager of the local baseball team.
* Grog, a wild man with a one-word vocabulary and enough strength to knock the sun out of the sky using a golf ball.
* Fat Broad, a fat, bossy, and muscular cavewoman who enjoys clobbering snakes
* Cute Chick, a beautiful, blonde cavewoman
There are also regular animal characters. They are:
* The early bird and the early worm (who likes to sleep in while the early bird freezes his beak off waiting for him to emerge).
* The woodpecker, Wiley's worst enemy.
* The tortoise and the bird, inseparable friends.
* Maude, an ant with a smart-alec son, and a quarrelsome husband who is always threatening to run off with Shirley.
* The Queen Ant, an unfeeling and abusive dictator.
* Various other ants, including a schoolteacher and her students.
* The anteater (up to four of them appear at once).
* The purple-bellied dingwhopper, the last of its species.
* The dinosaur.
* The clams, talking clams with legs.
* The snake, the Fat Broad's worst enemy.
* The apteryx (kiwi), a "wingless bird with hairy feathers" (as he introduces himself).
Our four favorites: the ants, the Fat Broad clubbing the snake, Grog, the tortoise and the bird. Wiley, the peg-legged, one-eyed poet baseball manager was fifth.
One of the things that elevated B.C.--in our minds, anyway--was its refusal to knuckle under to Political Correctness. Hart always would slip in a strip which evoked howls from the PC crowd.
Usually, those comic strips had to do with his primitive characters expressing "primitive thoughts" on a primitive--to the secular atheist crowd--subject: Christianity.
Though other strips such as The Family Circus and Hart's own The Wizard of Id regularly include Christian themes, B.C. strips have been pulled from comics pages on several occasions due to editorial perception of religious favoritism or overt proselytizing.
Easter strips in 1996 and 2001, for example, have prompted editorial reaction from a handful of U.S. newspapers, chiefly the Los Angeles Times and written and verbal responses from Jewish and Muslim groups. The American Jewish Committee termed the Easter 2001 strip, which depicted the last words of Jesus Christ and a menorah transforming into a cross, "religiously offensive" and "shameful."
The Los Angeles Times now relegates strips which its editorial staff deems objectionable to the religion pages, instead of the regular comics pages.
But let's forget the controversy: today is the 50th birthday of the first B.C. comic.
As we said, it wasn't one of our top two, but we still have quite a soft spot for it. And, from time-to-time, it resists the blandness imposed by the forces of PC on most comics today.
B.C.'s creator, Johnny Hart was only a little short of 10 months short of celebrating the event: Hart died on April 7, 2007 after suffering a stroke at his home in Nineveh, New York.
But B.C. lives on, as do the many characters created by Hart that populate the stone-age strip.
Happy 50th Birthday, B.C.!
* Creator's syndicate
Death by 1000 Papercuts Front Page.