Tuesday, April 10, 2007


This weekend I lost a hero. He wasn't a military leader, or a star athlete, a statesman, or a even a relative. He was a cartoonist, and a brillant one, not only for his well-drawn B.C. and Wizard of Id comic strips, but for the carefully crafted dialogue he gave his unique characters. Through them he told the truth.

Johnny Hart was a believer in Jesus Christ. And when he came to this conviction he promptly included his faith in his syndicated newspaper comic strips. The modern media did all it could to dissuade him and when he did not flinch, many papers, including a major one just south of Vancouver dropped the series thinking they were satisfying their readerships. Johnny Hart, whose most famous work is B.C. which used stone-age characters to observe life and often its spiritual meanings, did not "cave in".

Week after week for years, one of my Sunday delights was to check out B.C. and when the theme of the day concerned matters of faith and the power of God, especially the story of Jesus and his gift of salvation, I would cut out the cartoon and add it to my collection. That file is inches thick, and the bulk of its contents concerns truth - Real Truth. As in ""The Way, The TRUTH, and the Life". Thanks for all of it, Johnny.

Maybe it is strange to shed tears for someone who had such a narrow kind of hold on me. I mean, it's just a comic strip! But it often spoke to my heart and spirit, and I especially relished the "stronger" messages it proclaimed to one and all, knowing that even non-believers were at least hearing the message. His precise wording and astute illustrations often presented complex and profound realities in a simple and thrilling package.

For all his funnybook and newspaper lessons, Johnny received a full spectrum of honors and derision. His enemies scolded, and mocked, and generally gnashed their teeth, but he quietly continued despite their spite. His fans rolled with laughter and delighted in the "Sunday Sermons" and weekday views of man as a part of God's world. It was spiritual manna for the soul. Sure it was unconventional. But it preached. Now, with his passing, more than one of us has shed tears of loss and the feeling of an emptiness that even the reruns will not completely satisfy. We have been diminished. A lamp is extinguished, and a window on the world has closed.

No one could read all of his output without realizing how confident Johnny Hart was in his Savior. He surely had not doubt about basics like resurrection and heaven. This is revealed in even greater detail in the many interviews and magazine articles about him, I'm sure there will soon be another round now, this time in articles of tribute. If you see any, clip them for my collection, a portion of which is pictured below.

I have other heros: some of the great writers, a few preachers, one very special college Bible teacher, a handful of Senior Saints, my own three kids and their mother, and a couple of life-long friends who really walk-the-walk. My grandmother Gail, a man named "Wimpy", another named Clark, have passed along. Still, a few others who have not only impressed me but have impacted my life in positive ways are still the subjects of my admiration. I believe heroes do the right thing; they put others first; they aren't hung up on themselves; they are giving, caring, encouraging, patient, and often profound in word and deed. Much like Jesus was.

Johnny Hart was one of my heroes, and I will miss him.

Here's a few of Hart's books, cartoons, and articles in which I delight.

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