On this Day:
In 1958, the Comic strip “BC” appears for the first time.
B.C. is a daily American comic strip created by cartoonist Johnny Hart. Set in prehistoric times, it features a group of cavemen and anthropomorphic animals from various geologic eras.
B.C. made its newspaper debut on February 17, 1958, and was among the longest-running strips still written and drawn by its original creator when Hart died at his drawing board in Nineveh, New York, on April 7, 2007. Now produced by Mason Mastroianni, B.C. is syndicated by Creators Syndicate.
B.C. was initially rejected by a number of syndicates until the New York Herald Tribune Syndicate accepted it, launching the strip on February 17, 1958. Hart was assisted with B.C. by gag writers Jack Caprio and Dick Boland (who later joined Hart and cartoonist Brant Parker on The Wizard of Id).
After Hart’s death in 2007, the strip began being produced by Hart’s grandsons Mason Mastroianni (head writer and cartoonist) and Mick Mastroianni (writer for both B.C. and Hart’s other creation, Wizard of Id), and Hart’s daughter Perri (letterer and colorist). (The Mastroianni brothers also created an original strip, Dogs of C Kennel, in 2009.)
Hart was inspired to draw cavemen (and many other creatures) through the chance suggestion of one of his coworkers at General Electric, and took to the idea “because they are a combination of simplicity and the origin of ideas.” The name for the strip “may have been suggested by my wife, Bobby,” Johnny recalls.
Hart describes the title character as similar to himself, playing the “patsy.” The other major characters — Peter, Wiley, Clumsy Carp, Curls, and Thor — were patterned after friends and co-workers. The animal characters include dinosaurs, ants and an anteater, clams, a snake, a turtle and bird duo, and an apteryx (presented in the strip as being the sole surviving specimen, and hence self-aware of its being doomed to extinction).
- B.C.: An orange haired, humble, naïve slob and eternal patsy. B.C. occasionally makes nighttime rounds as his alter-ego, “The Midnight Skulker.”
- Peter: A yellow haired, self-styled genius and the world’s first philosophical failure, founder of the “Prehistoric Pessimists Society” and the “Truth Pedestal,” and the discoverer of oil. Peter is patterned after Hart’s friend, Peter Reuter; the two had been co-workers at General Electric.
- Thor: A brown-haired, smart, witty self-proclaimed ladies’ man; inventor of the wheel and the comb. Thor was patterned after another of Hart’s friends from GE, Thornton Kinney.
- Jane: a bossy cavewoman who enjoys clobbering snakes. Until August 29, 2019, Jane was referred to in the strip as the “Fat Broad”. She is named after Johnny’s wife Bobby’s mom Janie Indiana Finch.
- Grace: a quiet but intellectual giant in a world of crude men. Until August 29, 2019, Grace was referred to in the strip as the “Cute Chick”. She is named after Johnny’s mom Grace Anna Brown.
- Wiley: a peg-legged, superstitious, unshaven, woman-fearing, water-hating poet and coach of the local baseball and football teams, not to mention the first bartender. Wiley was patterned after Hart’s brother-in-law, Wiley Baxter, who lost his leg in World War II.
- Clumsy Carp: a nerdy, bespectacled ichthyologist and perpetual klutz, clumsy enough to trip over a shadow, yet with some unusual skills, such as his ability to make and stack “water balls” (similar to snowballs). Clumsy Carp was patterned after Hart’s childhood friend, Jack Caprio.
- Curls: a master of sarcastic wit. Curls was patterned after Hart’s friend from high school, Richard (Curly) Boland.
- Grog: pure Id, a caveman’s caveman; a primitive, semi-evolved wild man with a limited vocabulary and enough strength to knock the sun out of the sky using a golf ball.
- The Guru: an unnamed, bearded wise man living like a hermit atop a mountain, whence he dispenses wisdom and sarcasm.
Animals and other non-human characters
- John the Turtle and the Dookie Bird: this prehistoric odd couple are inseparable friends, especially when making their annual trek south for the winter. The Dookie Bird rides on John’s back when they travel.
- The Snake: the put-upon, mortal enemy of Jane (and her club).
- The Anteater: eats ants with a sticky, elastic tongue and a ZOT! sound. Hart actually drew something of a hybrid—with the long ears of an aardvark and the bushy tail of a giant anteater. (This character was the inspiration for Peter the Anteater, the University of California, Irvine team mascot. Also served as the inspiration for the mascot of the now disestablished US Navy fighter squadron VF-114 the “Aardvarks”.)
- Maude: an ant, a nagging wife with a smart-alec son (Johnny) and a quarrelsome, straying husband.
- Jake: ant husband of Maude, who is always threatening to run off with Shirley.
- Queen Ida: the queen ant, an unfeeling and abusive dictator. (Queen Ida is based on Hart’s wife Bobby, whose given name is Ida. She’s featured every year on her birthday, December 3.)
- The Dinosaur: big but not too bright—a sort of sauropod with spinal plates like a stegosaurus. Sometimes called Gronk, which is the only sound he makes (although he can talk fluently in recent strips).
- The Clams: talking clams with legs, among other appendages. (Clams are also the preferred unit of currency in B.C.)
- The Apteryx (kiwi): a “wingless bird with hairy feathers,” as he invariably introduces himself.
- The Turkey: makes his yearly appearance at Thanksgiving time, eluding the mighty hunters.
- Oynque: the turkey’s porcine partner in crime, rarely seen without his trademark mud puddle.
- Wolf: the newest B.C. character August 24, 2009; a blissfully deviant domestication of Precambrian fur. Man’s first friend.
- Various incidental ants, including a schoolteacher and her students.
- Raptors: velociraptors that try to eat the other characters.
There are also several odd inanimate characters, including a talking Daisy and his/her friend, a talking Rock.
Best Humor Strip in America, National Cartoonist Society, 1967
The Reuben, Cartoonist of the Year, National Cartoonist Society, 1968
The Yellow Kid Award [de], Cartoonist of the Year, International Congress of Comics, Lucca, Italy, 1970
Cartoonist of the Year, France, 1971
NASA Public Service Award, for outstanding contributions to NASA, 1972
Best Feature Animation Award, National Cartoonist Society, “B.C. The First Thanksgiving,” 1973
The Golden Spike Award – Best Animated Television Commercial, International Society of Radio and Television Broadcasters, “B.C. ‘A’ We’re the ACTION Corps”, 1974
The Silver Bell Award, Best Animated Television Commercial, Advertising Council, “B.C. Tickets for ACTION”, 1974
“The Sam” Adamson Award, Best International Comic Strip Cartoonist, Swedish Academy of Comic Art, 1976,
The Elzie Seger Award, Outstanding Contributions to the Art of Cartooning, King Features, 1981
The Golden Sheaf Award and Special Jury Award, The Yorkton Short Film and Video Festival, Canada,”B.C. A Special Christmas”, 1982
Best Newspaper Comic Strip, National Cartoonist Society, 1989
First, a Story:
What do you call a wandering caveman from the BC comic strip?
Second, a Song:
From the comic strip B.C., here is The Shadow (1970), a 16mm Film Scan short courtesy of Ling Bing Productions. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“Cutting the space budget really restores my faith in humanity. It eliminates dreams, goals, and ideals and lets us get straight to the business of hate, debauchery, and self-annihilation.” – Johnny Hart
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Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky