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'B.C.' and 'Wizard of Id' Cartoonist Johnny Hart, 76

Mr. Hart told The Post he intended the cartoon to be a "silly" bathroom joke, adding, "It would be contradictory to my own faith as a Christian to insult other people's beliefs."

John Lewis Hart, a firefighter's son, was born Feb. 18, 1931, in Endicott, N.Y. As a child, he said he drew "funny pictures, which got me in or out of trouble depending on the circumstances."

After high school, he served in the Air Force in Korea and produced cartoons for Pacific Stars and Stripes.

The Saturday Evening Post, Colliers and True magazines later published his freelance cartoon submissions while Mr. Hart worked in the art department at General Electric in Johnson City, N.Y. While at GE, he created "B.C." and based many of the characters and their quirks on his friends and family.

"I tried to reduce my cartoons to the fewest words and the least clutter in the drawing," he said in 1997. "The simpler you do things, the more genius is required to do it. I used to take ideas as far back as I could take them -- back to their origin. So cave men became my favorite thing to do because they are a combination of simplicity and the origin of ideas."

He told an interviewer for a Milwaukee newspaper that he and Parker, an artist he had long known, started "Wizard of Id" because "I felt I couldn't get satirical enough as there's no society to work with in 'B.C.' It deals with the basics, man's foibles and follies. So it was an obvious transition for me from cave man to medieval times where there is a set society."

Among the recurring characters in "Wizard of Id" were a despotic king and a drunken court jester.

In a 1999 profile of Mr. Hart, The Post reported that the artist's own drinking "got out of hand" over the years before he found solace in religion.

Mr. Hart said he was not from a devout family and "got mad at God" after his mother died of cancer at 52. He said he struggled with varieties of faith, including a belief in reincarnation, all the while enjoying the material success of his strips. He settled on a 150-acre property with a big lake and a private road.

One day, a father and son team of workers came to install cable television. They were born-again Christians and kept the television tuned to religious broadcasts, which Mr. Hart said "hooked" him. "B.C." soon became a prominent outlet for his interpretations of faith.

"I get incredible response on the positive side," Mr. Hart told the Dallas Morning News in 1999. "I don't know if it's the liberalization of this country or whatever [that] has taken prayer out of schools and pulled the Ten Commandments off the walls of courts, and we've become a nation of heathens.

"The Christians are still out there, but they're hiding," he said. "They're afraid because every time somebody tries to make a move, somebody steps on them and pushes them back or locks them out. So they think that I'm a hero, and I'm not. . . . That's probably the most pathetic thing of all, that they admire me and think that I'm courageous and brave to mention God's name."

Besides his wife, survivors include two daughters; a brother; a sister; and two grandsons.

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