One element that has long made “The Wizard of Id” tick is its ability to flesh out stock-character types — and then get under their skin. The despotic monarch short of temper and stature, the wry, jaundiced-eye-of-newt sorcerer, the alcohol-swilling court jester and the swill-eating dungeon dweller — the bulbous-nosed cast members play lightly and sprightly enough to keep the sarcastic humor brisk and breezy.
All that has earned the strip the enduring respect of many industry colleagues. And today, on the comics page, you can spot how a number of them salute and celebrate “The Wizard’s” 50th within their own strips.
Comic Riffs caught up with some of those cartoonists to hear their own favorite memories:
BRIAN CRANE (“Pickles”):
What can I say about “The Wizard of Id” on its 50th anniversary? I guess I could say that it’s shocking to realize I am old enough to have been reading it since it first began. I was a paper boy way back then, dreaming of doing a comic strip of my own someday. I loved the wacky sense of humor and the loosey-goosey drawing style. So I was thrilled last year when Patti Hart asked me to write a foreword to a new book collection of all the 1973 “Wizard of Id” strips.
Happy anniversary, “Wizard of Id,” and many more!
BRIAN WALKER (“Hi and Lois”):
Johnny Hart always said he was serious about being funny. When I reflect on the humor of Brant Parker and Johnny Hart’s classic creation, the memorable words of the Wizard come to mind: “Frammin at the jim jam, frippin on the krotz.”
Now that is seriously funny.
PATRICK McDONNELL (“Mutts”):
When Patti Hart contacted the cartoonists about the 50th-anniversary tribute, I was happy to be part of it. It was fun to draw the King, a wonderfully quirky character design. I have fond memories of reading “The Wizard of Id” and “B.C.” when growing up. I once had the honor and pleasure to have breakfast with the great Johnny Hart. He was a hip, cool cat, for sure.
MIKE PETERS (“Mother Goose and Grimm”):
“Wizard of Id” was deceptively simple, contemporary and hilarious — all things Johnny Hart was.
The first time I ever [saw] Johnny Hart, it was 1965, and I was working at the Chicago Daily News/Sun-Times building. I had just gotten my first job as staff artist with the paper. I heard that Johnny Hart was coming on the floor. His “B.C.” strip was the hottest-selling strip, and his new strip, “Wizard of Id” [with Brant Parker], looked like it was going to be just as big. He came in wearing a black shirt and black pants — so cool. I’m sure he was promoting the new strip, He was laughing and shaking hands with everyone he met. I felt so honored being one of them.
We became good friends about 15 years later, when I started my strip. He invited a small group of his pals to be with him during the B.C. Open golf tournament in Binghamton, N.Y. that they had every year. It was quite the affair.
But the story about Johnny that I love to tell: He and his fabulous wife, Bobby, had bought a beautiful estate in Binghamton. He had a wonderful home and he built this gorgeous studio next to it, all on his property. One day, Bobby noticed that these sightseeing buses were pulling up to [the] entrance of their home, and people were getting out and taking pictures. She told Johnny that this was happening on a regular basis. Johnny thought it would be a good idea to pass out little signed copies of “B.C.” and “Wizard of Id” to give to these sightseers. So Johnny made up the cartoons and signed them and Bobby cooked cookies.
So the next day, a sightseeing bus pulled up. … Bobby would pass out the cookies and cartoons, tell them a little about [Hart’s strips] and thanked them for coming. The people seemed very appreciative but a little puzzled and asked, “What’s ‘B.C’ and ‘Wizard of Id’?”
What Bobby and Johnny later found out was that the hill they bought was the same hill [where] Joseph Smith [the founder of Mormonism] had received his golden plates that eventually became the Book of Mormon, And people still come today.
DAVE COVERLY (“Speed Bump”):
When I think back to being a kid and falling in love with the comics, I rarely think of the comics pages, even though I read them all the time. It was those fantastic little paperbacks that hooked me, and I’m guessing it’s because you could own them and read them over and over. In my collection were “Peanuts,” of course, and “Hagar” and “B.C.” and “Broom Hilda.” But the books that fascinated me most were “The Wizard of Id.” They somehow seemed aimed at a slightly older readership, and since I (wrongly) considered myself some sort of child connoisseur of the comics, I felt we were sharing an inside joke. The sarcasm was just a little heavier, and the jokes were just a little edgier.
But what really killed me was the art. It was so loose and airy. I pictured Mr. Parker just kicking back in a comfortable chair, maybe wearing a smoking jacket, holding a drawing pad on his lap and casually putting these characters to paper with a flourish, as if it were the easiest thing in the world to do. And as is the case with all deceptively simple cartoons, they were impossible to copy, well. Lord knows I tried. So while I offer my sincere congratulations to “The Wizard” and am in awe of the comic strip celebrating a 50th anniversary, I’m hardly surprised. The great ones tend to last.
KEVIN RECHIN (“Crock”):
I was so fortunate to have grown up with such a close connection to “The Wizard of Id” through my father’s relationship with Brant Parker and Johnny Hart. [Bill Rechin co-created “Crock" with Parker.] Being around Brant Parker [while] growing up was one of the greatest gifts a young cartoonist could ask for. The world that he and Johnny Hart created was so whimsical and fun. The simple beauty of the drawing style combined with cutting wit made the
strip one of the all-time greats.”