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Book Review: Growingold with B.C. by Johnny Hart

* Genre: Humor, Comics
* ISBN: 1933160683
* ISBN-13: 9781933160689
* Format: Paperback, 195pp
* Publisher: Checker Book Publishing Group, LLC
* Pub. Date: November 2007

FYI: Unbeknownst to many, Johnny Hart was an unapologetic Christian, as this article in a 1997 issue of “Christianity Today” clearly shows.

While I didn�t grow old with B.C., I was able to appreciate Growingold with B.C., the very last compilation of the famous comic by Johnny Hart before his death in April 2007. A retrospective of the comic over the fifty years of its publication, Growingold with B.C. is a short overview of the comic during its award winning run.

The first part of the book looks directly at the characters and the people or situations that inspired Hart to create them. Some of the characters (including Wiley and B.C. himself) were caricatures of real people and real friends of Hart. Others, such as Fat Broad, allowed Hart to replicate humorous situations he encountered in real life. B. C. was always a comic that looked at the real world and found the humor within. As some of the fifty years of personal pictures of Hart that are included with the book show, this was the way that Hart saw life, and he seemed to be one of those people who never passed up an opportunity to make people laugh.

The second part of the book looks at B.C. retrospectively beginning with a few of the early comics, and moving decade by decade up until Hart�s final few strips in the new millennium. Along the way, the awards Hart gained for B.C. are highlighted and the editors (some of whom were his family, who helped finish the book after he passed away during its development) picked out some of the funniest and some of the most poignant of his strips from a fifty year span. As you read through the strips, you can tell that the compilation of these was a labor of love.

Although at times Hart�s humor was either above my head or simply made no sense, for the most part B.C. was a strip of wit and satire. I always particularly enjoyed some of Hart�s subtle wordplay (a lot of which he attributes to his wife�s help) as culminated in the strips containing Wiley�s Dictionary. Hart would take a mundane word, and give it a definition that makes sense, but was clearly nothing like we expected it to be. Such wordplay, when I read this strip everyday in my local paper, engendered in me a love of words, and the subtleties and funny inconsistencies that are rampant within them. What Lynne Truss has done in recent years with her book on grammar Eats, Shoots, and Leaves Hart has been doing for fifty years.

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And of course, there are the other strips. Some were poking fun at current culture, some at relationships, and some just oddly humorous for no apparent reason. Hart had a gift for seeing the absurd in life and weaving it into his strips. He wasn�t always funny, and Growingold with B.C. is enough of a cross section that at times readers will read strips that seem to fall flat funnywise, but for the most part Hart was a master of wit. And what took many words for others to make funny, Hart could do with a few sparse pictures and a couple well placed words. This is a collection for any B.C. fan, teachers of English will find it useful, and people who enjoy wit will find this a great introduction to Johnny Hart�s work. Growingold with B.C. isn�t overfull of strips and has just the right amount of material to allow the reader to enjoy them without tiring of them.

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