Dik Browne, Creator of Hagar the Horrible

18 May 2001

    Dik Browne must have dearly loved cartoons. He spent his life drawing not just one, which is more than enough work for one artist, but two successful cartoon strips.
   Hi and Lois and Hagar the Horrible continue to be popular after decades in the funny papers. Each strip describes the typical family humour of the era and so much of it applies to us all. Family dynamics remain the same, no matter what the century or country. But perhaps with a little less sword-play and pillaging!

   On August 11, 1917, Richard Arthur Allan Browne was born in New York City. He attended Cooper Union Art School. He wanted to be a reporter and so, took a job with The New York Journal. He was transferred to the art department when his talent for drawing was noted over his talent for journalism.

hagar
hi and lois

   Dik worked for four years with Newsweek, turning out charts and maps. He continued this with this skill during a four year stint in the army during WWII. His work with an engineering unit helped him rise to Staff Sergeant. Obviously, his map work wasn't enough to satisfy his urge to create. Dik's first comic strip attempt was "Ginny Jeep" and appeared in the Army and Air Force newspapers.

    When the war was over, Dik Browne joined the advertising firm of Johnstone &Cushing. As advertising illustrator, he created characters we well remember - the "Chiquita Banana" and the"Birdseye Bird". During the 1950's he drew "The Tracy Twins", an adventure strip feature in Boy's Life magazine.

    King Features Syndicate editor Sylvan Beck was impressed with Dik's illustration work. He asked him to co-create a new spin-off cartoon, Hi and Lois, with Mort Walker. (Hi and Lois were first in Beetle Bailey as Beetle's sister and her husband.) Mort did the writing, Dik did the art. Hi and Lois debuted in their own strip on October 18, 1954 in 32 papers. It is now in over 1,100 newspapers, world-wide in 37 countries and in 10 languages.

    Browne won acclaim for Hi and Lois from the National Cartoonists Society. He was awarded Best Humour Strip three times, 1959, 1960 and 1972. He won the Reuben Award for "Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year" in 1962. But he was not finished receiving awards just yet.    Hagar the Horrible, the kind-hearted barbarian, sailed his ship onto the comic pages of 136 newspapers on February 04, 1973, again through King Features Syndicate. The strip is now in almost 2,000 papers world-wide, including 100 in Scandinavia, home of the Vikings. Hagar is bringing laughs to fans in 58 countries and is translated into 13 languages.

    In 1977, 1984 and 1986, Dik won three more Best Humour Strips awards, this time for Hagar the Horrible. He won the Elzie Segar Award in 1962 for his "unique and outstanding contribution" to cartooning. He served as NSC president in 1963.

hagar2

    Dik married Joan Kelly in 1942. They had three "great kids," Bob (Chance), Chris and Sally, and four grandchildren. Joan died in 1986 and is remembered by the Joan Browne Fund for Critical Care at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Florida.

 Dik Browne retired from cartooning in 1988. He lived in Florida and said he liked to "collect books about N.Y.C., play a little ‘liars' poker, a little golf." He said he hated to "draw autos or table settings," but "love to eat." He died just a year later, in 1989.

   Sons Chance and Chris Browne obviously inherited their father's cartooning gene. Hi and Lois is now drawn by Chance and written by Mort Walker's sons Brian and Greg. Hagar the Horrible continues his Viking warrior traditions through the talents of Chris Browne.

    The skill of Dik Browne showed great diversity. He could draw the bold strokes of vivid and energetic Hagar the Horrible, then easily switch to the fine and detailed lines of Hi and Lois. His was a rare ability.

hagar3

Check out Hagar the Horrible at:
http://www.kingfeatures.com/features/comics/hagar/about.htm

Visit Hi and Lois:
http://www.kingfeatures.com/features/comics/hi_lois/about.htm

© Susanna McLeod 2001
TheCartoonists.ca

(Originally published in The Cartoonists on suite101.com.)