Chris Browne, Creator of Raising Duncan, Artist of Hagar the Horrible

13 December 2002

   Cynical, sarcastic comics are part of the trend in comic strips, creating humour in sharp pointy jibes toward innocent others. Cartoonist Chris Browne takes the opposite view by drawing a comic strip of family warmth, love and togetherness called Raising Duncan. Also cartoonist of Hagar the Horrible, his take on the raw and rough Viking life has also mellowed.

    Cartooning was a familiar activity in the Browne household. As the sons of Dik Browne, creator of the popular Hagar the Horrible and Hi and Lois, it was almost inevitable that Chris and his brother Chance would become cartoonists. (Chance now draws Hi and Lois.) Chris apprenticed with his father from the age of 15 in1972, starting at the bottom by cleaning up the work area, inking the large black areas and erasing pencil lines. In a short time, he was coming up with his own gags and learning to draw the characters of Hagar the Horrible. His father urged him to do his best and strive for even better. “If anyone else had given me this work, I would say it was terrific. But, you’re my son, and my son can do better than this,” Chrisrecalls his father telling him. *(1)

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    Still in his teens, the young cartoonist branched out, taking on work as a penciller for the “Barney Rubble” and “Bullwinkle” comic books. Chris also began sending his work to magazines but not mentioning his connection to his father. He wanted success on his own terms. He found continued achievement with National Lampoon, Playboy Magazine, The Funny Papers and Sarasota Magazine. His cartoon work may also be seen in Esquire, Heavy Metal and The New Yorker. The National Lampoon editor, Sean Kelly, nicknamed Chris the magazine’s “Token good taste cartoonist.” Chris realized that hiding his heritage made no difference - editors were too overwhelmed to consider who he was related to.

    When Dik Browne took ill in 1988, Chris took over his father’s day-to-day work of creating Hagar the Horrible. (Dik died in 1989.) He has taken the beloved cartoon into a gentler territory by leaning toward the softer side of the characters. Hagar no longer womanizes or gets drunk and any previously violent Viking attacks are now strictly fun. Hagar’s wife is characterized as a tough cookie and surely one of the first feminists of the Viking age. Definitely modern.

    During Dik’s illness, his son Chance gave him a Scottish Terrier named McDuff. Sadly, Dik was in no shape to handle the pup, so with the permission of

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Chance, Chris adopted the dog for himself. McDuff soon became part of a new comic, “Chris Browne’s Comic Strip,” and was inspiration for a line of children’s book manuscripts. The strip did not fly in publication; the books did not make it into print due to possible copyright conflicts over the main character.

    Disappointed but not daunted, Chris heeded advice that Charles Schulz gave him in a meeting they had in 1995: “Think about what you love. Start with that.” He took the words to heart and once again started a comic strip about McDuff. This time he gave the Scotty dog a voice and called him Duncan. The background was built on the cartoonist’s own home life, the characters were drawn to look very similar to the Chris and his wife Carroll. The fourth central character, Brambly the cat, has the personality of the Browne family cat. She adores Duncan as much as the real Brambly loves McDuff.

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   With writing help from his wife, Chris Browne generates his cartoons every day, any time of day, including weekends. During the daytime, he draws to the strains of jazz and rock music and creates at night while watching NewsRadio and Letterman. Preferring pen and ink over computer to create Raising Duncan, he uses Higgins Black Magic ink, Blackfoot Indian Pencils, Esterbrook Radio and Gillott 170 pen nibs. An assistant helps him keep up with the office work and fan mail, and to make sure he is on schedule. *(2)

    Not only is Chris a cartoonist, he is a writer who has contributed articles to Sarasota Magazine, co-authored “Hagar the Horrible’s Viking Handbook” published by Workman Publishing Company in 1985, and was a screenwriter on “Columbo Cries Wolf.” He also contributed to the horror anthology “Shadow’s Nine,” edited by Charles L. Grant.

    Hagar the Horrible debuted in 1973 and now appears in over 1900 newspapers world-wide through the King Features Syndicate. It is translated into 13 languages in 45 countries. Raising Duncan is published in 50 newspapers and can be enjoyed on the internet through United Media. Chris and Carroll Browne live in Sarasota, Florida, just like the family in Raising Duncan, but with a larger assortment of pets.

    The cartooning doesn’t end at the Browne family with Chris and Chance; Ashley, Carroll’s daughter, is married to Dan Piraro of “Bizarro,” Ashley’s father is Ralph Smith of “Through thick and Thin,” (Copley News) and Chris’s aunt Annette was a "Classics Illustrated Comics" cartoonist.

    Animal welfare is a concern of Chris Browne. All of his pets were rescued and he suggests that, “If people really love animals, they should get their next pet from a shelter or other rescue place.”

Washington Post Live Online Chat with Chris Browne on August 30, 2002:
*(1) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/liveonline/02/style/comics083002.htm

Check out Raising Duncan for that warm, fuzzy feeling:
*(2) http://www.comics.com/comics/raisingduncan/index.html

Howl in laughter at Hagar the Horrible:
http://www.kingfeatures.com/features/comics/hagar/about.htm

Biography of Dik Browne on The Cartoonists

© Susanna McLeod 2004
The cartoonists.ca  
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on suite101.com.)