Hagar the Horrible and wife, Helga. Artist: Dik Browne.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: King Features Syndicate
First Appeared: 1973
Creator: Dik Browne
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Like his earlier comic strip, Hi and Lois, Dik Browne's Hagar the Horrible is a family series, about a man who has amusingly imperfect success in …

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… dealing with both his job and his home life. But in this case, the man is a Viking rather than a suburbanite, and his "job" is looting and pillaging.

Hagar was a success from the very start. It debuted from King Features Syndicate on Feb. 4, 1973, in an impressive 136 newspapers, and within two years was in over 600. It now appears in almost 2,000 papers throughout the world, and has been translated into over a dozen languages — including, of course, Swedish, as no less than 58 of Sweden's daily papers carry the strip about their ancient countryman. Like most "instant" successes, Hagar was preceded by a lot of hard work in which tha cartoonist honed his skills. Browne's earlier work includes Ginny the Jeep )a World War II cartoon like Hank Ketcham's Half Hitch) and The Tracy Twins (which appeared in Boy's Life magazine alongside Rocky Stoneaxe).

If there's one thing Hagar the Horrible shows, it's that the humor of human situations is universal. Hagar is a family man who argues with his wife Helga, has a hard time at work, enjoys a night out with the guys, never has enough money, and sometimes finds his children incomprehensible. Honi, his daughter, takes after his side of the family, a fact that her boyfriend, Lute (an inept troubadour), sometimes finds intimidating. And Hagar occasionally expresses disappointment in his son, Hamlet, who, like Li'l Bad Wolf, isn't one little bit like his rough'n'tough dad. A dog named Snert and a duck named Kvack round out Hagar's family.

Hagar is a critical success, as well as a popular one. In its very first year, it netted Browne a second Reuben Award as the year's outstanding cartoonist (the first came in 1962, for his work on Hi and Lois, making Browne one of the very few to win Reubens for two different works). That same year, the National Cartoonists' Society gave him the Elzie Segar Award (named after the creator of Popeye), calling Hagar a "unique and outstanding contribution" to the cartooning profession. In addition, the NCS named Hagar the year's best humor strip in 1977, 1984 and 1986.

Hagar came along after the days when newspaper strips frequently became comic books, and thus has never been a big star in that venue. He did, however, appear in a single 1995 issue from Avalon Communications, which published a lot of reprints from ACG (such as Magicman) and Charlton (such as Atomic Rabbit).

His animation career is limited to a 1989 half-hour TV special (with Peter Cullen (Eeyore in The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh) as Hagar and Lainie Kazan (best known for face acting) as Helga), a few commercial endorsements, and a brief appearance in the opening credits of the TV sitcom Caroline in the City. He has been the subject of several graphic novels, but while they've proven popular in Europe, not all have been published in America.

Dik Browne retired in 1988, and died a year later. Today, the strip is written and drawn by Chris Browne, his son.


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Text ©2000-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © King Features and Dik Browne estate.