HOWARD HUGEMedium: Magazine cartoons
Appearing in: Parade magazine
First Appeared: 1981
Creator: Bill Hoest
Please contribute to its necessary financial support.
Amazon.com or PayPal
By the 1980s, Bill Hoest, who entered the field as a greeting card designer, was a highly successful syndicated cartoonist, whose ongoing credits included The Lockhorns, Bumper Snickers, Agatha Crumm and more. For a new feature, Hoest looked to comics like Napoleon and Fred Basset comics with canine
protagonists. His specific desire was to create one those humongous dogs that get laughs from readers just because every move they make is a source of mayhem. Howard wasn't big like Clifford was big, but his size easily rivalled that of Marmaduke.
The distributor who handled most of Hoest's previous work was King Features Syndicate (Hi & Lois, Zippy the Pinhead), which had been distributing The Lockhorns to as many as 500 newspapers worldwide since 1968. But this feature wasn't syndicated at all, at least in the usual sense. Instead, it ran weekly in Parade magazine, which is packaged with Sunday papers as a supplement. Parade is published and distributed by Tribune Media Services, which handles the old Chicago Tribune comics, such as Little Orphan Annie and Gasoline Alley.
Howard is said to have been based on a real dog, a family pet who, says Bunny Hoest (the cartoonist's widow, who currently writes the comics he created) was an "unplanned dog". The family was looking for a companion to an elderly, sedate Labrador retriever, but the kennel didn't have any of that breed except puppies who would be too active for the aging pet. While they were looking around, their youngest daughter fell in love with a St. Bernard that was too big for the cage it had been stuck in, so the family's new pet was a St. Bernard.
Big, ungainly, big, gentle, big, clumsy and especially big, the dog fictionalized as Howard Huge gave the family love and laughs for years. And starting in 1981, he was also the star of a single-panel cartoon in Parade.
That's not the only place where Howard was the star. In 1992, he also starred in Howard Huge Comes to Stay, by Bunny Hoest, a book aimed at beginning readers. Also, in 1982, Ballantine Books (Peanuts, Mad) published a collection of Hoest's Howard Huge cartoons.
Bill Hoest died in 1988. The writing of his comics was taken over by his wife Bunny, and the art by his assistant, John Reiner, who also has credits at Marvel Comics. Except for a brief hiatus in 2007, Howard Huge has been handled by them ever since.