Ask the Archivist: Forty Years of HÄGAR THE HORRIBLE

By Mark Johnson

Dear Daily Comics Readers:

A special anniversary is upon us, the big “Four-Oh” for the comics’ most lovable man of loot and pillage, Hägar. 
Dik Browne, once a Madison Avenue ad agency artist, (See my blog of 6 June 2012) joined Mort Walker in 1954 to collaborate on HI AND LOIS, which was a comic strip hit from the start. Eventually, Browne expanded his repertoire with his own creation, HÄGAR THE HORRIBLE.
The series is highly unusual, especially for an American one, as historically based comics strips go. We tend to  go back to locales in our own history, mainly the settling of the West, for inspiration. Over the years, there have been several series set in European settings, such as KEVIN THE BOLD, OAKY DOAKS, WIZARD OF ID, and of course, PRINCE VALIANT, that were/are about the age of knighthood and chivalry.

Browne chose his backdrop to be the Dark Ages, when fierce tribes of plundering marauders like the Huns, Visigoths, and the aptly named Vandals, raided the civilized towns of the continent. However, Dik’s version of a fearsome Norse chieftan was a fat, slovenly family man, whose pursuit of food, drink and plunder is balanced by his family, especially his overbearing wife, Helga, and the problems that a Captain would have with his longboat crew. “Horrible” isn’t a reflection on the man so much as what might pass for a Viking surname. Hägar strongly resembled his creator, physically, if not vocationally.
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The themes of the strip resonated with readers, here and abroad, making HÄGAR one of the most successful strips of the last half century. Below, a look at some of the pages of the original 1973 sales brochure, which was sent to prospective client newspapers. In it, the first daily and Sunday episodes were shown, and Dik Browne is seen with the original art for the 15 April 1973 strip, and then with the famed Reuben award presented to him by the National Cartoonists Society in 1962.

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Today, the jolly Viking is just as robust, drawn by Dik’s son, Chris Browne, and stronger than ever. So on this birthday, let’s make a hearty toast and a swing of the broadaxe to Hägar!
Now on to DailyINK reader questions: 
To johnoverall,
I’ve just checked the files of BLONDIE from 1965 to 1977, and I can’t find any strips like you describe. I recall the 1968 series, and in fact, the episode where Dagwood tries out for ways to defend himself from the neighborhood bully. It was the final entry. The show was, I felt anyway, badly cast, and the writing was uninspired. This one episode is a standout purely because Dagwood (Will Hutchins) learns some Kung Fu from instructor Bruce Lee.
To Bobawandtraysan7,
We did syndicate THE LONE RANGER strip from 1938 to 1971,  but it was not an actual property of King Features Syndicate so the rights are elsewhere. Over the years, we’ve done the newspaper sales and distribution for many properties, most notably the Disney strips, but we would have to own it to be able to put it into our vintage offerings.
Yours, The KFS Archive Scribe