A Lost Gem

By Jeremy Meltingtallow

I am currently working on an article for Hogan’s Alley magazine about The Tracy Twins, a monthly comic feature that Dik Browne illustrated for Boys’ Life from October 1953 to around the time he started Hagar the Horrible in 1973.

A few years ago, I purchased a set of Boys’ Life magazines that ran from May 1954 to January 1965.  To research the article I thumbed through all of these issues.  It was a very nostalgic experience.  During most of this period I was the ideal target age for Boys’ Life.  I remember doing some of the projects that were diagrammed in the pages and having train sets and model kits just like the ones that were advertised.  By the mid-1960s I had grown out of this phase and had moved on to other things.  Boys’ Life was also changing.

I recently picked up some later issues and was startled when I discovered this one-shot page by Dik Browne from December 1969.

Sir Dance-a-lot and the Fiery Dragon, Boys' Life, Decemeber 1969. Sir Dance-a-lot and ye Fiery Dragon by Al Stenzel and Dik Browne, Boys’ Life, Decemeber 1969.

Chance told me that his Dad was already thinking about creating another comic strip at this time.  There is clearly a hint of what was to come.  Knights, dragons, castles and fair damsels were all elements of Hagar the Horrible, from the beginning.  You can also see that he was experimenting with a different pen technique – less like the clean round lines of Hi and Lois, with a more natural, handmade look.

I wish Dik was still around to tell me what was going on in his mind when he drew this. It represents to me a change of direction in his artistic development.  Hagar was where he was headed.  It is amazing to observe how cartoonists change and develop throughout their careers.

– Brian Walker