Generally speaking, we’re all aware that there are things in life that we take for granted. Some might claim this is because we live in a technological society where modern conveniences have stifled our instinctive behaviors and replaced them with instantly gratifying behaviors. An example might be just turning the faucet knob for water rather than having to go through steps to get to the nearby creek for water, along with how to get it back. But there are arguments against this notion, and one can speculate that people would repeatedly travel to that creek for water, even if it hasn’t been flowing for a while (confounded beavers) until they were conditioned to admit they need to go elsewhere. The point is that the behavior isn’t modern, but likely as old as we are as a species. So, don’t deny who you are, but go with it. Come on, baby, everybody’s doing it…
Case in point is many things we see every day with no real knowledge of their origin, their history, or even how long they’ve been in our lives. If you think about it, there are famous people whom you’ve known for as long as you can remember, and if you don’t have a reason to dislike them (many of today’s generation might think of Charlie Sheen) you’ll have developed an affinity for them strong enough to think that you, in many real ways, know them. Another case in point is that these people need not be real people, but fictional characters. An example of this, and the point of the article, is the comic strips and the characters contained within. There are comic strip characters we’ve always known (well, most of us) but we couldn’t place a finger on their origins. We’ll explore this today by pointing out Hagar the Horrible is coming up on an anniversary and historic moment.
The 5th of February in 1973 was the first time Hagar appeared on the scene to the world. Admittedly, some sources claim the 4th of February, so there is homework to be done, but suffice it to say that here is someone, fictional though he might be, that so many of us know so well and have known for so much of our lives, yet just a little bit of exploring demonstrates the old philosophical axiom, the more we learn the less we know.
Hagar has never been weighed down by such cerebral debate; he just knows that England and France require regular raiding as a matter of income, and that he is hungry a lot as a result. Vikings of his caliber cannot afford to sit around the fire and debate such existential matters. Nevermind the fact that his career as a Viking often meets with failure, with these failures marked by fates we’ve seen repeated so many times. How many times have we seen Hagar and his sidekick, Lucky Eddie, hanging by their wrists on a dungeon wall, or caught between a hoard of raging soldiers and a cliffside? Hagar teaches us, class, that giving up is not an option. He is a Viking, damn it, and he will trudge forth through any obstacle.
That isn’t to say he doesn’t have his struggles in his personal life. Helga, his robust bride, can be demanding, although it seems apparent she is a good cook. And then there’s the point that she gave Hagar two children, his son Hamlet (who just happens to be the diametric opposite of his Dad) and his lovely daughter, Honi, who just happens to be too much like Dad. There are others in his life who make it all worthwhile, such as Lucky Eddie, who risks life and limb without complaint each time they depart for work, and then should they return home alive, his dog Snert and German duck Kvack are there to greet him with wagging (and flapping) tails. These are the people who make it real for Hagar, and he does appreciate that, although they also keep him in line.
But there are bizarre struggles to contend with, particularly with Helga. Hagar is bound to being truthful, what with the unfortunate bother of his helmet’s horns falling off when he lies.
Hagar may have his ups and downs, and his own unique toils needing tending, but he should consider his lucky stars for more than mere navigation of the seas, because thanks to Hagar’s creator, Dik Browne, the success of two other comic strip characters by the name of Hi and Lois paved the way for Hagar’s success.
Hagar the Horrible has been a success on his own merits, but got a great headstart from ‘Hi and Lois’, a comic already well established and successful, making Dik Browne established and successful, and therefore worthy of the venture to place Hagar in a notable 136 newspapers right from the onset. Because of Hagar’s worthiness in his own right, he was a genuine success and was within 600 newspapers before two years after his first arrival on the shores of the public mind.
Presently, Hagar appears regularly in more than 2,000 newspapers and in 13 languages. Would it be surprising this Viking from days of old appears in almost 60 Swedish newspapers? It is worthy to note that in many other countries, Hagar’s name has been changed to accommodate the local language (although why his name is Olaf in many of these lands seems hard to fathom) and in Sweden, he is known as Hagbard, who was, in legend, a courageous Scandinavian warrior.
These facts come as no surprise when we consider the popularity of Hagar won Browne his second Reuben Award as Outstanding Cartoonist, which he received for Hagar the Horrible the year Hagar appeared on the scene. That same year, Browne earned an Elzie Segar Award (named after the creator of Popeye) for the success and quality of Hagar.
The immortal qualities of this bumbling Viking demonstrates genuine immortal qualities, as Dik Browne passed away twenty years ago in 1989, and Hagar has been brought to us since then by Dik’s son, Chris Browne.
So, there we have it. A far more complete list of facts and knowledge about Hagar the Horrible than many of us would have thought might happen. This just might bring us far closer to Hagar, inspiring in us genuine concern when we see him hanging by the wrists in a dank dungeon. We might even have higher hopes between Hamlet and the girl who vies for his love, even though he cannot find that love for her within himself. Perhaps this is because the poor child’s name is Hernia, and what with Hamlet’s studious nature and abhorrence for labor, it comes as little surprise he desires little contact with such a thing.