Chris Browne, the continuing cartoonist of the popular ongoing Hägar the Horrible syndicated comic strip – and son of the series’ original creator Dik Browne – has died following a long illness. He was 70 years old. The news broke mere days after the strip passed its landmark fiftieth anniversary.
The news broke via a post on social media from the National Cartoonists Society:
“We are sad to announce the passing of one of our longtime valued members of the NCS community, Chris Browne. Hagar had only just celebrated his 50th anniversary the day before.”
The post included a statement from Chris Browne’s sister, Tsuiwen Browne-Boeras, saying:
“With much sadness, I am here to announce, my brother Christopher Browne passed away peacefully in Sioux Falls, SD after a long-term illness.
“After our father passed away, he was the face of our family’s cartoon strip Hagar the Horrible. Besides drawing Hagar, Chris drew and illustrated children’s books. He always had a sketchbook in hand and loved to draw for people. He will be very much missed by his family and friends as well as his fans throughout the world.
“We will miss his talent and his gentle and kind soul.”
Hägar the Horrible, which satirised contemporary American society under the guise of its faux Viking-era setting, began February 4, 1973. It was created by Richard Arthur Allan “Dik” Browne for the King Features Syndicate. The strip proved immensely popular and is syndicated in approximately 1900 newspapers, across 56 countries, around the globe. A framed copy of the cartoon was even spotted in the background of President Joe Biden’s Oval Office at the White House.
Following the retirement and death of its creator, Dik’s sons Chris and Chance Browne – plus illustrator and cartoonist Gary Hallgren who has drawn the series since 2015 – took over the reins. Chris’ thirty-plus year tenure on the character (his brother Chance works mainly on the continuation of their father’s other series Hi and Lois but assisted with edits) – from 1989 to 2023 – makes him the strip’s longest serving cartoonist (his father retired in 1988, accumulating 16 years of material).
Born May 16, 1952, Chris served as an assistant to his father on Hägar the Horrible and Dik Browne’s other syndicated strip Hi and Lois (which Dik co-created with Mort “Beetle Bailey” Walker in 1954). His first professionally published gag strips in the early ‘70s appeared in National Lampoon, where he would become a mainstay for a decade. He also become a contributor to Playboy Magazine. As well as continuing his father’s legacy with Hägar, Chris also had his own original syndicated strip – the semi-autobiographical Raising Duncan (2000-2005).
In a 2002 Washington Post Q&A with readers, Chris spoke about how hard his father would push him as an assistant:
“For years I’ve had on my desk a quote of my father’s that says simply, “My son can do better than this.” which is something my father said to me after I’d worked really hard on a set of Hagar dailies, and when I handed it into him, he said “If anyone else had given me this work, I would say it was terrific. But, you’re my son, and my son can do better than this.” It was a real challenge, but it has really helped me on raising the bar on myself.”
He also spoke about continuing his father’s legacy with the strip:
“I worked side by side with my father from the very beginning of Hagar. Some of the earliest gags were mine. When we lost Dad in 1989, I was devastated and the only thing that got me through was the love of my wife, Carroll, and the idea that I could stay in touch with my dad’s spirit by getting up every day and continuing his work on Hagar.”
Header image from thecartoonistgroup.org.