In the early 1960s Johnny Hart (1931-2007), who had been born in Endicott, NY, and had become successful among cartoonists for previously creating B.C., began collaborating with a friend who had not been published before, Brant Parker. Having already made a cartoon about the Stone Age in B.C., Hart advanced through time to the Middle Ages, taking an idea from a deck of playing cards to create the first few strips of The Wizard of Id. The strip was first syndicated on November 9, 1964, drawn by Parker and co-written by Parker and Hart.
The Wizard of Id deals with the goings-on of the run-down, oppressed Kingdom of Id. It follows people from all corners of the kingdom, but concentrates on the court of a tyrannical dwarf-sized monarch, known only as “the King”. The jokes center on the idea that people are stuck with the King as their ruler, and that his administration’s incompetence has led to a kingdom that is, amusingly, poorly kept. The cast is large for a daily cartoon strip, and there are recurring jokes for each character and for the kingdom itself, so that from day to day it appears as if it were several comic strips based in the same place.
Id is known as “the land of milk and honey”, and while it is set a thousand years ago, the strip’s humor occasionally takes the reader through satire of American culture. Technology changes to suit whatever a joke requires: a battle with spears and arrows might be followed by a peasant using an ATM. The general trend is that even though the personalities of the characters are well known, their surroundings will morph to satisfy a good joke. The aspects that stay the same, however, are that Id is in the middle of nowhere and is home to a large castle surrounded by a moat. The King and his subjects run an army that fight “the Huns”, and keep guards who shout the time and “all’s well” from the castle walls, while the peasants, or “Id-iots”, make little money as stablehands to keep modest lifestyles.
Parker’s drawing style was well suited to the humor of the strip; little background detail was given in each pane, to allow a concentration on dialogue. As the years passed, even as Parker’s style became more refined (with cleaner lines and more consistent proportions) he drew still less background detail.
The Wizard of Id was named best humor strip by the American National Cartoonists Society in 1971, 1976, 1980, 1982 and 1983, and Johnny Hart received a Reuben Award for his work on it and B.C. in 1968, an award which Brant Parker later received for it in 1984. Furthermore, it has seen dozens of paperback collections published since 1965, and even now there are some still in print. The King is a Fink!, published in 1969, is one of these paperback collections and can be found in Special Collections located on the second floor of the Glenn G. Bartle Library.