Jewish Leaders Critical of Comic 'B.C.' Cartoonist Says Easter Strip Misunderstood

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Soergel, Times-Union staff writer

Tomorrow's B.C. comic strip is causing nationwide controversy, with some saying that cartoonist Johnny Hart's Easter strip is offensive to Jews.

Hart, meanwhile, said critics misunderstand his message.

The strip shows the seven lit candles of a menorah being extinguished, one at a time. The menorah, a symbol of Judaism, is then transformed into a smoldering crucifix, a symbol of Christianity. In the strip, Hart also includes the last seven statements attributed to Jesus at his crucifixion.

Hart, one of the country's most widely read cartoonists, is an outspoken Christian who occasionally inserts strongly worded religious messages into B.C., a strip that usually pokes fun at modern humans through the antics of its prehistoric characters.

"The Internet and e-mail of our community across the country is just burning up about this," Rabbi David Gaffney of the Jacksonville Jewish Center said.

The strip will run in the Sunday comics in the Times-Union. The color comics section is printed by an outside company in advance and inserted into the paper.

Times-Union publisher Carl Cannon said: "Our comics pages are intended to entertain readers and occasionally provoke thought. We have no intention of slighting anyone with these syndicated features, and we are very sorry for any person or religious group in our community who may feel offended by Sunday's B.C. strip."

Richard Newcombe, president of Creators Syndicate, which distributes Hart's comic, said no newspapers have cancelled B.C. because of the Easter strip, though the Los Angeles Times discontinued B.C. a week ago for other reasons.

Most comic strip controversies occur after a strip is published. But an early copy of tomorrow's B.C. was posted on the Internet by the Jewish Defense League, which called it "outright Jew-hatred."

In a statement, cartoonist Hart said his strip is being misinterpreted.

"I regret if some people misunderstood the strip, and it hurt their feelings . . . This is a holy week for both Christians and Jews, and my intent, as always, was to pay tribute to both."

Newcombe said he didn't foresee the controversy this strip would cause. …