Richard Arthur Allan Browne was born August 11, 1917, at home on 84th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan. At age 16 he applied for a job as a copyboy at theNew York Journal, hoping to fulfill his dream of becoming a reporter. But a city editor, unimpressed with his writing ability, pushed him into the art department where he soon found his niche.
Browne developed his talent and went to work for Newsweek in 1941. The next year, he married Joan Kelly. Almost immediately thereafter, he was inducted into the Army, assigned to an engineering unit to draw maps and charts. During that time, he created Ginny Jeep, a comic featuring a WAC, for the 3rd Air Force newspapers.
After mustering out of the Army in 1946, Browne went to work in advertising. He earned a reputation for fine illustration. He created the Bird’s Eye bird, redesigned the Campbell’s Soup Kids, and created the now-famous Chiquita Banana.
Browne’s work as co-creator of The Tracy Twins for Boy’s Life magazine brought him to the attention of the comics editor at King Features. King was looking for someone to collaborate with Mort Walker, the creator of Beetle Bailey on a new strip. Browne accepted the challenge, and Hi and Lois made its debut in 1954.
Hagar was born in a year of personal health problems and family difficulties for Browne. He wanted to create a new comic strip that his artistic sons could perpetuate. He was inspired to create a Viking hero by his childhood memories of Norse legends. Remarkably, Hagar was the first idea he tried.
Browne has often been called “the cartoonists’ cartoonist,” because he won more awards from his peers than any other artist-writer. He was the only cartoonist ever to have won the National Cartoonist Society’s Reuben Award for two different strips– Hi and Lois in 1962 and Hagar in 1973. He also won five NCS Best Humor Strip of the Year awards, and the 1973 Elzie Segar Award for his “outstanding contribution to the art of cartooning.”
The German Cartoonists Association named Browne “The Best International Comic Strip Cartoonist,” awarding him the prestigious “Max und Moritz” prize in 1984. The Cartoonists club of Great Britain gave Hagar top honors for “Best Overseas Cartoon” in 1983, 1984, and 1986, and, in 1988, Browne receive the British Club’s first award combining its traditional domestic and international categories.
Browne died on June 4, 1989, in Sarasota, Florida, at age 71, after a long battle with cancer. Since then, his son, Chris, has led the vanguard on Hagar’s many raiding parties.