Beetle Bailey

Thursday, March 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Beetle Bailey

Few cartoonists have enjoyed the world-wide success of comics legend Mort Walker. Nor has any cartoonist done more to promote the world’s most popular artform during his long and illustrious career.

Born in 1923 in Kansas, Walker began his career as a single-panel cartoonist in magazines like The Saturday Evening Post. His masterpiece, private Beetle Bailey, made his first appearance in that magazine as a character named "Spider".

Beetle Bailey was the first, but not the last or least, of Mort Walker’s strips. Begun in 1950, the strip is a character-driven narrative of life gone nuts on a military facility.

Among its most memorable characters is the strip’s namesake, Beetle, who has become an icon of the military goof, incapable, devious, but somehow not unpatriotic. No less popular is his immediate superior, blusterous Sarge Snorkel.

Walker’s art is firmly entrenched in the traditional cartoonish style of most newspaper comic strips. His minimalistic style includes only the details needed in each panel to define his cast and set up his punchline, whether visual or verbal.

He also scripted Dik Browne’s Hi and Lois strip (1954--); Mrs. Fitz’s Flats, Sam’s Strip (1961-’63), and Boner’s Ark (1968--).

Walker’s comic books included: Beetle Bailey (1953-1990s, Dell, Gold Key, Charlton, Whitman, Harvey); Comics Reading Library(R-02, R-13: Beetle; R-11: Hi & Lois, King); Giant Comic Album (1972, King); Sarge Snorkel (1973-76, Charlton).

A large number of anthologies of Beetle, Sam’s Strip and Hi & Lois have been published. Walker also produced greeting cards for Hallmark, edited comic books for Dell, and pro-duced advertising art for GE, Coca Cola and other companies. He won a Reuben (1953), a Silver T-Square (1961), Best Humor strip (1966, ‘69), and founded the Museum of Comic Art in Greenwich, Conneticutt (1974).

The work of Mort Walker is highly recommended. MV

Some older comics are expensive or difficult to locate. Price guides or comics dealers help. Comics shops, conventions, mail order companies and trade journals are good sources. Prices vary; shop around.