Beetle Bailey, by Mort Walker (1988)

Mort Walker's career took off when he was eleven years old, when he sold his first cartoon to a regional newspaper. At the age of fifteen, he drew a weekly cartoon ('The Limejuicers') in the Kansas City Journal) and at eighteen, he became chief designer at Hallmark Cards. He studied literature at Washington University and journalism at the University of Missouri (where he also edited the campus newspaper Show Me). After a short period of service in the US Army, Walker soon became one of America's most published gag cartoonists. He also worked as an editor for Dell titles like 1000 Jokes, TV Stars and Hollywood Family. The lazy student 'Spider' became a regular character in his cartoons for the Saturday Evening Post. He eventually got King Features to syndicate a comic strip version, but changed the name to 'Beetle Bailey'.

Beetle Bailey strip, by Morton Walker

The first strip was published on 3 September 1950. After a couple of months, Walker transfered the location of his strip from the school campus to an army base and his star was rising. Although the strip commenced during the Korean war years, Walker's lazy character never ended up in combat as most gags were situated in the army base. A Sunday page was added in September 1952 and 'Beetle Bailey' is still published in over 200 newspapers all around the world. Over the years, Walker has been assisted on the strip by Jerry Dumas, Bob Gustafson, Frank Johnson, and his sons Neal, Brian and Greg Walker (who is now co-credited with his father). To this day, Mort Walker personally oversees the production of his strip at his so-called "Connecticut laugh factory studio".

Beetle Bailey, by Morton Walker

In addition to 'Beetle Bailey', Mort Walker scripted other newspaper comics. 'Hi and Lois' was written by Walker and drawn by Dik Browne, and commenced publication in 1954. The strip was a spin-off of a couple of side-characters from 'Beetle Bailey', called the Flagston family (Lois was Beetle's sister). After the death of Dik Browne, 'Hi and Lois' has been continued by the sons of Walker and Brown, Greg and Brian Walker doing the scripts, and Chance Brown the artwork. 'Hi and Lois' was followed by 'Mrs. Fitz's Flats' (with Frank Roberge, 1957-72) and 'Sam's Strip', a strip joking with the comics format and medium (with Jerry Dumas, 1961-63). In 1968, Walker began 'Boner's Ark', drawn at first by himself under his second surname Addison and then, from 1971 until 2000, by Frank Johnson. Later series by Walker include 'Sam and Silo' (also with Dumas, 1977), 'The Evermores' (drawn by Johnny Sajem, 1982-86) and 'Gamin and Patches' (again under the pen name Addison, 1987).

In 1954 Walker received the NCS Reuben Award for his efforts on the strip. But Walker himself considers his greatest achievement to be his International Museum of Cartoon Art, which he opened in 1974. Walker has written several books on the art and history of comics, as well as children's books.

Beetle Bailey, by Mort Walker

Beetle Bailey
(on King Features site)

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