Mort Walker, the creator of a comic strip that brought laughter to millions by showing the foibles of a lazy G.I., and who later founded the first museum dedicated to cartooning, has died. He was 94 and passed way from pneumonia at his Stamford, Conn. home, according to Bill Morrison, president of the National Cartoonists Society.
Walker drew his daily comic strip for 68 years, longer than any other US artist in the history of the medium. It debuted in 1950 and eventually became a US Postal Service stamp in 2010.
Debuting in 1950, “Beetle Bailey” was distributed by King Features Syndicate and eventually reached 200 million readers in 1,800 newspapers in more than 50 countries. Beetle and company appeared in comic books, television cartoons, games and toys and were also featured in a musical with the book by Walker.
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Set in the fictional “Camp Swampy,” Beetle Bailey was a spindly G.I. always running afoul of his nemesis, the easily enraged (and fooled) Sgt. Snorkel. Beetle always had his eyes covered by his cap visor or helmet, and he interacted with such characters as Gen. Halftrack, the base leader; the voluptuous Miss Buxley, Halftrack’s secretary; Cookie, the hairy-shouldered camp cook; and Pvt. Zero, perhaps the only soldier less sophisticated than Beetle.
‘Beetle Bailey’ was one of the first “gag-a-day” strips, a model that replaced the serial comics for most of the ensuing decades. Although the cartoon was set on a military base, it remained unaffected by outside conflicts, and never featured combat or even suggested that war was going on. In the comic, it was always post-World War II, and Walker said once that the military setting was merely a stage for the comic’s exam of the human pecking order.
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