Archive: Beetle Bailey

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Mort Walker passed away yesterday the age of 94, and the many, many, many people who emailed and tweeted me to let me know are a testament to the huge impact he had on cartooning as an art form and as a business. His Washington Post obituary is a great summary of his life and career, but to me, these are the high points to show how he and the team he built affected the medium:

  • Beetle Bailey was among the first cartoons to mark a shift in the funny pages from the serial strips of the previous decade to the graphically simpler gag-a-day model that predominates today.”
  • “He delighted in the history and tricks of his trade and wrote a tongue-in-cheek textbook, The Lexicon of Comicana (1980), in which he described commonly used cartooning conventions. Grawlix were the symbols deployed to convey foul language; briffits were the clouds often found at the end of hites (horizontal lines indicating speed). To Mr. Walker’s amusement, his book sometimes appeared in the art instruction section of bookstores, and his neologisms would pop up in discussions about the art of cartooning.”
  • “He eventually found himself in charge of 10,000 German prisoners in a POW camp in Italy. At the end of the war, he helped oversee the destruction of binoculars and watches from an ordnance depot in Naples. His job was to make sure nobody stole anything before it was destroyed. ‘I began to realize,’ he wrote in the memoir, ‘that army humor writes itself.’”

There are many anecdotes around of his good humor and kindness to younger comics artists, and his ambitions for cartooning. He also helped create the workshop model of cartooning, and like many legacy strips Beetle Bailey (which he created) and Hi and Lois (which he co-created with Dik Browne) have long been written and illustrated by the next generation over at Walker-Browne Amalgamated Humor Industries LLC, so I look forward to making fun of them for years to come. But think of Mort the next time you see a grawlix or a briffit.

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Mary Worth, 1/22/18

Welp, it looks like our “Wilbur gets scam-dumped and then cockblocked by a hot rich millennial” storyline somehow managed to end with Wilbur strutting through a park alone and deluding himself about what a great dad he is, so it’s time for a new plot! And it looks like it’s going to feature Mary’s boyfriend Dr. Jeff after an awfully long absence. Presumably he’ll be around just long enough to introduce his friend (note: Dr. Jeff does not, to my knowledge, have any friends) Ted Miller, who’s quite a character, which 100% means he’s going to be an insufferable nightmare who will throw Mary’s world, and the Charterstone community in general, into chaos. I’m excited!

Beetle Bailey, 1/22/18

Also starting a new plotline this Monday: Beetle Bailey! We begin in media res, with the backstory on what catastrophe has left much of the world outside Camp Swampy a patchwork of uninhabitable “contaminated zones” that the military must enter on mysterious and dangerous missions presumably being filled in at some point later in the week.

Blondie, 1/22/18

Ha ha, uh, remember a couple of weeks ago when I made a joke about Elmo spending all his time at the Bumsteads’ because of his volatile, violent home life? The best part here is how Blondie just kind of stares at Elmo silently as she lets him in, as if she’s gobsmacked and just now putting together his tragic backstory.

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Mary Worth, 1/16/18

For those of you who aren’t fully “in the know” on the details of beloved syndicated soap-opera strip Mary Worth, “Santa Royale,” Mary’s home and the setting for most of the action, is a thinly veiled version of the California university/beach town of Santa Barbara — they even use the real names for neighboring places, like Goleta. Anyway, you’ve probably heard about the horrific mudslides in Montecito last week, but you might not know that Montecito too is part of the Santa Barbara area — is right next door, in fact. What I’m trying to say is that while I wouldn’t wish that sort of disaster on anyone in real life, it would be pretty funny in Wilbur, out for a brisk, optimistic walk after deciding to pretend that he has his life together emotionally, were suddenly swept out to sea by a wall of mud.

Pluggers, 1/16/18

Pluggers aren’t afraid of the dark … but they are afraid of that yawning hole inside of them, the one that they can never fill with food no matter how much they try.

Beetle Bailey, 1/16/18

The excuses Sarge has to come up with for all the times he physically abuses the soldiers under his command are becoming increasingly transparent.