Mort Walker, the man who created Beetle Bailey, has died. The veteran cartoonist was 94-years-old. Walker passed away on January 27th at his Stamford, Connecticut home due to pneumonia. Bill Morrison, the president of the National Cartoonists Society, confirmed his death.
Walker came up with Beetle Bailey in 1950. Walker drew the comic strip, which was a regular feature in newspaper comic sections for 70 years, which is the longest run on a comic strip for any American cartoonist ever.
The distribution of Beetle Bailey was handled by King Features Syndicate. The strip was published in over 1,800 newspapers across 50 countries and reaching out to more than 200 million readers. Beetle and other characters of the strip also featured in comic books, a TV cartoon series, games, toys, books, musicals as well as postage stamps. Beetle Bailey was a pioneer that shifted comic strips away from the adventure series to solo gag strips, which is the prevalent structure these days.
Beetle Bailey was based on a military group posted at Camp Swampy. The characters created by Walker for the Beetle Bailey include the lazy namesake, Sgt Snorkel, a passionate, but, violent Beetle commanding officer, General Halftrack managed Camp Swampy without any success, and his secretary used to be the charming Miss Buxley, Pvt. Zero and the chef Cookie.
It is not as if Beetle Bailey was the only successful comic strip from Walker. In 1954, he started a family strip Hi and Lois in tandem with illustrator Dick Browne, who later created Hagar The Horrible.
Walker was closely associated with his assistants Jerry Dumas and Bill Janocha, as well as his sons Brian and Greg on Beetle Bailey, and creating various other comic strips such as Boner’s Ark and Sam’s Strip. Brian and Greg have been the writers for Hi and Lois since the 1980s and have been reviewing the Beetle Bailey gags from their father since the 1970s. They will continue to make new Beetle Bailey strips. Walker was devoted to his art. He set up the Museum of Cartoon Art in Greenwich, Connecticut in 1974. The museum has a collection worth approximately $20 million. The museum shut down in 2002, but, its collection is still a part of Ohio State University’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, which has a gallery named after Walker.