King Offers Sunday Page On Private Beetle Bailey
By Erwin Knoll 8/2/52
Private Beetle Bailey, who in the past year-and-a-half has safely entrenched himself as by far the most accomplished goldbrick in this man’s army, will perform his duty-shirking antics for Sunday readers too when King Features Syndicate launches a color page Sept. 14. Undertaken at the request of papers subscribing to the daily strip, the Sunday page will be available in tabloid, one-third and half-page regular sizes, and has already been signed by the American Weekly.
As in the daily strip, Sunday action will take place in and around the stateside training camp in which Private Bailey seems to be doomed to spend the rest of his army days, relieved only by an occasional home furlough. As before, the emphasis will be on army humor with primarily civilian appeal. And the theme will continue to be Private Bailey’s relentless war against standard operating procedure.
“Beetle Bailey” was launched by King two years ago as the nation’s only comic strip dealing exclusively with college life, featuring Beetle as B.M.O.C. (Big Man on Campus for the uninitiated.) With the beginning of mass inductions under the Selective Service law, it was decided to have Beetle join the colors, and immediately the strip’s popularity took an upward turn.
Fan mail indicates that wives, sweethearts and mothers clip the strip and forward it to servicemen, and reprint rights are often requested by camp newspapers. Teen-agers also seem to make up a large part of “Beetle Bailey’s” fan circle.
Creator of “Beetle Bailey” is Mort Walker, 28 and, of course, an ex-GI. He patterns Beetle and his buddies after some of his Kappa Sig fraternity brothers at the University of Missouri, where he edited the Missouri Showme, once described in these columns as the outhouse of journalism.
Walker, the son of an architect and a former newspaper illustrator, started drawing at the age of four, sold his first cartoon when he was 11. When he was 15 he drew a once-a-week comic strip called “The Limejuicers” for the late Kansas City Journal. A year later he was an editorial designer for Hallmark greeting cards.
In 1948, college and army service behind him, he came to New York and started selling gag panels to the Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, This Week and other national magazines, and joined the top 10 cartoonists in the country in number of panels sold. It was in the pages of the Satevepost that he introduced the confused youth with hat perennially over his eyes who evolved into Beetle Bailey.
While turning out his daily strip and advance pages for the new Sunday feature Walker continues to hit the big magazines with gag panels regularly. And to keep busy he has just taken on the editorship of the Cartoonist, quarterly publication of the National Cartoonists Society.