Cartoonist Mort Walker passed away on January 27 at his home in Stamford, Connecticut, of complications from pneumonia. Walker, who was known for his influential and enduring work on comic strips Beetle Bailey as well as Hi and Lois, was 94 years-old.
Perhaps his most famous comic, Beetle Bailey debuted in 1950. The strip, which King Features Syndicate distributed, became immensely popular, appearing to 200 million readers in 1,800 newspapers across more than 50 countries. Walker drew the daily comic strip for 68 years, a record for an American artist working in the medium, and his work also helped move comic strips away from the serialized stories of previous decades and towards the gag strips that have remained popular in newspapers ever since.
Early Beetle Bailey strips focused on the titular character, Beetle Bailey, as a student at Rockview University, from which he would later drop out. The character later enrolled in the army and was stationed at Camp Swampy, where he’s remained ever since. Other characters include Sgt. Snorkel, Beetle’s platoon sergeant; Otto, Sgt. Snorkel’s anthropomorphic bulldog; Gen. Halftrack, the camp’s commander; Miss Buxley, Halftrack’s secretary; and a host of other popular characters. Over the years the cast has appeared in countless mediums, including comic books, television cartoons, games and toys.
Walker began another popular strip, Hi and Lois, in 1954. That comic was originally illustrated by Dik Browne, who went on to create Hagar the Horrible. Two of Mort Walker’s sons, Brian and Greg Walker, have written the strip since the 1980s. They’ve also assisted their father with Beetle Bailey since the 1970s and will continue to produce the strip following his passing.
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