Last weekend, America lost a man who’s been part of our daily lives for an astonishing 68 years. That’s how long cartoonist Mort Walker’s “Beetle Bailey” has been appearing in the comics pages. It lasted from the post-War newspaper era of 1950 to the digital age, was one of the first strips to herald the move from serial plots to stand-along gags. Walker continued working on it until he passed away at home in Connecticut Saturday at 94 (although others had taken over some of the workload in recent years).
In addition to Beetle and Sgt. Snorkel’s Army antics, Walker also created a number of other strips, the most successful being the family comic, “Hi & Lois.” Walker was a beloved figure in the comic strip world. Even though younger artists often mocked his old-fashioned style and gentle humor, they admired his accomplishments, and he was famous for his kindness to fans and beginners.
His Washington Post obituary is definitely worth a read, not only for all the nostalgic reminders of funny pages past, but also because it’s a goldmine of interesting trivia (Did you know that Lois was Beetle’s sister? Or that the punctuation marks comic strips use in place of cursing are called “Grawlix”? You’ll learn all that and more).