Beetle Bailey

Beetle Bailey
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Author(s)Mort Walker (1950–2018)
Neal, Brian & Greg Walker (1982–present)[1]
Illustrator(s)Mort Walker (1950–2018)
Mike Yates and Janie Walker-Yates (2018–present)
Current status/scheduleRunning daily and Sunday
Launch dateSeptember 4, 1950
Syndicate(s)King Features Syndicate
Genre(s)Humor, Gag-a-day
A page from the comic book version of Beetle Bailey

Beetle Bailey (begun on September 4, 1950)[2] is an American comic strip created by cartoonist Mort Walker. It is set on a fictional United States Army post. In the years just before Walker's death in 2018 (at age 94), it was among the oldest comic strips still being produced by its original creator.[1] Over the years, Mort Walker had been assisted by (among others) Jerry Dumas, Bob Gustafson, Frank Johnson and Walker's sons Neal, Brian and Greg Walker who are continuing the strip after his death.


Beetle was originally a college student at Rockview University. The characters in that early strip were modeled after Walker's Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers at the University of Missouri. On March 13, 1951, during the strip's first year, Beetle quit school and enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he has remained ever since.

Most of the humor in Beetle Bailey revolves around the inept characters stationed at Camp Swampy (inspired by Camp Crowder, where Walker had once been stationed while in the Army), which is located near the town of Hurleyburg[3] at "Parris Island, S.C.".[4] Private Bailey is a lazy sort who usually naps and avoids work, and thus is often the subject of verbal and physical chastising from his superior officer, Sergeant Snorkel. The characters never seem to see combat themselves, with the exception of mock battles and combat drills. In fact, they seem to be in their own version of stereotypical comic strip purgatory (initially basic training, they now appear to be stuck in time in a regular infantry division). The uniforms of Beetle Bailey are still the uniforms of the late 1940s to early 1970s Army, with green fatigues and baseball caps as the basic uniform, and the open jeep as the basic military vehicle. Sergeant First Class Snorkel wears a green Class A Army dress uniform with heavily wrinkled garrison cap; the officers wear M1 helmet liners painted with their insignia. Despite this 'anachronism,' modern weapons and equipment do make rare appearances. While Beetle Bailey's unit is Company A, one running gag is that the characters are variously seen in different branches of the Army, such as artillery, armor, infantry and paratroops.

Beetle is always seen with a hat or helmet covering his forehead and eyes. Even on leave, his "civvies" include a pork pie hat worn in the same style. He can only be seen without it once—in the original strip when he was still a college student. The strip was pulled and never ran in any newspaper. It has only been printed in various books on the strip's history.[5] One daily strip had Sarge scare Beetle's hat off, but Beetle was wearing sunglasses.

One running gag has Sergeant Snorkel hanging helplessly from a small tree branch after having fallen off a cliff (first time August 16, 1956). While he is never shown falling off, or even walking close to the edge of a cliff, he always seems to hold on to that same branch, yelling for help.

Beetle Bailey (November 21, 2007): In this running gag, Sergeant Snorkel hangs from a small tree growing out of a cliff, while Private Bailey is seen trying to help him—and himself

Publication history[]

During the first two years of Beetle Bailey's run (1950-1952), Walker did all work on the strip himself, including writing, penciling, inking and lettering; however, in 1952 he hired cartoonist Fred Rhoads as his first assistant.[6] After that, numerous people would assist Walker on the strip through the years.

As of 2016, the strip was being syndicated (by King Features) in 1,800 papers in the United States and the rest of the world.[7]

Characters and story[]

Beetle Bailey is unusual in having one of the largest and most varied permanent casts of any comic strip. While many of the older characters are rarely seen, almost none have been completely retired.

Main characters[]

Supporting characters[]

The contest to name the new character Gizmo first appeared in this May 6, 2002, strip when Gen. Halftrack walks into Mort Walker's studio demanding a new character to help him with computer related stuff. In the July 4, 2002, strip, the entry sent in by Earl Hemminger of Springfield, Virginia, was announced as the winner from 84,725 entries.[23]

Retired characters[]

The early strip was set at Rockview University. When Beetle joined the Army, all of the other characters were dropped (although both incarnations of the strip include a spectacled intellectual named Plato). Four characters from the original cast (Bitter Bill, Diamond Jim, Freshman, and Sweatsock) made at least one appearance, in the January 5, 1963 strip.[28][29]

Extras, one-shots and walk-ons[]

Beetle's family, etc.:

Camp Swampy:

Numerous one-shot characters have appeared over the years, mostly unnamed, including an inspector general who looks like Alfred E. Neuman,[32] and various officers and civilians. Among the few to be given names is Julian, a nondescript chauffeur eventually replaced by Julius.[33]


A censored comic strip of Beetle Bailey, from January 12, 2006 (2006-01-12). Uncensored strip at top, censored strip in the middle. The Norwegian translation of the comic strip is shown at the bottom, to show that it was not censored in Norway.
Self-censored comic strip at sketch stage

For the most part, Walker's relationship with the real-life US Army has been cordial. But not always. During the early 1950s, the strip was dropped from the Tokyo ion of Stars and Stripes because it allegedly encouraged disrespect for officers. The civilian press made a huge joke of that, and the ensuing publicity gave the young strip its first big boost in circulation.
Don Markstein[34]

In 1962, the comic strip was censored because it showed a belly button, and in 2006,[citation needed] the description of Rocky's criminal past was replaced with a non-criminal past.


Sometimes Mort Walker created strips with raunchy subject matter for his own amusement. This was done at the sketch stage, and those strips were never meant to be published in the U.S. They "end[ed] up in a black box in the bottom drawer", according to Walker. These sketches were sometimes published in Scandinavia, however, with a translation underneath. In Norway, they appeared in the Norwegian Beetle Bailey comic book, Billy, with the cover of the comic marked to show it contained censored strips. To offset any possible negative reaction, the publisher experimented with "scrambling" the strips in the mid-1990s. To see them, the reader had to view them through a "de-scrambling" plastic card. This was discontinued soon afterwards, and the strips later were printed without scrambling. In Sweden, some of these strips were collected in the Alfapocket series.[35]


A TV version of the strip, consisting of 50 six-minute animated cartoon shorts produced by King Features Syndicate, was animated by Paramount Cartoon Studios in the U.S. and Artransa Film Studios in Sydney, Australia, and was first broadcast in 1963 and 1989. The opening crs included the sound of a bugle reveille, followed by a theme song specifically composed for the cartoon:

He's the military hero of the nation
Though he doesn't always follow regulation
At the sound of reveille
He is here for you to see
And we know you'll laugh at Private Beetle Bailey—
(Beetle Bailey!)
Ask the General, Colonel, Major and the Captain,
The Lieutenant and the Sergeant and the Corporal,
They will tell you with a shout
They would gladly live without
A certain Private by the name of Beetle Bailey—
(Beetle Bailey!) (BEETLE BAILEY!!!)

The repeat of the name of Beetle Bailey is shouted by an angry Sgt. Snorkel.

Beetle was voiced by comic actor and director Howard Morris with Allan Melvin as the voice of Sarge. Other King Features properties, such as Snuffy Smith and Krazy Kat, also appeared in the syndicated series, under the collective title Beetle Bailey and His Friends. June Foray did the voice of Bunny, plus all of the female characters involved.

Beetle and Sgt. Snorkel were featured prominently in the cartoon movie "Popeye Meets the Man Who Hated Laughter", which debuted on October 7, 1972 as one of THE ABC SATURDAY SUPERSTAR MOVIES. In the beginning of the show, General Halftrack and Lt. Flap also appeared in the Chinese Restaurant scene.

1989 special[]

A 30-minute animated TV special co-written by Mort Walker and Hank Saroyan was produced for CBS in 1989, but did not air due to management changes at the CBS network.[36] It has been released on DVD alongside the 1960s cartoons. Greg Whalen played Beetle, Bob Bergen portrayed Killer, Henry Corden was Sgt. Snorkel, Frank Welker was both Zero and Otto, Linda Gary voiced both Miss Buxley and Ms. Blips and General Halftrack was Larry Storch. This special was one of a number of specials made in the same timeframe by King Features/Hearst for TV as potential series pilots; others included Blondie & Dagwood (co-produced with Marvel Productions, who had also collaborated with King Features for the Defenders of the Earth series a few years before) and Hägar the Horrible (co-produced with Hanna-Barbera Productions).

Musical theatre[]

In 1988, a musical based on the comic strip premiered at Candlewood Playhouse in New Fairfield, Connecticut for a limited run. Music and lyrics were by Neil and Gretchen Gould. In addition to the familiar characters from the strip, the plot introduced a wayward computer that promoted Bailey to three-star general.[37]


Further reading[]

(All titles by Mort Walker. Published by Ace Tempo/Grosset & Dunlap, unless otherwise noted. Year of publication is often based on King Features Syndicate copyright dates for lack of a book date. Book numbers for mass-market paperbacks (from the cover of the earliest available copy) are given before year of publication, for chronological purposes.

Beyond the strip[]


  1. ^ Beetle's eyes are seen in the animated cartoon "Son of a Gun of a Gun" (1963) at 4:42. His wide-open eyes are seen in the dark mouth of the cannon blinking five times.[8]
  2. ^ A 1966 spoof of Batman called "Fatman and Slobber" shows Beetle Bailey's eyes in a face mask.[9]


  1. ^ a b Colton, David (May 26, 2010). "'Beetle Bailey' marches on, with artist Mort Walker leading". USA Today. Archived from the original on 2010-05-30. Retrieved June 19, 2010.
  2. ^ Walker, Mort (2008). Thorsjö, Alf (ed.). Beetle Bailey 1950–1952. Egmont Kärnan AB/Checker Book Publishing Group. p. 6. ISBN 978-1-933160-71-9. OCLC 191244495.
  3. ^ Fruhlinger, Josh (June 18, 2014). "She already has a crown, General, you'd better watch yourself". The Comics Curmudgeon. Archived from the original on 2014-06-26. Retrieved June 19, 2014.
  4. ^ "Hi and Lois". December 28, 2014. Archived from the original on 2015-01-05. Retrieved 2014-12-28.
  5. ^ "anyone have an image of Beetle Bailey strip where his eyes are shown?". 2010. Archived from the original on 2016-08-16. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  6. ^ Walker, Mort (2005). Mort Walker: Conversations. Univ. Press of Mississippi. pp. 245–46. ISBN 978-1-578-06700-8.
  7. ^ Dwyer, Ed. "CULTURE: The Funny Papers: Newspapers may be in trouble, but the comic strip is alive and well — and flourishing online," Archived 2018-10-25 at the Wayback Machine Saturday Evening Post (November 7, 2016).
  8. ^ beetle bailey ® The Complete Collection: 13 Episodes on 2 DVDs!, Disc One, Episode 6, "Son of a Gun of a Gun", Hearst Entertainment by Mill Creek Entertainment.
  9. ^ "Beetle Bailey, 3/27/66-'Fatman And Slobber'". Beetle Bailey. Archived from the original on 2018-08-25. Retrieved May 17, 2018 – via 66; posted March 6, 2015.
  10. ^ "Hi and Lois". Hi and Lois. December 28, 2014. Archived from the original on 2015-01-05. Retrieved 2014-12-28 – via
  11. ^ "Beetle Bailey". Beetle Bailey. January 27, 2015. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  12. ^ "Hi and Lois". Hi and Lois. March 17, 2015. Archived from the original on 2015-03-24. Retrieved 2015-03-19 – via
  13. ^ "Beetle Bailey". November 19, 2017. Archived from the original on 2017-11-21. Retrieved 2017-11-19.
  14. ^ Walker, Mort (2008-04-02). "Beetle Bailey". Beetle Bailey. Retrieved 2013-09-03 – via, Houston Chronicle.
  15. ^ a b "Mort Walker (BSS #216) | The Bat Segundo Show & Follow Your Ears". Archived from the original on 2013-11-05. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
  16. ^ "Beetle Bailey". Beetle Bailey. August 20, 1971. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  17. ^ "Beetle Bailey". Beetle Bailey. June 9, 2017. Archived from the original on 2017-07-25. Retrieved 2017-06-09 – via
  18. ^ "Beetle Bailey". Beetle Bailey. March 6, 2018. Archived from the original on 2018-03-22. Retrieved 2018-03-21 – via
  19. ^ "Beetle Bailey strip". November 25, 2018. Archived from the original on 2018-11-26. Retrieved 2018-11-25.
  20. ^ "Beetle Bailey comic November 29, 2015". Archived from the original on 2015-12-02. Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  21. ^ Walker, Mort (c). Beetle Bailey. February 14, 1956, King Features Syndicate.
  22. ^ Walker, Brian (2015-11-20). "Top Sergeant Snorkel". beetle baileyⓇ. King Features Syndicate. Retrieved 2019-04-12.
  23. ^ a b "Here's Chip Gizmo". Government Computer News. Retrieved 2007-11-28.[permanent dead link]
  24. ^ a b Gregory Sanford. "Voice from the Vault" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-06-30.[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ February 17, 1957 Sunday strip, reprinted in Walker, The Best of Beetle Bailey, February 10, 1963 Sunday strip, reprinted in Walker, At Ease, Beetle Bailey (New York: Grosset & Dunlap/Tempo, 1970).
  26. ^ June 26, 1958 and December 19, 1983 strips, reproduced in Walker, The Best of Beetle Bailey.
  27. ^ Various strips reproduced in ibid.
  28. ^ Quotations and documentation of characters from: Mort Walker, The Best of Beetle Bailey (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1984)
  29. ^ Walker, Mort (2008). Alf Thorsjö (ed.). Billy. Den komplette samlingen striper og søndagssider (in Norwegian). 1963–1964 (1 ed.). Egmont Serieforlaget. p. 12. ISBN 978-82-429-3693-6.
  30. ^ "Beetle Bailey". Beetle Bailey. ArcaMax Publishing. July 16, 2012. Archived from the original on 2015-10-17. Retrieved 2013-09-03 – via
  31. ^ "MAD About Beetle". 2012-12-30. Archived from the original on 2013-01-01. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
  32. ^ Beetle Bailey, March 27, 1967; reprinted in Walker, Mort (1970). I Don't Want to be Out Here Any More Than You Do, Beetle Bailey. New York: Grosset & Dunlap/Tempo. ISBN 0-448-12256-1.
  33. ^ Beetle Bailey, July 5, 1964; reprinted in Walker, Mort (1970). At Ease, Beetle Bailey. New York: Grosset & Dunlap/Tempo. ISBN 0-448-12255-3.
  34. ^ Beetle Bailey at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on February 22, 2018.
  35. ^ "Knasen 1993 cover". Alfapocket. Archived from the original on 2018-01-29. Retrieved May 17, 2018 – via, Grand Comics Database.
  36. ^ Walker, Brian. "Beetle Bailey TV Cartoons – Part 3". Archived from the original on 2016-10-26. Retrieved 2016-10-25.
  37. ^ Klein, Alvin (June 12, 1988). "THEATER; Pvt. Beetle Bailey, Breaking Into Song". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2018-05-17. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  38. ^ Beetle Bailey (1989) on IMDb
  39. ^ Cyrenne, Randall (December 9, 2007). "Beetle Bailey: The Complete Collection". Archived from the original on 2018-05-17. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  40. ^ "WWII MB GPW BEETLE BAILEY JEEP DIE CAST 1:18 SCALE N (04/05/2011)". Retrieved 2013-09-03.
  41. ^ "Willys Diecast Cars, 1:18 Scale - Scale18 1/18 Scale Diecast Model Cars, Since 1997". Archived from the original on 2013-04-15. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
  42. ^ "Beetle Bailey". Archived from the original on 2013-09-03. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
  43. ^ "Dr. Romanelli x Bamford : Popeye vs Beetle Bailey Rolexes". 2012-06-12. Archived from the original on 2013-09-07. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
  44. ^ "Beetle Bailey and Sarge #SB-Z4". Retrieved 2019-12-17.
  45. ^ St. John, Allen (May 12, 2014). "In A Startling Episode 705, 'Mad Men' Meets 'Three's Company' And 'The Walking Dead'". Archived from the original on 2018-11-07. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  46. ^ Eaton, Alice (May 14, 2014). "Comments section: Mad Men's 1960s Handbook – MAD Magazine Caricaturist Mort Drucker". AMC Networks. Archived from the original on 2018-05-17. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  47. ^ "Hi and Lois". Archived from the original on April 14, 2009.
  48. ^ "Sculpture of Beetle Bailey". University of Missouri. Archived from the original on 2014-02-21. Retrieved 2013-09-03.

External links[]