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Beetle Bailey

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Beetle Bailey Beetle Bailey Wikipedia

Beetle Bailey (begun on September 4, 1950) is an American comic strip created by cartoonist Mort Walker. Set in a fictional United States Army military post, it is among the oldest comic strips still being produced by the original creator. Over the years, Mort Walker has been assisted by (among others) Jerry Dumas, Bob Gustafson, Frank Johnson and Walker's sons Neal, Brian and Greg Walker. The latter is currently credited on the strip.


Beetle Bailey Greg Walker Beetle Bailey

Bruce blitz interviews cartoonist mort walker and beetle bailey


Beetle Bailey Beetle Bailey by kinhalchemist on DeviantArt

Beetle was originally a college student at Rockview University. The characters in that early strip were modeled after Walker's 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 at "Parris Island, S.C.". 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 supervisor, 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. 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. This gag may have spawned the segment of the children's show Between the Lions featuring a person named Cliff Hanger, who, like Sergeant Snorkel, is hanging from a cliff in each feature.

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

  • Private Beetle Bailey—the main character and strip's namesake; a feckless, shirking, perpetual goof-off and straggler known for his chronic laziness and generally insubordinate attitude. Slack, hapless, lanky and freckled, Beetle's eyes are always concealed, whether by headgear or, in the rare instance of not wearing any (e.g., in the shower), by his hair. In early strips, it was revealed that he is the brother of Lois Flagston (from the Hi and Lois cartoon, which Mort Walker wrote, and Dik Browne drew). Beetle is a member of "Kilo Company" 3rd Battalion of the 9th Infantry Regiment (United States) 13th Division {fictional} Beetle's and Lois's grandmother came from Dublin, Ireland.
  • Sergeant 1st Class Orville P. Snorkel—Beetle's platoon sergeant and nemesis; introduced in 1951. Sarge is known to frequently beat up Beetle for any excuse he can think of, leaving Beetle a shapeless pulp. Once, in the February 2, 1971 strip, he even shoved Beetle through a knothole in the floorboard. Sarge is too lovable to be a villain, however. Obese, snaggle-toothed, and volatile, Sarge can be alternately short-tempered and sentimental. He and Beetle seem to have a mutual love/hate relationship; much of the time there's an implied truce between them. They share an uneasy alliance that sometimes borders on genuine (albeit unequal) friendship. In some early strips Sarge was married, but he was later retconned into an unmarried Army lifer, who knows next to nothing about civilian life. Despite his grouchiness and bossiness, Sarge does have a soft side, which he usually keeps concealed. He is from Pork Corners, Kansas. He was also known to be very foul-mouthed, even compared to the rest of the cast. One strip had Chaplain Staneglass suggesting that Sarge try to stop the Camp Swampy soldiers from swearing, only for Major Greenbrass to rebuke him, with Sarge in the meantime proceeding to swear up a storm after accidentally pricking himself with a tack he intended to put on a message billboard as Greenbrass tells Staneglass that said list of swears was "just for a tack prick."
  • Otto—Sgt. Snorkel's anthropomorphic, look-alike bulldog whom Sarge dresses up the same as himself, in an army uniform. Otto is fiercely protective of Sarge, and seems to have a particular antipathy towards Beetle. First appearance July 17, 1956, originally he was a regular dog who walked on all fours, but Mort Walker finally decided to make him more humanlike. As Walker put it, "I guess he's funnier that way." As Sarge is often found hanging on a branch protruding from a cliff face, so once was Otto.
  • Brigadier General Amos T. Halftrack—the inept, frustrated, semi-alcoholic commander of Camp Swampy; introduced in 1951. He loves to golf, much to his wife Martha's dismay. He sometimes harasses his secretary, Miss Buxley. He is 78 years old, from Kenner, Louisiana — though according to Capt. Scabbard he was born in China (April 28, 1971).
  • Miss Buxley—Halftrack's beautiful, blonde, buxom civilian secretary—and occasional soldier's date (as well as a constant distraction for Halftrack). She used to live in Amarillo, Texas. She appears in every Wednesday strip, with the exception of November 4, 2009; February 16, 2011; March 2, 2011; April 6, 2011; and February 12, 2014; why on Wednesdays is unknown. (However, a possible prototype for Miss Buxley, a very similar-looking "new stenographer" for General Halftrack, appeared on January 22, 1970—a Thursday.) Miss Buxley has an apparent interest in Beetle, later becomes his girlfriend, but is constantly pursued by Killer.
  • Lieutenant Sonny Fuzz—very young (with noticeably pointy eyebrows and very little facial hair), overly earnest, anal-retentive and "by the book," and highly susceptible to squeaky furniture. The apple-polishing Fuzz is always trying to impress uninterested superiors (especially Halftrack), and "rub it in the noses" of his subordinates. He was introduced March 7, 1956. Mort Walker said he modeled the character and personality of Lt. Fuzz on himself, having taken himself too seriously after completing Officer Training.
  • Lieutenant Jackson Flap—the strip's first black character, often touchy and suspicious—but effortlessly cool, introduced in 1970. Originally wore an afro hairstyle.
  • Cookie Jowls—the mess sergeant, who smokes cigarettes while preparing the mess hall's questionable menu (infamous for rubbery meatballs and tough-as-rawhide steaks). Walker once described him as "the sum of all Army cooks I've met in my life." Except for the presence of cauliflower ears, a prominent heart tattoo, hairy shoulders and perpetual beard stubble, he bears a striking resemblance to SFC Snorkel—and has also been known to occasionally beat up on Beetle. Like Sarge, he also loves food.
  • Private "Killer" Diller—the notorious ladies' man, and Beetle's frequent crony—introduced in 1951.
  • Private Zero—the buck-toothed, naïve farm boy who takes commands literally, and misunderstands practically everything. Sometimes Zero serves to enrage Sarge even more than Beetle, often when Beetle and Zero are under Sarge's command. Sarge, being resentful of Beetle, will find Zero so ridiculous or poor performing that he attacks Zero or gives Beetle the easy job just to be rid of Zero. Was briefly promoted from Private to Lieutenant during a military exercise (September 29, 2013). Following the exercise, he was returned to his normal rank of E-1 Private (shown in his next strip appearance on Saturday, October 12, 2013). He was raised in Cornpone,Nebraska
  • Private Plato—the Camp's resident intellectual; bespectacled, given to scrawling long-winded, analytical, often philosophical graffiti. Named after Plato but based on Walker's pal, fellow cartoonist Dik Browne. Plato is the only character other than Beetle to evolve from the early "college" months of the strip.
  • Supporting characters

  • Private Blips—Gen. Halftrack's competent, jaded, not-at-all-buxom secretary ("blips" are small points of light on a radar screen). Resents Halftrack's constant ogling of Miss Buxley, but does not appear to be envious of the latter's beauty.
  • Chaplain Staneglass—"He's praying... he's looking at the food... he's praying again!" According to Mort Walker's Private Scrapbook, Walker based the chaplain on Irish actor Barry Fitzgerald's priest character, from Going My Way (1944).
  • Martha Halftrack—the General's formidable, domineering wife. She's 70 yrs. old and is from Morganfield, KY. (She has been known to sneak dates without Amos knowing.) Despite all this, Amos still is in love with her and values their marriage.
  • Private Rocky—Camp Swampy's long-haired, disgruntled social dissident; a former biker gang member and rebel-without-a-clue, introduced 1958. Is the editor of the "Camp Swampy" Muckateer.
  • Private Cosmo—Camp Swampy's sunglass-wearing, resident "shady entrepreneur" and huckster. Loosely based on William Holden's Sefton character from Stalag 17; almost forgotten in the 1980s.
  • Captain Sam Scabbard—hard-nosed, flat-top wearing officer; commander of A Company and usually depicted as competent. Can be firm with Sarge, but also trusts him.
  • Major Greenbrass—staff officer and golf partner to Gen. Halftrack. He is most often simply a sounding-board for the general, reacting to his superior's shenanigans instead of causing his own.
  • Private Julius Plewer—fastidious fussbudget, who eventually became Halftrack's chauffeur.
  • Corporal Yo—the strip's first Asian character, introduced in 1990. Like Major Greenbrass's relationship to General Halftrack, Cpl. Yo is most often simply a conversation partner for Sarge or one of the lieutenants. He is rarely if ever shown to be goofing off like the rest of the enlisted men.
  • Dr. Bonkus—Camp Swampy's loopy staff psychiatrist, whose own sanity is questionable. "Bonkus" likely refers to the Yiddish word for the cups used in traditional medicine - and to the saying translating to, "It will do as much good as 'cupping' a corpse", often abbreviated to the phrase "Toten bonkus", applied to a hopeless therapy or consulting an incompetent doctor.
  • Sergeant 1st Class Louise Lugg—hopes to be Sarge's girlfriend, introduced in 1986. Lt. Flap wondered why Lugg was sent to the camp; Halftrack commented that she showed up after he called the Pentagon to request an overseas assignment — "I asked them to send me abroad." Although she is often competent, Louise Lugg has had occasional ridiculous moments like Zero, such as when Beetle recommended she get on Sarge's good side then "nail him"; after Sarge has a better opinion of Louise she is then seen ready to assault Sarge with a baseball bat - having taken Beetle's slang literally.
  • Bella—Sgt. Louise Lugg's female cat.
  • Specialist Chip Gizmo— Camp Swampy's resident computer geek, was named by a write-in contest in 2002. The contest, sponsored by Dell Computer Corp., received more than 84,000 entries. It raised more than $100,000 for the Fisher House Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides housing for families of patients at military and veterans hospitals.
  • Retired characters

  • Bunny Piper—Was Beetle's seldom-seen girlfriend (from 1959), before he started dating Miss Buxley.
  • Buzz—Was Beetle's girlfriend before 1959.
  • Canteen (early 1950s) —always eating.
  • Snake Eyes (early 1950s) —the barracks gambler, replaced by Cosmo, Rocky, and others.
  • Big Blush (early 1950s) —tall, innocent, and a great attraction to the girls; many of his characteristics incorporated into both Sarge and Zero.
  • Fireball (early 1950s) —neophyte who always seems to be in the way; forerunner of both Zero and Lt. Fuzz.
  • Bammy (early 1950s) —the southern patriot from Alabama who is still fighting the Civil war.
  • Dawg (early 1950s) —the guy in every barracks who creates his own pollution.
  • Ozone (late 1950s) —Zero's bigger, even more naïve friend.
  • Moocher (early 1960s) —stingy and always borrowing things.
  • Pop (1960s)—married private: gets yelled at by Sarge all day and goes home at night for more abuse from his wife.
  • Sergeant Webbing—variously described as being from either B Company or D Company. He somewhat resembles Snorkel, except that he lacks the trademark wrinkles in Snorkel's garrison cap, and has wavy hair and thick eyebrows. He has pointy teeth. On at least two separate occasions, Webbing engaged Sgt. Snorkel in a cussing duel. He also attempted to one-up Snorkel in anthropomorphizing dogs, leading to Otto's first appearance in uniform, and was most recently seen (recognizably, but not mentioned by name) in 1983.
  • Rolf (early 1980s) —civilian tennis instructor, very popular with the female cast (including both Mrs. Halftrack and Miss Buxley, much to the General's consternation). Originally introduced in response to complaints about the constant ogling of Miss Buxley by the male characters. First appearance was in the September 9, 1982 strip, disappeared completely by the mid-1980s.
  • 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.

    Extras, one-shots and walk-ons

    Beetle's family, etc.:

  • Mr. and Mrs. Bailey, the unnamed parents of Beetle, Lois, and Chigger
  • Lois Flagston (née Bailey), Beetle's sister; she and her husband are the title characters of the Hi and Lois comic strips
  • Chigger, the younger brother of Beetle and Lois
  • Hiram "Hi" Flagston, Beetle's brother-in-law and Lois's husband
  • Chip, Dot, Ditto, and Trixie Flagston, Hi and Lois's children, Beetle's nephews and nieces
  • Mr. and Mrs. Piper, Bunny's parents
  • Camp Swampy:

  • A camp doctor whose appearance is consistent, but who is apparently unnamed
  • An unnamed officers' club bartender, frequent intermediary between the Halftracks
  • An unnamed Secretary of Defense who has made numerous appearances
  • Popeye the Sailor once made an indirect appearance in the form of a Halloween mask worn by Zero. He made a one-time appearance in a strip dated July 16, 2012.
  • 2012 NCS Cartoonist of the Year Tom Richmond made an appearance in a Sunday page.
  • Numerous one-shot characters have appeared over the years, mostly unnamed, including an inspector general who looks like Alfred E. Neuman, and various officers and civilians. Among the few to be given names is Julian, a nondescript chauffeur eventually replaced by Julius.


    For the most part, Walker's relationship with the real-life U.S. Army has been cordial. But not always. During the early 1950s, the strip was dropped from the Tokyo edition 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.

    As with most other American comic strips, Beetle Bailey has been censored from time to time. In 1962, the comic strip was censored because it showed a belly button, and in 2006, the description of Rocky's criminal past was replaced with a non-criminal past.


    Sometimes Mort Walker creates strips with raunchy subject matter for his own amusement. This is done at the sketch stage, and those strips are never meant to be published in the USA. They "end up in a black box in the bottom drawer", according to Walker. These sketches are sometimes published in Scandinavia, however, with a translation underneath. In Norway, they've appeared in the Norwegian Beetle Bailey comic book, Billy, with the cover of the comic marked to show it contains 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 today are printed without scrambling. In Sweden, some of these strips were collected in the "Alfapocket" series.


    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 USA and Artransa Film Studios in Sydney, Australia, and was first broadcast in 1963. The opening credits included the sound of a bugle reveille, followed by a theme song specifically composed for the cartoon:

    He's the military hero of the nationThough he doesn't always follow regulationAt the sound of reveilleHe is here for you to seeAnd 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 shoutThey would gladly live withoutA certain Private by the name of Beetle Bailey—(Beetle Bailey!) (BEETLE BAILEY!!!)

    The repeat of the name of Beetle Bailey is heard 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 Bailey episodes

  • Home Sweet Swampy
  • Hero's Reward
  • Psychological Testing from You're in the Army, Wow! and Pride of Camp Swampy
  • Et Tu, Otto? from You're in the Army, Wow! and Pride of Camp Swampy
  • A Tree Is a Tree Is a Tree
  • Beetle's High Horps
  • Labor Shortage
  • Don't Fiddle with the Band from Pranks in the Ranks
  • The Sergeant's Master
  • The Bull of the Ball
  • 60—Count 'Em—60! from Pranks in the Ranks
  • Grab Your Socks from Sarge's Last Stand and Pride of Camp Swampy
  • The Blue Ribbon
  • Go Yeast, Young Man from You're in the Army, Wow! and Pride of Camp Swampy
  • We Love You Sergeant Snorkel from Pranks in the Ranks
  • Is This Drip Necessary? from Sarge's Last Stand and Pride of Camp Swampy
  • A Christmas Tale
  • For Officers Only from Pranks in the Ranks
  • Bye-Bye Young Lovers
  • A Pass Is a Pass Is a Pass from Great Guns and Other Games
  • Leap No More My Lady
  • Tattoo-Tootsie Goodbye
  • Welsh Rabbit from Great Guns and Other Games
  • Cosmo's Naught
  • Camp Invisible from Sarge's Last Stand and Pride of Camp Swampy
  • "V" for Visitors
  • Shutterbugged
  • Little Pooch Lost
  • Halftrack's Navy
  • Don't Give Up the Swamp from Great Guns and Other Games
  • Hoss Laff from Pranks in the Ranks
  • The Red Carpet Treatment
  • Lucky Beetle from Sarge's Last Stand and Pride of Camp Swampy
  • Sweet Sunday
  • Operation Butler
  • Bridge on the River "Y" from Great Guns and Other Games
  • The Secret Weapon
  • The Diet from Sarge's Last Stand and Pride of Camp Swampy
  • The Heir
  • Breaking the Leash
  • The Spy from Great Guns and Other Games
  • The Jinx from You're in the Army, Wow! and Pride of Camp Swampy
  • Courage Encourager from You're in the Army, Wow! and Pride of Camp Swampy
  • Sgt. Snorkel's Longest Day
  • Everything's Ducky
  • The Play's the Thing from Pranks in the Ranks
  • Geronimo
  • Son of a Gun of a Gun
  • Zero's Dizzy Double Date
  • Dr. Jekyll and Beetle Bailey
  • 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. It has been released on DVD alongside the 1960's cartoon. 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).


    In 1988, a musical based on the strip premiered at Candlewood Playhouse in New Fairfield, Conn., 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.


  • Over the years, Beetle Bailey characters have been licensed for dolls, T-shirts, salt and pepper shakers, toys, telephones, music boxes, handpuppets, coffee mugs, cookie jars, neckties, lunchboxes, paperback books, games, bobblehead nodders, banks, lapel pins and greeting cards. The Multiple Plastics Corporation manufactured a 1964 Camp Swampy playset, a tie-in with the cartoon TV show, with character figures accompanying the usual MPC toy GIs and military vehicles.
  • In 2000, Dark Horse Comics issued two collectible figures of Beetle and Sarge as part of their line of Classic Comic Characters—statues No. 11 and 12, respectively. In honor of the strip's 50th anniversary, DHC also produced a boxed, PVC figure set of seven Beetle Bailey characters; (Beetle, Sarge, Gen. Halftrack, Miss Buxley, Otto, Lt. Flap and Cookie.)
  • BCI Eclipse has released 20 episodes of Beetle Bailey as part of Animated All Stars, a 2-DVD set (BCI 46952). Rhino Home Video also released a DVD containing 10 episodes, along with a couple of Hägar the Horrible and Betty Boop cartoons. In 2007, Beetle Bailey: The Complete Collection was released to DVD, containing all 50 shorts grouped randomly into 13 episodes, plus a previously un-aired 1989 TV special.
  • For Beetle Bailey's 50th anniversary in 2000, Gate offered a 1/18th Willys MB with figurines of Beetle, Sarge, and Otto. The figures were the same scale as the Jeep, and were molded in seated poses, so they could be placed in the seats of the model. The Jeep could also be ordered without the figures, with figurines of Laurel and Hardy, or figurines of Laurel and Hardy in sailor suits.
  • In 2010 Fashion Designer Dr. X and Bloomingdales unveiled a limited edition retro/punk rock style line of clothing including T-shirts, leather jackets, Beetle themed Chuck Taylors shoes, and various accessories.
  • 2012 Rolex and Bamford Watch Department created a Beetle Bailey Rolex watch.
  • Beyond the strip

  • In episode 7 of season 5 of Mad Men, Mort Walker is mentioned by character Stan Rizzo. Also, character Lou Avery's drawings for a comic strip called "Scout's Honor" is noted to be startlingly similar to Beetle Bailey.
  • Beetle Bailey also successfully appeared in comic books, from 1953–1980. The first series was published by Dell Comics, then Gold Key Comics, King Comics and Charlton Comics. Harvey Comics ran a much later second series, from 1992–1994.
  • The comic strip Hi and Lois, co-created by Mort Walker and Dik Browne, is a spin-off from Beetle Bailey. (Beetle's sister is Lois Flagston.) Hi and Lois, also syndicated by King Features, debuted in 1954. Characters from one strip occasionally make guest appearances in the other.
  • A Beetle Bailey parody in Mad from the late 1960s portrays Sarge and Captain Scabbard finally wresting the cap off Beetle's face—revealing the words "Get Out of Viet Nam!" tattooed on his forehead.
  • Beetle and Sarge guest-starred in the 75th anniversary party of Blondie and Dagwood in 2005.
  • An animated segment featuring Beetle Bailey and his company was seen during the 1970s and 1980s on Sesame Street, demonstrating to young viewers the concept of "first" and "last".
  • A life size bronze sculpture of Beetle designed by Mort Walker with his son Neal assisting in the sculpting was unveiled at Walker's alma mater, the University of Missouri, on October 23, 1992.
  • References

    Beetle Bailey Wikipedia
    Beetle Bailey IMDb