Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Beetle Invasion

Tuesday Comic Strip Day.

I still don't know if Checker is going to include sunday pages in their reprint of Beetle Bailey. I would certainly like to see them. The earliest samples of the strip I have seen are from 1952. I will try and scan a few of them at some point. Here is set of two tiers from 1954. As noted, originally these would have been four tiers, which could have been turned into a tabloid four tier page by eliminating a smalal panel from the top tier. Some strips (like Pogo) used a small space in the middle of the second tier for that, but Beetle Bailey seems to have followed the same format that you can see in the later Willie Lumpkin sundays below.

Beetle Bailey took an amazing long time to become the classic it is today. It guess it did pretty well, but it didn't reach star status until the late fifties. Around that time, the look of the strip changed as well... most prominently, Sarge lost one of the bags under his eyes. As you can see in these samples, he started out with two lines under each eye. But the Sarge we all know and love has only one line under each eye... and he didn't start to appear until the early sixties. I hope to be able to pinpoint the exact strip one day. There are several very good reprint books dedicated to Beetle Bailey, including a terrific book on Mort Walker himself called Mort Walker's Private Archives. It has many illustrations from his childhood, his time in the army, his work when he was in college and his early cartoons, as well as all you would expect from each of his strips. The picture of the cover at the start of this is from Amazon. Still have to figure out how to create a link that will give me a kickback if you buy these books through me. But in all books, even this one, the ratio of Sarge with baggy eyes to Sarge without baggy eyes is usually less in favor of the earliest decade of the strip than one would expect. Which is a shame, because I always like the first period of a strip, when the author is still searching and experimenting with ideas. Some of which stick and some of which don't.

So, feast your eyes on these.

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