Tuesday, January 30, 2018

My Mort Walker Tribute

Monday Cartoon day.

Last week one of my heroes, Mort Walker died after a short sickbed. He was 94, so that's a respectable age, but he was also still producing his life work Beetle Bailey and taking care of his (second) wife, who is ill herself. So I know he will be missed in more than one way by more than a few people. I met him twice, both times as a result of the postings on this blog. Ia had always been a fan of Mort walker's many strip, so when I started this blog recording and commenting the great newspaper strips of the fifties, ti was more than logical that I would include scans of his work. I knew he had done cartoons before Beetle Bailey, so I started buying issues of the Saturday Evening post (back when the postage options included having large lots sent over the ocean for less). That introduced me to the cartoon work of Hank Ketcham and Virgil Partch and one thing led to another. I ended up paying almost as much attention to the cartoons of the forties and the fifties as I did to the newspaper strips. Especially interesting were the many connections between the two. Almst any cartoonist of that period ended up doing a newspaper strip, many only a couple of years and long since forgotten.

I have called the sixties the 'most underwritten decade of American comic books and newspaper strips'. Well, at least they were written about in some degree. But cartoons, no one has ever documented that lively art outside of the 'respectable' work doen for The New Yorker (and some of it's practisioners). There is a great book about Virgil Partch (for which I donated much of my research, although it sadly focussed very little on his earlier work) which I recommend. And there have been a couple of collections of Humorama cartoons But that's about it. Working from the many Mort Walker cartoons I found, I started to piece together a history of Mort Walker's five year active run as a cartoonist.

It all became more serious when I bought a stack of his originals. I ended up with 21 of them. But then I was contacted by the family, who invited me over to discuss them and I found out my originals were no originals, but actually very well drawn 'roughs'. Mort Walker had said in one of his books, that he found that making his roughs look better was one of the reasons he sold so many cartoons so quickly, but I was still surprised when Brian Walker showed me their true originals whch looked exactly the same as mine. We quickly determined what was what (Mort himself had forgotten the details of this preliminary period of his career) and worked together from there on. With Bill Janocha (Mort's assistant)'s help I found out more about Mort's caroon career taht I had ever hoped. I even got hold of a couple of lists that enabled me to find even more cartoons. I am now closing in on having almost every cartoon Mort Walker sold and a good idea of the ones he didn't. And you do too, because you can find all of them on my blog.

I had planned for this to be a preamble to showing a new stash of Beetle Bailey scans, but I see now that I had better illustrate this post with a full set of my 'rough originals'. I will return tomorrow with more scans, so be sure to check in then as well.
















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