By Rich McKay
Mort Walker, the artist and creator of the decades-long running comic strip “Beetle Bailey” about the antics of a work-shirking Army private, died at his home Saturday, his family said. He was 94
His son Greg Walker, who co-wrote the strip with his father in his later years, said his dad died at his home in Stamford, Connecticut, of pneumonia while recovering from a broken hip.
Mort Walker drew his daily award-winning comic strip for 68 years, longer than any other comic strip artist, his son said.
“He was drawing up to the end,” Greg Walker said. “He holds the record. I don’t think anyone will beat him.”
His strip debuted in 1950 with Beetle as a college student, but Mort Walker had Beetle enlist in the Army in the first year of the cartoon and it was a hit. Picked up by King Features Syndicate, it went from a 12-newspaper run to eventually reaching 200 million readers in 1,800 newspapers worldwide, King Features’ website says.
The lanky slacker Pvt. Beetle, along with his foils Sgt. Snorkle and Gen. Halftrack, inhabit the fictional Camp Swampy inspired loosely on Mort Walker’s experience of Army life in World War II.
But Beetle and his friends never saw battle in the strip and he seemed to be in perpetual training. They have been featured in a television cartoon series, games, books and postage stamps
Greg Walker said his father, along with “Peanuts” and Charlie Brown creator Charles Schultz, pioneered the gag-a-day format of comic strips, breaking form the serial story lines of the day.
“Serial strips were dominant and this was something new,” he said. “It’s now the standard.”
Mort Walker was also a co-creator of the long-running strip “Hi and Lois” about a suburban American family, which continues today, written and drawn by his sons Greg and Brian Walker and also artist Chance Browne.
Greg Walker said that Beetle and his friends will go on in the funny pages as a legacy to his father.
“He certainly was an icon, the last cartoonist of the golden age of comic strips,” he said on his Facebook page.