News ID: 208966
Published: 1159 GMT January 28, 2018

'Beetle Bailey' cartoonist Mort Walker dies at 94

'Beetle Bailey' cartoonist Mort Walker dies at 94
Craig Ruttle-AP

An American comic strip artist Mort Walker, a World War II veteran who satirized the army and tickled millions of newspaper readers with the antics of the lazy private 'Beetle Bailey', died Saturday. He was 94.

Walker died at his home in Stamford, Conn., said Greg Walker, his eldest son and a collaborator. His father's advanced age was the cause of death, he said, AP reported.

Walker began publishing cartoons at age 11 and was involved with more than a half-dozen comic strips in his career, including 'Hi and Lois', 'Boner's Ark' and 'Sam & Silo'. But he found his greatest success drawing slacker Beetle, his hot-tempered sergeant and the rest of the gang at fictional Camp Swampy for nearly 70 years.

The character that was to become 'Beetle Bailey' made his debut as Spider in Walker's cartoons published by the Saturday Evening Post in the late 1940s. Walker changed Spider's name and launched 'Beetle Bailey' as a college humor strip in 1950.

At first the strip failed to attract readers and King Features Syndicate considered dropping it after just six months, Walker said in a 2000 interview with The Associated Press. The syndicate suggested Beetle join the army after the start of the Korean War, Walker said.

"I was kind of against it because after World War II, Bill Mauldin and 'Sad Sack' were fading away," he said. But his misgivings were overcome and Beetle 'enlisted' in 1951.

Walker attributed the success of the strip to Beetle's indolence and reluctance to follow authority.

"Most people are sort of against authority," he said. "Here's Beetle always challenging authority. I think people relate to it."

'Beetle Bailey' led to spin-off comic strip 'Hi and Lois', which he created with Dik Browne, in 1954. The premise was that Beetle went home on furlough to visit his sister Lois and brother-in-law Hi.

Fellow cartoonists remembered Walker on Saturday as a pleasant man who adored his fans. Bill Morrison, president of the National Cartoonists Society, called Walker the definition of 'cartoonist' in a post on the society's website.

Fellow cartoonist Mark Evanier said on his website that Walker was "delightful to be around and always willing to draw Beetle or Sarge for any of his fans. He sure had a lot of them".

'Beetle Bailey', which appeared in as many as 1,800 newspapers, sometimes sparked controversy.

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