On 4 September 1950, the comic strip Beetle Bailey debuted in the United States. Beetle Bailey was the longest running comic strip still scripted and drawn by the original artist, Mort Walker, who continued to draw until the day he died in 2016 at the age of 93.
Everyone’s favorite Joe didn’t start out in the Army though: he was originally a college student at the University of Missouri. But with the Korean War on the front pages in the summer of 1950 no one wanted to hear about college shenanigans, and only 12 papers picked up the strip. Beetle struggled through college until the spring of 1951 when he suddenly dropped out of school and joined the Army.
The new Beetle Bailey strip was an instant hit, and in weeks every major paper in the country was following the hijinks and tomfoolery of Sham Master Beetle, his friends, and his superiors on Camp Swampy. The strip revolved around the ineptness of those in positions of authority, but was at its best and funniest when it explored the ironic or unintentionally humorous relationships between its characters. The Beetle Bailey cast included Beetle’s squadmates Privates Rocky, Diller, Plato, and Zero; the bumbling but loveable SuperLifer Sarge, Sarge’s competent fixer dog sidekick, Otto, and Sarge’s girlfriend Louise; the enterprising but off-putting Cookie, the stereotypical second lieutenant LT Fuzz and stereotypical first lieutenant LT Flap, the commander General Halftrack and his wife Martha, and every Joe’s dreamgirl: the lovely Miss Buxley, among many others.
I think I’m just going to go behind the building now, put my hands behind my head, cross my legs, and go to sleep.