July 22nd, 2016
by Mort Walker
In the previous ten posts, beginning on May 6, 2016, we traced how Beetle Bailey rose in circulation from 200 newspapers in 1953 to 1100 clients in 1968. The advertisement above, from 1970, completes this amazing story.
“What makes a successful comic strip?” Rube Goldberg once asked. “Don’t try to analyze it, it’s pure magic,” he answered.
“We all know the ingredients,” Mort Walker wrote in 1984. “You must create interesting characters that readers care about. The gags should be rewarding enough to make the reader feel he or she hasn’t wasted their time. The drawing doesn’t have to be great but it should put across the idea.”
“It sounds simple but only a handful of cartoonists have done it,” Mort concluded. “Out of 2000 submissions each year, syndicates launch about 30 strips. Of those, about one in every five years becomes really successful.”
Beetle Bailey reached a peak of 1800 newspapers in the 1980s and has maintained this list ever since. It is a remarkable success story.
I would like to thank Neal Walker and Bill Janocha for their help in scanning and restoring the vintage King Features sales brochures that we have reproduced in this series.
Stay tooned for more amazing artwork from our archives.
– Brian Walker
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