June 30th, 2017
by Mort Walker
Sylvan Byck, the comics editor of King Features Syndicate, once told Mort Walker, “Have your character get hit over the head at least once a week.” Mort has never forgotten these words of wisdom. He regularly puts his characters in physical peril by pummeling them with custard pies, meatballs, swift kicks and flying fists. Beetle frequently finds himself shattered in pieces on the ground and Sarge is always falling off precipitous cliffs. Fortunately, none of the characters ever gets permanently injured as they inevitably manage to bounce back for another day of punishment.
The classic episode above is a prime example of the visual humor in Beetle Bailey. Oftentimes, these gags start with the funny picture shown in the final panel and work backwards to reveal how such an outcome came to pass. A diving contest seems a bit ridiculous, but it seems like something that could happen at Camp Swampy. Although it would undoubtedly result in a fatal accident, jeeps often drive off cliffs in the strip. Beetle’s polka dotted swimsuit and Sarge’s antique outfit looking further add to the hilarity. This fast-paced action sequence was featured in the 1984 collection, The Best of Beetle Bailey.
Next week we will be moving into 1966 in our Timeline series, so stay tooned.
– Brian Walker
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