February 3rd, 2019
by Mort Walker
In 2012, Mort Walker wrote the following about this strip.
“In a recent Beetle Bailey Sunday page, all of the men at Camp Swampy were getting letters at mail call…except Sarge. Beetle asked Sarge ‘Do you ever get any mail?’ Sarge replied, ‘No! And what’s more, I don’t want any!’ ‘I’m happy without mail,’ he continued. ‘I don’t need anything from anybody!’ In the final panel, Sarge was back in the barracks, sitting on his bunk with a little tear coming out of his eye.”
Mort received hundreds of letters in response to this touching scene. Schoolteachers had their students write notes directly to Sarge. “Don’t cry Sarge,” one child pleaded. “Here’s a letter. I hope it makes you happy.”
Mort was pleasantly surprised by this outpouring of warmth from his readers. “It was almost as though Sarge was real and they felt sorry for him. I thought that was a triumph for me, to realize I had characters people cared about.”
That is the key to the success of Beetle Bailey. Mort Walker maintained an unprecedented longevity on the world’s comic pages because his characters are like friends to his readers.
Seven months after the Sunday page above ran, he did the follow-up below.
Next week we will continue our Timeline series with another Sunday page from 2005.
– Brian Walker
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