One Thing Leads to Another (2 of 2)

In Part 1 of this two-part ramble, I shared several pieces of work from 1975’s excellent STreet Enterprises Benefit Portfolio, created in support of the publishers of The Menomonee Falls Gazette. We discussed how I had been previously unaware of the Portfolio‘s existence until I looked at the backsides of a series of British Tug Transom strips that Friend of LOAC Bill Chadbourne had sent to me earlier this year. After my knowledge had been expanded by this chain of events, I bought a copy of the Portfolio from an on-line seller — and I closed Part 1 by teasing that there were still other links in the chain that led me to acquire another delightful, though also heretofore-unknown-to-me, comic-strip-focused item.

What follows describes those additional links, together with a look inside what I bought, plus a personal reminiscence that explains my motivations for buying it …

Having completed the purchase of the Portfolio, it appeared to me the seller might have other comics-related items for sale. Indeed! And this particular listing caught my eye:

As a boy my hometown newspaper carried Beetle Bailey as part of its eight-strip lineup, so the antics at Walker’s fictional Camp Swampy helped inform my earliest comics experiences. By the 1980s my newspaper-reading time had dwindled, but the advent of comics shops and my fondness for Mort’s creation allowed me to find and purchase a pair of European Beetle Bailey graphic albums featuring all-new, full-length stories — I enjoyed them so much, I still own these two Dargaud publications, titled Friends and Too Many Sergeants.

Over two decades later, LOAC had a presence at the New York Comic Con. One of my personal highlights from that three-day extravaganza was when son Brian Walker and his Dad came to visit Dean Mullaney and I at our booth-space. Mort was in his mid-eighties by then, and he was moving with care (though given the crush of attendees, a lot of us moved with care whenever we navigated the floor!). He was in good spirits, and it was a great moment for me to shake his hand, tell him how much enjoyment he had delivered to me over the passing of years, and chat with him for several minutes about his work.

So with those experiences behind me, and not entirely sure what Mort Walker’s Private Scrapbook would turn out to be, I nevertheless believed the price was right, so I decided to take a flyer and place the additional order minutes after I ordered the STreet Benefit Portfolio.

Both those items arrived in the same shipment (kudos to that seller for the quick response time and exceptionally-secure packaging — everything arrived in superb condition!). The latter proves to be a hardcover published in 2000 by Andrews McMeel. Its three-hundred-plus pages are loaded with artwork and autobiographical recollections that are delivered in a relaxed, breezy style. Addison Morton Walker takes us through his Kansas boyhood, his interest and youthful achievements in comics and art, his post-military career and the launch of Beetle Bailey, as well as post-Beetle successes such as Hi and Lois (with Dik Browne, the eventual creator of Hagar the Horrible), Sam’s Strip/Sam & Silo (with Jerry Dumas), and Boner’s Ark — yet Beetle is the crown jewel, and its cast receives star treatment throughout the book. Here is a look at the freshly-launched series, originally developed as a college-humor comic:

After Beetle enlisted in the Army, his regular cast of characters began to fill out. In this two page spread, Mort discusses the inspirations for Beetle’s supporting players (click for a larger view):

Beetle Bailey‘s success grew, even through the Vietnam years of the 1960s and ’70s. Like many of his fellow artists Mort produced original holiday cards for those in his social circle, and his characters became such a part of the national fabric, other talents would borrow them to springboard humorous work of their own, and to pay tribute to a newspaper cartooning giant:

Mort’s form of cartoon cheesecake — frequently centered around the voluptuous Miss Buxley — had its appeal to many readers of the day (readers of the comic strip might be surprised by the added depth of character Mort provided Miss B. in the Too Many Sergeants graphic novel). Some newspapers carrying the strip objected to occasional installments, but took matters into their own hands to make those offending comics “PG.” Those attempts were not always fully successful, at the first example below shows:

In the page reprinted at center above are just a few examples of Mort’s many special public service drawings, while at right are salutes from other artists, marking milestones for Beetle Bailey and his talented creator.

“What’s the bottom line?” you may ask. For me it’s been some wonderful late-summer comics reading, in the form of two very different publications, the existence of which I would likely have remained ignorant if not for the chain of circumstance described in this two-part treatise. For you, I hope you’ve had a chance to see some artwork of interest that brightened your day — and who knows? Perhaps, like me, this may motivate you to seek out your own copies of the STreet Enterprises Benefit Portfolio (only two thousand numbered copies were printed) or Mort Walker’s Private Scrapbook (copies of which are still available on the secondary book-selling market). If so, then the chain will continue to grow …

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