Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Review of "Give Us A Smile Beetle Bailey," by Mort Walker

 Review of

Give Us A Smile Beetle Bailey, by Mort Walker ISBN 0448170299

Five out of five stars

Continuous publication since 1950

 Debuting in 1950, Beetle Bailey has been in continuous syndication since then. While there have been a few changes in the cast over the years, it has remained surprisingly stable. The gags are also regularly recycled, albeit with minor changes. For example, there is the one where Sergeant Snorkel is hanging from a branch on the side of a cliff. How he gets there and how he gets out of the predicament is rarely explained. There are also the many instances where Snorkel beats Beetle into a disjointed pile of flesh. Beetle is always good as new in the next strip.

 In their own ways, most of the cast are inept, from General Halftrack to the voluptuous secretary Miss Buxley, to Snorkel and to Beetle himself. Beetle is always running close to first in the contest to be the laziest soldier of all time. He is almost completely lacking in ambition, only the threat of force will push him to do what he is assigned. Even then, he does not always complete his assigned tasks.

 This collection of cartoons contains instances of most of the recurring gags of the strip. Fans of the strip will immediately recognize the gags and appreciate them. An historical note is that Walker introduced Lieutenant  Flap in 1970. He was the first black character in the strip and Walker made him an officer rather than an enlisted. To Walker’s credit, Flap was portrayed as a black man of the late sixties, wearing colorful clothes when off duty and always speaking his mind.

 This book is an excellent summary of a strip with great longevity that is based on very few basic premises. Unlike other strips, there is no depth to these characters.

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