Watercolor and ink on illustration board
15 3/16 x 20 15/16 inches
Wichita Art Museum, Gift of the artist
Not Currently on Display
About the Artwork
Mort Walker, the creator of Beetle Bailey, was born in El Dorado, Kansas, in 1923. Walker published his first cartoon at age eleven and drew a comic strip for the Kansas City Journal at age fifteen. By 1949 Walker had earned a degree from the University of Missouri, was an ex-lieutenant of the Army and had become a leading gag cartoonist selling more panels to top magazines than any of his colleagues.
The character who was to become Beetle Bailey first appeared in Walker’s work in the late 1940s as a bumbling college student named Spider. Prompted by his own military service and the new college audience of veterans Walker transformed Spider into a soldier, the funniest, most ineffectual soldier since The Sad Sack. He made his new character more innocent and more resilient than the most popular comics in America. In 1953 the National Cartoonist Society presented Mort Walker with the Reuben Award as outstanding cartoonist of the year.
In 1954 Mort Walker teamed up with Dik Browne to create the family cartoon strip Hi and Lois. Walker wrote the gags and Browne drew the cartoon. Hi and Lois, which features an infant with mature thoughts and a loving husband-wife relationship, added to Walker’s success. In 1989, Mort walker was elected to the Cartoon Art Hall of Fame.