The First Week

After King Features accepted Mort Walker’s college strip, starring Spider, and re-named it Beetle Bailey, they discussed a suitable launch date. The syndicate initially proposed October 16, 1950, and the first weekly batch of six strips needed to be chosen, in collaboration with Mort. The promotional campaign for the new strip was prepared, which included a presentation brochure in color, a selection of strips on paper proofs and a press release.

The first week of strips was critical – it would determine how successful the syndicate’s representatives would be in their efforts to sell Beetle Bailey. At the time, it was customary for sales representatives to travel all over the country and personally visit newspaper editors to persuade them to buy their syndicate’s features. There were many strips being offered, so it was not always easy to sell a new strip.

These six strips, from Mort’s private archive, were the ones he initially selected for the first week. King Features rejected the first, fourth and fifth strips and they were never published.First Beetles

Second Beetles

In the next post we will show the first week of strips, as they appeared in newspapers, starting on September 4, 1950.

– Brian Walker

Beetle Begins

Mort Walker was working as a magazine cartoonist in New York when John Bailey, the cartoon editor of the Saturday Evening Post, encouraged him to do some cartoons based on his college experiences at the University of Missouri. One character, a goof-off with a hat over his eyes named “Spider,” emerged from these efforts.Spider

After selling a few college cartoons to the Post, Mort then decided to submit a comic strip to King Features Syndicate starring Spider and his fraternity brothers. When King bought the strip, Mort changed Spider’s first name to “Beetle” (another King strip, Big Ben Bolt, had a character named Spider) and added “Bailey” in honor of John Bailey.

Here is an advertisement for the strip that ran in Editor & Publisher on August 19, 1950.

E&P Ad

Beetle Bailey debuted inauspiciously in twelve newspapers on Sept. 4. 1950. After six months it had signed on only twenty-five clients.

Stay tooned for more on the history of Beetle Bailey.

– Brian Walker