It takes a while for a comic strip character to fully develop. Like a new friend, readers need to get to know him. The character’s shape has to be worked out so it is recognizable from all angles, even in silhouette. The creator has to decide what the character can or can’t do to keep him consistent. He slowly grows before the readers’ eyes until one day, BINGO!
Here are some early versions of characters from Beetle Bailey who are still around today.
Every GI knows an officer like General Halftrack. He is lousy at running the camp and when he gets home his wife runs him.
Zero is a naïve farm boy with the innocent heart of a child. At one point Mort Walker decided his buckteeth made him look like the stereotypical dumb guy in every comic strip, so he dropped him. Several months later he ran into Ernie Bushmiller, creator of Nancy, who said he missed Zero. Mort brought him back.
Killer was patterned after an army roommate Mort had who thought he was God’s gift to women. He wasn’t especially handsome but he got what he wanted from the opposite sex by being very perseverant.
Cookie is a summation of all the army chefs Mort was victimized by. Most of them were slobs whose main talent was making the men lose their appetites. Later on, he got a chef’s hat that made him look more distinctive.
Captain Scabbard was inspired by an officer Mort once served under. He carried a flask on hikes and often got lost.
– Brian Walker