Beetle Bailey Sunday page color proof, March 4, 1962.
“What if women ran the Army,” is the question of the day in this fanciful page. General Halftrack’s musings on the subject are contained within “cumulus dream balloons” in panels #5 through #9.
Although the male creators of the strip were probably trying to pay tribute to the nurturing qualities of the fairer sex, this gag would definitely be considered sexist by today’s standards. It was a few years before the modern women’s movement began to change minds about the roles they could and should play in society. The jokes are more reflective of the 1950s when men expected the gals to know their place.
As a leader General Halftrack couldn’t lead a cub scout to a candy store, but he is one of Mort Walker’s favorite characters.
Beetle Bailey daily strip, May 5, 1955.
“In the beginning I put a lot of my own feelings and experiences into the Beetle character,” Mort remembered in The Best of Beetle Bailey. “As time wore on I discovered I was relating more to the General and now I’m coming up with a lot more gags about him as a result.”
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!