Art imitates life: Beetle Bailey and The Legacy
This post has been making the rounds for a few days, but here it is in case you missed it: Shaenon Garrity has unearthed a Finnish (or maybe Swedish—see the comments) collection of Mort Walker’s “adult” Beetle Bailey comics, in which the normally unstated sexual dynamic of, say, General Halftrack and Miss Buxley is suddenly made explicit. (There’s more talk than action in the examples Shaenon displays, but it’s probably not safe for work.) After attending the National Cartoonists Society’s annual meeting and attending a 60th anniversary retrospective of Beetle Bailey at the Cartoon Art Museum, Shaenon comments,
Both these events reminded me of an oft-ignored truth: newspaper cartoonists tell the best and most dirty jokes. It all gets bottled up over the course of a year drawing squeaky-clean family humor and bursts like the Hoover Dam over drinks at the NCS cocktail reception. And of course everybody, at some point, draws R-rated sketches of their characters.
… which brought to mind Andrew McGinn and David Neitzke’s graphic novel The Legacy, in which an aspiring graphic novelist inherits his father’s comic strip and decides to torpedo it by making it more and more salacious—unlike Walker, he sends the strips to the syndicate and the editors send them out for publication. The difference between the two is the difference between a seasoned professional and a new talent; the “outrageous” strips in The Legacy seem to be trying too hard (although the other parodies of newspaper strips are dead-on), while Walker’s characters seem natural and unforced, just saying out loud what you know they have been thinking all these years.