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The Cartoonist’s Cartoonists: Mort Walker

This week’s featured cartoonist is the legendary Mort Walker. Mort’s career began as a magazine editor for Dell Publishing, but his big break came with the creation of “Beetle Bailey” (1950) and “Hi and Lois” (1954). He received the Reuben Award in 1953 for “Beetle Bailey”, the National Cartoonist Society Humor Strip Award in 1966 and 1969 as well as the Gold T-Square Award in 1999. Here is Mort’s list of cartoonists that have inspired him or whose work he admires.

George McManus (Bringing up Father) The artwork was superb and the characters hilarious.

Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates) Probably the best story strip ever. I drew a strip called “The Limejuicers” when I was 15 and used a lot of Caniff’s techniques.

Walter Berndt (Smitty) I like the brevity and good humor in his gags.

Al Capp (Li’l Abner) The characters were strong and Capp’s imagination with the shmoos fascinated me.

Frank Willard (Moon Mullins) The slapstick humor made my father laugh till he cried. I thought, “I want to do that.”

E.C. Segar (Popeye) I like his fight scenes and used them in my conflicts with Beetle and Sarge.

Frank King (Gasoline Alley) The warm relationships appealed to me.

Chic Young (Blondie) His gags and his recurring themes are gimmicks I use.

John Held, Jr. His brevity in drawing style are similar to mine.

Walt Disney (Mickey Mouse) I used to draw the Disney cards when I worked for Hallmark and still use the thick and thin ink line he used.

Community Comments

#1 Guy Gilchrist
@ 8:56 am

Mort was my mentor. I have him to thank for my career.

Oh, and we have been golfing buddies for years now!
What other profession can you think of that is as great as Cartooning?

None. I golf with my hero.

#2 Tom Heintjes
@ 9:02 am

A very nice list…a who’s who! The recent strip about planning ahead for the next military fiasco was pretty biting humor and gave BEETLE a relevance that isn’t present often enough…more, please!

#3 Larry Levine
@ 12:05 pm

All 10 are giants but in my humble opinion Mort is the greatest of ’em all!

#4 Rich Diesslin
@ 1:19 pm

What I really liked about his list is that rather than explaining the overall significance of the artist, he told us what he used/learned/derived from them. Very to the point but VERY interesting stuff! Now I will read BB not just for the fun of it, but also looking for which techniques he’s using on a given day!

#5 Garey Mckee
@ 4:24 pm

I must echo Rich’s post. It’s neat to see a list comprised of people Mort Walker learned from and used as examples to follow in his own work. Of particular interest to me on his list is E.C. Segar, what a great dynamic to incorporate into a strip. And also Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse as far as line quality is concerned. Outstanding.

#6 Malc McGookin
@ 7:08 pm

I was tremendously disappointed at how few surprises were contained in Mort’s list. Twice as disappointed because I thought I had a good idea of the type of artist on the list and didn’t want to be proved right.
I wanted to be knocked out by the range and diversity of Mort’s influences, but it seems he stopped developing artistically around 1940.

There was one surprise, and that was that Mort didn’t know that Ub Iwerks drew Mickey, not Walt Disney.

#7 Garey Mckee
@ 1:39 am

I believe Mort was referring to Disney the company more than Disney the man, and the strict requirements they enforce to adhere to the dupication of Mickey Mouse in regards to line quality and of course also to structure and proportion. Since Mickey Mouse and the other Disney characters are a company logo and not just a character, these things are enforced by Disney very strictly. I imagine having to learn how to draw Mickey Mouse “the Disney way” repeatedly for Hallmark was very good practice for the discipline of line quality. I would think this is what Mort Walker meant when including it on his list.

#8 Malc McGookin
@ 2:01 am

So when Mort says: I “still use the thick and thin ink line HE used “, he means the Disney company?

Sadly, Garey, I don’t think this is the case. Most of us ex animators, or indeed any cartoonists who’ve actually read anything about Walt Disney’s life, know it was Ub Iwerks who was the artist and Disney who was the businessman.

He was of course the VOICE of Mickey in the early years, and that’s perhaps where the confusion lies.

#9 Garey Mckee
@ 2:05 am

Yes I know that as well. You’re right Mort does say “he.” So much for my conjecturing LOL.

#10 Brian Reynolds
@ 6:03 am

At the risk of getting sidetracked here, Walt Disney did not see himself as a businessman. His brother, Roy, handled that. While Walt Disney did not draw after about 1923, there is no doubt that he was a very creative, hands on producer and provided his artists the resources and the material on which to grow. And, Ub Iwerks designed Mickey, but he didn’t “draw” him, either – at least not by himself and not for very long. By the time the Mickey merchandise started really getting big, Iwerks was long gone.

And, perhaps Mr. Walker said “he” as to Walt Disney the same way as he might say “I” in connection to his own work, where there are also other people working on the material, but no matter who’s doing it, it all has to conform to his vision.

#11 Larry Levine
@ 6:14 am

I think Mort may have been referring to Disney syndicated cartoonists Al Taliaferro (Donald Duck) & Fred Gottfredson (Mickey Mouse), both who set the standard for the ‘Disney look’ by working on their strips for several decades.

#12 Guy Gilchrist
@ 7:13 am

Mort meant the Disney style he had to learn. In the early days, the style WAS directed extremely closely by Walt himself. Any conjecture that Mort doesn’t know many people worked under this style, when HE himself was one of them for a time in KC, is ridiculous.

#13 Guy Gilchrist
@ 7:14 am

Oh, and it’s “Floyd” G. BTW, Ub Iwerks DID do the first daily Mickey Mouse comic strips.

#14 Malc McGookin
@ 7:24 am

…then perhaps Mort should have said “I still use the thick and thin line the Disney artists used”. The use of the word “he” is the thing I find quite telling.
In fact the Disney artists at that time did not conform to a distinctive “Disney” line, most were freelance commercial artists who developed their craft before Disney studios became established, and all used very similar thin-to-thick ink line, it was necessary for brush and pen artists and was the commercial requirement of the day.

Walt was definitely the businessman, he brokered deals with banks peersonally. Roy was the practical-minded bookkeeper and ledger clerk, and Ub (for a time he was poached by a jealous rival) was the artist.

Walt Disney’s real genius was in his storytelling ability. There are numerous accounts of him electrifying an audience of animators as he performed all the character roles in a storyboard meeting.

#15 John Platt
@ 8:11 am

A great list from a real master!

I was really enjoying reading the vintage Beetle Bailey strips on Daily Ink. Too bad they’ve been discontinued. Much sadness.

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