My Mort Walker letter


As you know, Mort Walker, creator of Beetle Bailey, High and Lois and other great comic strips, passed away this weekend. I found this old letter that Mort sent me when I was a kid. I had written to him asking for an original piece of art, but as you can see, he explained that they were collectibles and he couldn’t just send me one. The fee went to the Museum of Cartoon art, which was in Greenwich Conn. at the time. I visited the museum with my family and cousins once.

Mort sent me a reproduction copy of a Sunday Beetle Bailey page. I have that somewhere.

His signature is fading out on the letter. I had it inside a book for many years and just recently found it.


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Loving this cartoonist roundtable


From left: Tom Heintjes, Brian Walker, Greg Walker, Jeff Keane, Mason Mastroianni. Photo courtesy of Hogan’s Alley.

I read a really great interview in Hogan’s Alley, where editor Tom Heintjes sat down with some famous cartoonists,who took over the family business from their fathers and grandfathers. Jeff Keane of Family Circus, Mason Mastroianni of B.C. and Brian and Greg Walker who are Mort Walker’s sons, who work primarily on Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois sat around a table and talked.

They bring up the dynasty aspect of cartooning, something that has always bothered me. When a cartoonist dies, should the strip continue? Did it run its course?

Greg Walker says, “We’ve got to do quality work, or papers will drop us like crazy. We did come in with a nice list, but there’s the pressure to maintain it.”

I never really thought of that. It has a leg up being a popular strip with lots of newspaper subscribers but as one of them said in the interview, “When you’re at the top, there is only one way to go.” But on the other hand, newspapers are loath to drop a comic because losing just one subscriber over that is not acceptable, so I do think that some of these older strips just stay there year after year because the newspapers don’t want to make waves by dropping them, even if it’s only a handful of people who read a particular strip.

They all agreed that the older strips mixed with the newer strips make up a complete comics page and there is something for everyone that way. I’ve always agreed with that, I just felt that the older strips should be the original older strips, not an extension by the second, third and sometimes fourth generation of artists. And don’t get me started on those who buy gags. To me a cartoonist writes the strips and draws the strips, sometimes along with someone else, but purchasing gags just makes the cartoonist an artist, not a cartoonist.

Brian Walker says of his dad Mort Walker: “My father has been asked millions of times why he doesn’t retire, and he says, ‘Why should I retire? I’ve got millions of readers who enjoy my strip!’ Why should he retire just because he’s getting old? When he started out, in 1950, he was competing against Pogo, Li’l Abner, Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie. None of those guys quit to make room for him — he scratched and clawed for every one of those 1,800 papers.”

The roundtable interview is here. It’s really good.

The Sunday comics

The Sunday Comics is a new project – a  return to yesteryear – where the Sunday comics section was the focus of weekend mornings. Millions of people – grownups and kids – spread the comics pages out and spent quality time reading their favorite comic strips and panels. I can’t forget Dick Tracy being the front page of the New York Daily News. The color comics wrapped the whole newspaper. Dondi was the back page. Inside was Little Orphan Annie and Smokie Stover, Moon Mullins, and so many more.

Well, Golden Bell Entertainment announced recently that they will launch their first collaborative arts project called The Sunday Comics. The start of this project begins with “The Sunday Comics,” a monthly 15″ x 22″ inch newspaper publication reminiscent of the comics sections we grew up with. A nice large broad sheet you can lay out on the floor and enjoy, just like when you were a kid.

The Sunday Comics includes work from over 300 artists with hundreds of pages of full color content. This project officially launched on Kickstarter on November 24, 2015 with astounding success, the goal was surpassed by 300% on the first day.

Where The Sunday Comics truly shines is in its partnerships with creators throughout the entertainment industry. With writers of “LOST” and “Batman: The Animated Series” Paul Dini, Oscar Nominated animator and Cannes Grand Prize Winner Bill Plympton, Eisner Award Winner Bill Sienkiewicz, Glenn McCoy storyboard artist for “Minions,” Director of the Netflix series “Dragons” John Sanford, Storyboard artist of “Doctor Who” Mike Collins, and Director of “The Book of Life” Jorge Gutierrez, The Sunday Comics plans to empower creators through a unique, new platform to showcase innovative stories in a well known, timeless format.

Additionally, Golden Bell is working with The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum to bring original copies of comic strips such as Little Nemo in Slumberland, the Passing Show, and many more back to their original format. The Sunday Comics will also be collaborating with various syndicates to bring classic titles such as Garfield, Peanuts, Dennis the Menace, Archie, Tarzan, Dick Tracy, Prince Valiant, Rugrats, and many others back to their original publication platform, like this 1960 New York Daily News Sunday comics section.

The Sunday Comics sees itself as a hub for cutting-edge comic ideas and intends to honor the rich history of comic books by merging what’s become entirely separate industries back to one. It’s a great way to receive the comics delivered right to your home in a large style format.

Golden Bell Entertainment has received the rights from Jim Davis and Paws, Inc. to create original Garfield comics, which has never been done before. Additionally, Playtonic Games, creators of Banjo-Kazooie, has given Golden Bell Entertainment the rights to create the official companion to their game. The “Yooka-Laylee” comics will debut in The Sunday Comics.  The Sunday Comics plans to empower creators through a unique new platform to showcase innovative stories all under one publication. All of the amazing artists are working hand-in-hand with The Sunday Comics to express themselves in a way never seen before in the industry.

Marc Goldner, Founder of Golden Bell Entertainment has said that, “To create a renaissance in comics, you need to look outside of what’s being done today. You must not only go abroad, but look at other mediums and see the most creative and effective way to bring people together. Creating timeless masterpieces doesn’t come overnight, it’s something you must work for constantly. With every new idea, you need an equally creative way to execute a vision.” 

I am happy to say that my “Tomversation” comic panel is part of this project. To follow “The Sunday Comics” on their Kickstarter please visit them here