Mort Walker, ‘Beetle Bailey’ comic creator and KC native, remembered by metro residents as an icon

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This week people all over the world are remembering a giant in the comic strip world. Mort Walker was born and raised in Kansas City. He died Saturday at the age of 94.

In this Aug. 16, 2010 file photo, Mort Walker, the artist and author of the Beetle Bailey comic strip, stands in his studio in Stamford, Conn. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Walker’s daily comic strip, "Beetle Bailey," which has been running continuously since 1950, eventually reached a staggering audience of 200 million daily readers.

“He’s definitely one of those icons in the comic book industry and has been Kansas City’s own as long as I can remember,” said Derek Donovan with the Kansas City Star.

Walker graduated from the University of Missouri, where a "Beetle Bailey" statue stands as a tribute to the prolific artist’s local roots. Walker also served in World War II and said his four years in the military served as research for "Beetle Bailey."

The comic strip eventually appeared in more than1,800 newspapers in 50 countries all over the globe.

“And the readers have grown up with him,” Donovan said. “People like me, some of our earliest memories of reading the newspaper are reading the comics: 'Beetle Bailey' and 'Snoopy' and all of those characters.”

Mort Walker, who created the comic strip Beetle Bailey in 1950, poses with Bailey during ceremonies at the Pentagon in Washington in this June 15, 1990 file photo. (AP Photo/Bob Daugherty)

Frank Mangiaracina at B-Bop Comics in the Northland said Walker will also be remembered as one of the first people to elevate comic strips to the level of a legitimate American art form.

“He was one of the first guys to say, ‘Man, this stuff is really art,’” Mangiaracina said. “At a time when people would just throw that stuff away, he started saving it.”

Walker’s sons will continue to publish the "Beetle Bailey" comic strip.