The Strangest Pictures I Have Seen #4

Posted by on June 16th, 2010 at 10:00 AM

A couple of weekends back, I attended the annual meeting of the National Cartoonists Society in Jersey City. Meanwhile, the Cartoon Art Museum here in San Francisco is showing a 60th anniversary retrospective of Beetle Bailey. 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 brings me to this week’s column.

Awesome Swedish Collection of Censored Mort Walker Thumbnails
By Mort Walker and Some Swedes

Another thing I learned at the NCS meeting is that a lot of old comic strips survive due to oft-inexplicable pockets of popularity abroad. The Phantom may run in fewer than six papers in the U.S., but he’s huge in Australia and India.  The Katzenjammer Kids survive thanks to enduring success in Europe.  Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey is, of course, one of the staples of the American newspaper page, but it’s even more popular in Scandinavian countries.  Why?  I don’t know.  Ask Scandinavia.

At any rate, it’s popular enough that, in 1994, a European publisher working with King Features put out this book of Mort Walker strips rejected by the syndicate for lack of family-friendliness.  Varning for Snusk!

The strip above is kind of the Platonic example of the material in the book.  There are a lot of jokes about General Halftrack coming in his pants and Sarge walking around naked with his dick out. This is what happens when you spend 60 years working in an industry where readers write scandalized letters to the editor if the kid from Zits uses the word “nipple.”  European audiences are, apparently, somewhat more sophisticated; the book even includes a couple of finished not-ready-for-The-Akron-Beacon-Journal strips that Walker drew for European papers.

Sure, maybe I don’t really want to see Sarge’s cartoon dick in the newspaper as I’m drinking my morning chai, but these strips offend me a whole lot less than some of the “clean” but sexist material that passed mainstream muster in the ’60s and ’70s. In one of the strips currently on display at the Cartoon Art Museum, Killer and Plato are at a bar, and Killer says, “You know the difference between a blonde and a dog?”

“No,” says Plato.

“Good,” says Killer, as a hot Miss Buxley-style blonde and a less glamorous brunette walk in the door. “I’ll take the blonde.”

I ask you: wouldn’t our culture have a healthier attitude toward sexuality if we replaced such hurtful jokes with more strips about cunnilingus?

As you can see, the comics are only improved by the addition of Swedish subtitles and a big CENSUR! box pasted to each panel. It’s a bargain at the cover price of 39:– (inkl. moms).

I’m sorry for finding your language hilarious, Swedish people.

But Mort Walker’s Scandinavian popularity extends beyond Beetle Bailey, and the book dutifully includes rejected thumbnails for Hi and Lois, Sam and Silo, and Boner’s Ark. Everyone who has ever made sniggery jokes about the title of Boner’s Ark sounding dirty: you are very sorry now and you will think about what you’ve done, because Mort Walker is about to take it too far.

For me, the fun ends with cartoon gorilla penises, but the cover warned me there’d be snusk.  So, in the balance, thanks, Sweden!

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11 Responses to “The Strangest Pictures I Have Seen #4”

  1. [...] Shaenon Garrity finds a Finnish collection of censored Mort Walker thumbnails, entitled, “Awesome Finnish Collection of Censored Mort Walker Thumbnails” containing material “rejected by the syndicate for lack of family-friendliness.” A couple of weekends back, I attended the annual meeting of the National Cartoonists Society in Jersey City. Meanwhile, the Cartoon Art Museum here in San Francisco is showing a 60th anniversary retrospective of Beetle Bailey. 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. [...]

  2. Tom Crippen says:

    Almost as nice as seeing off-color Finnish Mort Walker strips is the knowledge that somebody else likes Mort Walker. I thought I was the only one left alive.

  3. WLLilly says:

    …I guess ythat these strips are published all across the Scandanavian countries ( NOTE: I am assuming that Finland is considered to be a ” Scandanavian ” country . I have heard it both ways , it just appears that that’s how it was taught when I was in school…) , a ways ago , I read an article in HOGAN’S ALLEY about the Swedish-language BEETLE BAILEY comic book , which published US material as well as much much never-published-in-the-States comic-book format Walker Shop material .
    It , apparently , frequently publsihed this material as well , I guess in periodic ” speacial ” issues , possibly with a “gimmick ” seal on the cover !
    Is that really true about the Phantom being in less than 6 us papers:-( ? I am on a Phantom board ( And , yes , it comes out of Australia and has , furthermore , many Indians on it . ) , so…How many for the Katzies ?

  4. niclas says:

    You’re probably not offending Finnish people too much, since that’s a Swedish-language collection, published in Sweden.

    Beetle Bailey is called Knasen in Swedish and Masi in Finnish:
    http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knasen
    http://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masi

  5. Daniel C. Parmenter says:

    If you like this sort of thing, you’ll probably want to track down a copy of Mort Walker’s BACKSTAGE AT THE STRIPS. There are more rejected dirty thumbnails there along with lots of golf jokes.

    You can find it cheap on eBay.

  6. [...] comics-related things that caught my eye: • Dirty Beetle Bailey strips? My god, Mort Walker beat Johnny Ryan to the punch by years! • Dammit, I’m the homebrewer, [...]

  7. [...] 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 [...]

  8. [...] Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 11:21 pm …by the original artist. [...]

  9. [...] was just kind of a dirty sexist perv. (Probably that, Boner’s Ark and all.) Either way, this is the first time I’ve ever laughed at Beetle Bailey. [...]

  10. [...] “Beetle Bailey” comics you won’t see in the newspaper. [...]