Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sgt. Snorkel is ready for his closeup

I find this version much more true to life.

Barney Google, Olive Oyl, Blondie Bumstead, Fritzi Ritz. What do they all have in common? They were all the stars of their own comic strips before being pushed aside in favor of more exciting, audience-pleasing characters. Fritzi became Nancy's aunt. Olive became Popeye's girlfriend. Blondie has long toiled in the shadow of her lazy, sandwich-scarfing husband Dagwood. And poor Barney was reduced to rare cameos in a strip he nominally co-headlines with Snuffy Smith. And this phenomenon isn't limited to old-timey funnies either. Such latter-day strips as Funky Winkerbean and Bloom County gradually changed focus, too. Funky is still an important character in the strip that bears his name, but his friend and former classmate Les Moore is now arguably the protagonist. And wry, bespectacled Milo Bloom never left Bloom County, but he couldn't compete with the likes of Opus the Penguin or Bill the Cat for the public's affections.

Could such a thing happen to Mort Walker's super-long-lived military farce Beetle Bailey? After all, the strip already underwent a major format change in 1951 when its title character dropped out of college to join the military. Is it time for Beetle himself to step aside and make room for one of his co-stars at center stage? Above you will see a pilot episode for a proposed revamp called Sarge, concerning the adventures of Sgt. 1st Class Orville P. Snorkel, long a second banana and comic foil to Beetle. I think this new version compares quite favorably to the original

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