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Comic Strip: Beetle Bailey

He's the military hero of the nation,
Though he doesn't always follow regulation.
At the sound of the reveille,
He is here for you to see
And we know you'll laugh at Private Beetle Bailey
(Beetle Bailey!)

Ask the General, Colonel, Major, and the Captain,
The Lieutenant and the Sergeant and the Corporal,
They will tell you with a shout
They would gladly live without
A certain Private by the name of Beetle Bailey
(Beetle Bailey!)
— Opening theme of Beetle Bailey and Friends.

Beetle Bailey is a newspaper comic that started in 1950, by Mort Walker. Originally it was about some people Walker went to college with, and was set in a university. However, when that idea didn't prove very successful he decided to change it into a military comic instead, drawing on Walker's experiences in the army.

It's got an incredibly diverse cast that increases as the years go by, possibly in attempts to boost low ratings or to keep up with the times. The comic used to deal with military issues that were either somewhat relevant, or were funny to those who were already in the army. The series is now run by Mort Walker's son, and much of the tone and theme of the strip, over the last couple of years has divorced itself from reality in terms of having Beetle and his fellow soldiers remain stationed within the US, oblivious to the wars currently waging in the Middle East.

The comic was criticized fairly often through the years due to the sexist way women were portrayed. Though the creator has taken steps to fix this, some sexist aspects still remain.

As said before, there's a rich cast of characters, but here's a list of the ones most commonly seen:

Beetle: The protagonist of the comic, though he doesn't have all that many protagonistic qualities. He isn't the ideal soldier: He's lazy, fairly mouthy and always gets on Sergeant Snorkel's nerves.

Killer: One of Beetle's best buddies, and he's a real ladies' man... apparently. If Beetle's seen in the comic with a friend, it's usually going to be him.

Sergeant Orville "Sarge" Snorkel: The Sergeant of Company A, the company of soldiers that Beetle and others are part of. Sarge is a real piece of work, full of character flaws and issues that the comic's creator may or may not be aware of.

Otto: Sarge's dog, and quite a bit like his master. Often he gets quite a bit of viewing in the comic.

Ms. Buxley: General Halftrack's beautiful secretary. She used to be as dumb as a post, but has developed some since the whole sexism criticism thing. She usually works with Ms. Blips, Chip Gizmo, and the officers of the camp. She seems to be dating Beetle now, even though there wasn't much to their relationship before a few years ago.

General Amos T. Halftrack: The commander of Camp Swampy. While he has all this power, he's still bullied and henpecked by his wife and so has a lot of pent up sexual frustration. He plays golf every afternoon, really enjoys his liquor, and spends a lot of time thinking about his secretary. The latter caused the media to require him to take Sensitivity Training. These days he's more subtle about it.

Plato: The Professor of the camp, somewhat portly with Nerd Glasses. Not much more ambitious than Beetle, but better at staying out of trouble. Often seen with Killer.

Zero: The Fool, a (male) Dumb Blonde with buck teeth. His usual role is to be given an order by Sarge embellished with a careless metaphor, which he will proceed to carry out in the most literal manner possible (e.g., if told to "Make it snappy," he will embellish the project with mouse-traps and snapping turtles).


Includes examples of the following Tropes:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: A few one-shot characters, Killer to some women, but most of all Sgt. Louise Lugg to Sgt. Snorkel. They actually sort of dated at one point, but the only explanation given to how that ever happened was that she forced him into it. It's ironic, anyway, as an earlier strip shows him imagining his ideal woman as a female version of himself, which Lugg was (admittedly without the bodybuilder figure).
  • Accidental Hero: Beetle of all people receives a medal for being an exemplary worker. It starts when he gives his usual kind of lip ("I could do that, if I wanted to") to Sarge "asking" him to clean up some graffiti. Sarge gets angry and gives a violence-laden order for him to want to do it, then. When he's cleaning the wall, Killer happens by and asks why he's doing it, to which Beetle replies with angry sarcasm that it's because he wants to. The General also happens to walk by and is impressed by this dedication.
  • The Alcoholic: Sarge and General Halftrack are pretty heavy drinkers.
  • Alliterative Name
  • Always Someone Better:
    • Sarge once gets beaten in a swearing contest by another sergeant, stunned by a word so bad even its symbol is censored.
    • Lt. Flap, who likes to dress outrageously colourfully, comes back from his holiday shocked. It turns out he's met his better — having visited a Liberace museum.
  • Animal Talk: Cats and dogs can communicate with each other. (See Speech-Impaired Animal below)
  • Animated Adaptation: There was a TV series in 1963-64, often paired with animated versions of Snuffy Smith and Krazy Kat (known collectively as the King Features Trilogy, produced by Al Brodax). Beetle's and General Halftrack's voices was Howard Morris, Sgt. Snorkel's was Allan Melvin.
  • Anthropomorphic Shift: Happens in-universe with Otto; one strip shows his coming to wear clothes and walk upright as a result of rivalry between Sarge and another sergeant who were competing through their pets. Apparently it stuck, since he's now long been like that permanently.
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: Or rather, "...indecently flirt with me, which I'd be offended by?" Apparently that's expected of soldiers. Used several times; they even did "Aren't you going to inappropriately flirt with my sister? You saying she's not pretty enough?"
  • Armed Farces
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Happens sometimes between Sarge and Beetle, or Sarge and the privates in his company in general, typically involving a situation where someone is about to leave the company but starts remembering all the good times they've had together. Sometimes subverted instead: One party's happy memories about their times together are ones that make the other angry.
  • Badass: In spite of everything, Sarge has his moments. Like killing a bull with his bare hands. Accidentally.
  • Bad Boss: General Halftrack just can't take criticism. Which can be a real problem, because he's also an inept boss. The only person in a uniform who ever dares to tell him the truth is Ms. Blips, who often finds herself playing the part of the court jester.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Like Sarge, canine companion Otto dresses himself pretty much in the same type of uniform, including the signature hat in dog size.
  • Battle of Wits: Constant between Sarge and Beetle (and to some extent privates in general). Sometimes more "brains vs. brawn", but Sarge has plenty of cunning of his own in many strips.
  • Beyond the Impossible:
    • Invoked: If the General has a headache and Sarge ORDERS you to fire a cannon quietly, then you fire it quietly.
    • Beetle is slower than everyone else even when parachuting down from a plane.
    • Lt. Fuzz is so reluctant to jump from a plane to parachute down that he stays hanging from a cloud.
    • Beetle and Sarge have followed a road that goes nowhere and are in fact standing on air a little beyond a cliff.
    • Among the geographical features that were at one time featured regularly, there's a particular river that's so fickle and constantly changing its course that the soldiers have to make an effort to avoid it when setting up their tent in one strip. They think they're safe when they reach higher ground, but the river follows them anyway because it doesn't know water can't run uphill.
  • Big Ball of Violence: Almost any Sarge/Beetle fight. Beetle also manages to make one by himself, when it appears he has attacked Sarge but is not even touching him because he's not that crazy. (They're sometimes portrayed as able to have a fight; sometimes so that Sarge is far superior.)
  • Big Eater: Sarge.
  • Blinding Bangs: Beetle's old but since disappeared friend in the army Bammy had these, making him a little like Beetle in never showing his eyes.
  • Bowdlerise: Funnily enough, alot of strips that featured lots of skin on the women were censored in America, but fully allowed in Scandinavian countries. Other types of strips like Rocky referring to a criminal background was likewise edited in the states.
  • Brawn Hilda: Sergeant Louise Lugg is Distaff Counterpart to Sarge, so what else could she be? The biggest difference between them is that she's sexually aggressive, whereas he's afraid of women.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Zero observes that Beetle appears to be crying. Killer says that he must just have the flu, because he's too tough to be crying. Beetle says that anyone would cry if they had such a bad flu as his.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: One comic had Sarge tell Beetle he'll get what's coming to him, before chasing him all around the camp. After catching him and beating him up, Sarge says that's enough exercise for one day, and the two go to eat. Then this exchange happens.
    Beetle: But why is the day always on Sunday?
    Sarge: Because we have more panels on Sunday.
  • Briffits and Squeans: You can bet there are lots of newspaper comic "visual" effects. Mort Walker wrote the book on these. Literally.
    • Mort's names for these effects have even been worked into the strip — Beetle explains at one point that Sarge thinks Beetle's been working hard because Beetle has learned to turn his "plewds" on and off. Sarge then appears and demands "More plewds! Keep plewding!"
  • Brown Note: Swearing forcefully (usually but not always when done by Sarge) can have effects such as stunning people or killing flowers. Not to be confused with the times when he shouts so loudly the sheer volume or wind has a physical effect.
  • The Casanova: Killer isn't all talk; he's often seen on the town with pretty ladies.
  • Cats Are Mean: Sgt. Lugg's cat Bella has a tough, nasty attitude.
  • Character Development: A few strips in the comic's first years portrayed Ms. Blips as out-ditzing Ms. Buxley (such as calling the firefighters when Sarge loudly exclaimed "Fire!" during a shooting session). Everybody else, though...
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Lots of characters disappear without explanation over the years.
    • Beetle's girlfriend from college, Buzz, stayed around for a while after he went into the army, but then was forgotten. At some point, he started dating a new girl called Bunny; since about 2002 or so, she's also vanished without a trace.
    • Many privates, such as Bammy, Ozone and Pops. They could have actually got out of the army, though there was a strip in 2011 with apparent cameos in a crowd, including at least Bammy.
    • A more recent and noticeable example is Captain Sam Scabbard. He actually used to be a quite important character in that he was the Sarge's Straight Man, but then his appearances became increasingly more rare, and now he hasn't appeared for such a long time that he may very well be forgotten by the creators.
  • Comic Book Adaptation: From 1956 to 1980, through various publishers (Dell, Gold Key, Charlton, etc.). A mix of new stories with reprints of the newspaper strip.
  • Comic Book Time: Extremely little of anything changes, and when it does, it's by arbitrary decision rather than because of time passing. By rights everyone in Camp Swampy should be either removed from the Army due to failing to get promoted in the military's 'up or out' policy, be retired from the Army due to age, or dead from old age at this point.
    • Well, in one story, Beetle was promoted but he didn't want it. Sarge said those were orders from the Pentagon and the promotion would stand unless Beetle did something to warrant demotion as punishment. Beetle then jumped on Sarge until he was demoted for that.
  • Confused Question Mark: General Halftrack sometimes has a question mark appear over his head when he comes upon members of his staff acting in a bizarre manner.
  • Crazy-Prepared: In one Sunday strip, Sergeant Snorkel has several soldiers march through the desert in the event that they have to go over to the Middle East.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Especially Ms. Blips, Otto coming a good second. But nearly everyone has the tendency occasionally.
  • Death Glare
    • Nobody can look as angry as Sarge. Corporal Yo once analysed him as being a true patriot for displaying all the colours of the US flag when angry. Of course, this means he also often overshoots the trope by looking furious rather than calm.
    • Officers (with the possible exception of Lt. Fuzz) can generally pull this off when they catch someone they outrank doing something they shouldn't.
    • General Halftrack has a tendency to end up being the recipient of the death glare from his wife or secretaries.
  • Delusions of Doghood: Beetle once hypnotises Sarge to think he's whatever he secretly wants to be, making him act like a lion. He also accidentally affects General Halftrack, but he doesn't "become" an animal: "Have you gone mad! I'm an airplane!" (Paraphrased.)
  • Dirty Old Man: Let's put it this way... Ms. Blip once remarks that no, the General probably isn't going to say anything about Ms. Buxley's pants being too tight, because it's hard to speak with your tongue hanging out. It was not always as extreme — sometimes, it was even subverted when his secretaries were expecting it — and was toned down later.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Common with both the soldiers and the General on numerous occasions, most commonly with Ms. Buxley.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: It sometimes seems like Sarge is living in a world of cardboard but hasn't realised it.
  • Double Think: Plato invokes this trope as a demonstration of how an officer's mind works by handing Lt. Fuzz a black piece of paper and lying that the General said it was white, but... This prompts Fuzz to go on a rant about how you shouldn't question your superiors and how it all may be of vital importance somehow and culminating with his holding up the black paper and declaring firmly that it is white. The General happens to be passing by the window and, without looking particularly surprised, just thinks he's nuts.
  • Dream Sequence: Sarge, Sarge, Sarge. How many strange, trippy, usually food-related dreams must he have before realizing that he must stop snacking at night? (The one about being a food-themed superhero is relatively sane).
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Subverted/parodied: Killer has threatened to kill himself after being told off by his girlfriend. The others find him "doing it slowly" — smoking cigarettes, two at a time.
    • Left hanging another time, in one variation of a reused gag where Beetle overhears the guys planning to pull a prank on him by calling in pretending to be Sarge. Of course, then the real Sarge calls in and buys it when Beetle pretends to be the General and tells him to do something absurd. In this one instance, Beetle says he's disappointed in him and he can just go tie a rock around his neck and jump into water. The last panel shows Sarge about to do so. Of course, it's entirely Played for Laughs and forgotten immediately afterwards; presumably he didn't do it.
  • Drunk on Milk: When Lt. Fuzz goes to the bar with the other officers, he chooses something non-alcoholic. He shows signs of drunkenness anyway because he's "easily influenced".
  • Dub Name Change: Nearly all of the characters have different names in different countries. To use Beetle as an example, he's named "Billy" in Norway, "Jens Fup" in Denmark,"Knasen" in Sweden, "Masi" in Finland, and, funnily enough, "Zero" in Italy. The latter country focuses on the American Zero's buck teeth instead, upon which his name is "Dentino".
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: In one strip, Dr. Bonkus is finishing his talk with Julius and tells him that many young people can be a little confused about their sexual identity but he thinks he has nothing to worry about. It's then revealed the doctor has been taking him to be a woman all the time, as he addresses him as "miss" when he's leaving.
  • Elvis Impersonator: In a show for the Army, Beetle Bailey, Sergeant Snorkel and General Halftrack became Elvis impersonators. Bailey was introduced as Young Elvis, Sarge as Old Elvis and General Halftrack as Dead Elvis.
  • Endangered Soufflé: Cookie's cakes can apparently be deflated by loud bangs when in the oven — he even has a cake of potential Guinness World Records size fail due to a massive artillery barrage being initiated at the critical moment.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Not intentionally invoked, but in one strip, General Halftrack finds out that Sarge lied about going to the Pentagon to look for a dog, and went to a baseball game instead, when Beetle left the phone off the hook.
  • Ensign Newbie: Lt. Fuzz.
  • Epic Fail: Cookie manages to make soup that is too tough to cut with a knife... and steak that is too tough to cut with a machine gun and grenades.
  • Escalating War: Defied in one Sunday strip, eventually. When going out for a three-day holiday, Beetle slaps Sarge on the back just before leaving. He runs after him and whacks him with a chair. After a trashcan thrown from a roof and dynamite, when Beetle is pointing at Sarge with an enormous artillery piece of some sort, Sarge tells him to wait and points out that while what they're doing is fun and all, Beetle should perhaps consider what kind of shape he wants to be in for his holiday.
  • Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Sarge, Cookie (the Camp Cook), the Captain, the Major, and the General. All of them except Cookie (whose may be a nickname or not) have been given full proper names,note  but these are only used on formal occasions.
  • Eye-Obscuring Hat: Beetle always wears his GI cap or helmet so that his eyes are unseen (or anything, including a pillow, that will keep his eyes an Unreveal). In his college days, Beetle wore a cambered porkpie hat this way as well. His eyes have only been seen once.
  • Expy: Between versions of the comic itself — Private Plato was a pretty obvious transplant into the army from the Plato back in college earlier. They do have somewhat different personalities, but the first one didn't have much personality beyond "The Smart Guy (with glasses)".
  • Flanderization. What characters didn't start out with completely stereotypical features got them eventually. Beetle himself was always a slacker, but by now he's literally won awards and set records for laziness and sleeping.
  • F Minus Minus: When training to be a cook, Cookie reportely ranked 50th out of a class of twenty-five.note 
  • Freudian Couch: Dr. Bonkus always uses one with his patients. Beetle himself has been known to fall asleep immediately or mention it as the only reason it's worth visiting him.
  • Friend to All Living Things: The Chaplain and Zero have both been seen feeding animals flocking to them. Mind you, wild animals are pretty bold and eager to get to human food in this comic anyway (though sometimes Cookie's cooking turns them away).
  • Furry Confusion: Happens in-universe to Otto when he feels sorry for a dog that walks on four legs and wears no clothes. Otherwise usually averted, because Otto is still "animal" enough to interact with other dogs on the same level, even though he's closer to anthropomorphism than they.
  • Game Show: Beetle and company became a puzzle on Password Plus.
  • Genius Ditz: Beetle himself. He is not very smart (he is especially Book Dumb as shown in the early days of the strip when he went to college, but also seems quite oafish in most other areas), but he is not good at manual work either, and he has a rather poor work ethic. This has led to his perpetual laziness and desire to avoid anything that involves thinking or physical work. But if there's one area where he's a natural, it is to concoct intricate schemes or spend a lot of energy to avoid thinking and physical work. So essentially he is good at thinking of how to avoid thinking because he is not good at thinking and working to avoid working because he is not good at working. This, of course, leads to some Laborious Laziness.
  • Genki Guy: Corporal Yo sometimes has the trait of getting really, really excited about anything he finds interesting, and he likes to run around doing everything as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • Got Volunteered: Lots of times, usually done by Sarge to Beetle.
    • In the cartoon Cosmo's Naught: Volunteers have to walk the distance of 50 miles. Beetle Bailey, Zero and Cosmo complain how ill they are until Sarge tell them to shut up and that if anyone of the soldiers need to see the doctor they should go. Everyone except Beetle Bailey, Zero and Cosmo immediately run away leaving the three back as the volunteers.
    • "I need three volunteers: You, you and you."
    • Sarge asks for anyone volunteering to raise his hand — knowing that Beetle's arm is in a cast so he can't put it down.
    • Sarge asks which of the soldiers have had college education, then tells them (Beetle and Plato) to follow him, and leads them to work in the kitchen. He looks genuinely surprised when asked what that has to do with education. "Nothing, why?"
    • Once Sarge simply raises Beetle's hand for him.
  • Guile Hero: Say what you like of Beetle, and he certainly isn't very heroic for a start, but he shows considerable cunning in evading Sarge and the other officers... although some of his attempts are admittedly incredibly dumb instead. Plato is even better at it when he does it, and sometimes manages to manipulate people with just a few words, but he doesn't make it so much a sport or hobby as Beetle does.
  • Henpecked Husband
    • General Halftrack leads the regiment but is no match for his stout wife; she can't stop him from being an annoying drunk and a Dirty Old Man, but she can certainly make him miserable for it.
    • The long-ago retired character Private Pop felt less bossed around in the army than back home with his wife.
  • Human Knot: Happens to Beetle Bailey sometimes when Sarge beats him up, on those occasions when Sarge doesn't just leave Bailey lying in a heap on the ground after stomping on him.
  • Human Traffic Jam: Sarge orders a group of men marching in a line to stop hurriedly, and they all "plong" into each other.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: Inverted: When Beetle hears that Sarge has beaten up a private from another company, he becomes outraged and tries to report him for infidelity.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • More than once: A group of officers gathered to judge a breach of the dress code criticise it while wearing an array of pretty random clothes themselves. Also other similar cases. Perhaps more often, it's done the other way around, with three parties, not getting as far as the trope: A tries to complain about B's behaviour X to their superior C, but it turns out C is doing X himself.
    • Another one used in several variants: A criticises B for their hobby or obsession or habit, only to return to their own room/bunk, where they have a similar collection of things/arrangement/whatever going on set around another theme. For example, Corporal Yo notes Sarge's huge collection of food-related electronics before returning to his own room full of different electronics. Or Sarge says it's weird of Beetle to collect comic books, only to have someone else point to his shelf full of different empty beer cans.
    • General Halftrack's "Have you gone mad! I'm an airplane!" (He'd been hypnotised.)
  • I Broke a Nail: This turns out to be the reason Sgt. Louise Lugg mauled a guy so badly while playing American football. The trope is played straight and she's shown "emotionally" crying over it; the comic in general repeatedly plays with her combination of masculine aggressiveness and feminine sensitivity.
  • Idiot Hero: If Zero can be considered a hero, he's definitely the best example of the series.
  • If It Was Funny The First Time: “But who dares to tell the general that he did a mistake...?”
  • Informed Ability: Otto hs often been described as being exactly like Sarge, but that's only skin deep at best. Otto has a much more busy social life than Sarge, he's much better with women (of all species), and is quite frankly a great deal more cynical than his master.
  • Insult Backfire: Not an insult as such, but still a negative comment, which is enough for the trope. The Chaplain asks worriedly whether Sarge has gained more weight again. Sarge thanks him for noticing, saying that it took him a lot of effort to become so big and important.
  • Ironic Echo: Not quite exact, but Sarge tells Corporal Yo to lie to General Halftrack about going to the Pentagon to find a dog when Sarge is actually going to go to a baseball game. Thanks to their conversation being heard by Halftrack on the phone while Beetle was searching for Sarge, several soldiers ruffed up Sarge and asks Halftrack (who ended up stealing Sarge's seat) where they should take Sarge, and Halftrack orders them to "take [Sarge] to the Dog Pound at the Pentagon."
  • It Makes Sense in Context: Happens a lot in-universe, when a strip or other comic builds up a weird situation that someone then walks in on or sees only partially. It's a Running Gag that the General walks around and sees things that leave him completely puzzled.
    • Makes Just as Much Sense in Context: ...Then again, the soldiers have taken to intentionally doing weird stuff just to confuse the General and invoke the running gag.
    • Perhaps the biggest setup for a weird situation for someone to walk in on appears in the story where the General finally receives a letter from the Pentagon, informing him that he has to be ready for a major inspection in a week. When the general from the Pentagon lands, in the middle of their combat practice with rockets and ammunition flying all over the place, he's met with Otto barking at his helicopter, Zero dressed as a tree going around saying hi to everyone, Sarge running around happily yelling charge while carrying a sleeping Beetle over his head, the Major up to his neck in a mud pit, Lt. Flap returning to the scene in one of his trademark outrageous outfits, Cookie carrying a cake and singing happy birthday, and General Halftrack getting drunk in a torn and ragged uniform.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sarge has a soft side, and he's not always very good at hiding it, either. In one strip, Beetle says to Sarge that Plato has been telling lies about him, which turns out to be that he was saying this trope applies. Also appears whenever he spends furlough at Beetle's house — Chigger, Beetle's little brother, hero-worships him, and he's very fond of the boy.
  • Just Toying with Them: Beetle is sometimes shown as such a better runner than Sarge that he can annoy him further by reading a newspaper while being chased by him — or these days, surf the internet.
  • Kicked Upstairs / Reassigned to Antarctica: It is heavily implied that the reason why Halftrack is made the commander of the camp was so the Pentagon and other bases wouldn't have to deal with him. Reassigned to Antarctica has also happened to others in one-off gags whose effects didn't survive the often Negative Continuity.
  • Kitchen Sink Included: Cookie can't even get it right when he uses the kitchen sink expression about what's in his food, as Beetle finds a tap in his stew right after that.
  • A Lady on Each Arm: Killer's idea of a double date. He's also had two on each.
  • Lampshade Wearing: Mrs. Halftrack gives the General a lampshade to return to the Major's apartment. When he asks why, she explains he was wearing it when he came back home last night.
  • Late to the Punchline: One strip starts with unexplained laughter in the middle of the night, which turns out to be Zero reacting to a joke told during the day.
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities: Nobody at Camp Swampy ever gets promoted. But then, nobody at Camp Swampy deserves to be promoted, either, and the one time somebody did get promoted (freakin' Beetle!), he refused the call.
  • Literal Ass Kicking: Occasionally given to Beetle by Sarge.
  • Literal-Minded:
    • Zero. Usually Comically Missing the Point. Anyone who talks to Zero seems to be suffering from Aesop Amnesia, as they continue to use sarcasm on him, even though they should know by now that he will always take them seriously. Sometimes after giving an order, the person realizes his mistake too late to correct it.
      First Frame: Sarge: Zero, take this report to the General's office and step on it!
      Second Frame: Sarge: Oh oh!
      Third Frame: Sarge breathlessly arrives at the General's office. The General: Too late. The report is on the floor with a footprint.
    • Ms. Buxley when she was being portrayed as dumb.
    • Louise Lugg says she wishes two men would fight over her. Sarge tries to arrange this by having her lie down on the ground with Sarge and Beetle having a boxing match above.
  • Made of Explodium: In the strip for 8/6/2013, Cookie says his recipe has real kick to it. Then the food blows up.
  • Mars Needs Women / Interspecies Romance: Otto usually sticks to female dogs, but he also has an attraction to human women (especially Ms. Buxley, like everyone else) which is clearly sexual. Then again, he has also been know to date cats, so he's really not that picky.
  • Medium Awareness: There are all kinds of weird gags involving the characters interacting with comic strips elements that are supposed to be only symbolic — such as Sarge eating a "Z" produced by a sleeping Beetle in an effort to get to sleep himself, or characters managing to produce empty speech bubbles.
  • Mildly Military: Among other things, 40+ years of the characters in basic training and largely no suggestion that the characters will be ever shipped out on assignments in any of the major U.S. wars that have happened during the life of the strip.
  • Mistaken for Gay: One of the strip's minor characters is Julius, Gen. Halftrack's chauffeur. He originally had a larger role as the camp's resident Neat Freak, but when angry readers demanded to know why Walker had introduced a "homosexual character" in the strip, he was more or less Demoted to Extra.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Ms. Buxley, the buxom secretary.
  • Neck Lift: In the strip for December 15th 2012, Sergeant Snorkel does this to the maitre'd of a restaurant who says that they don't serve dogs.
  • Negative Continuity
  • The Neidermeyer: Lt. Fuzz is quite pompous and demanding while absolutely failing to impress anyone ever. Sarge can at least inspire fear and some love-hate, and can be a competent Badass at times, so he's somewhere between The Neidermeyer and Sergeant Rock.
  • Never Bareheaded: Beetle always wears either a hat or a helmet. In one strip Sarge attempts to shock him into dropping his hat, only to reveal that he is wearing oversized sunglasses under it.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Otto, Sarge's canine second in command.
  • No Sparks: Many readers see Beetle and Ms. Buxley's relationship this way. After they had been 'dating' for about a year, their relationship still never seemed to make it past third date or so. It may be due to 'Status Quo Is God', but you get the impression that the strip's possible ghostwriters don't know what to do with the relationship either. And now even she made a remark in-universe that hints at this.
    • Executive Meddling: Mort is quoted in a Danish Beetle Bailey magazine that it's on purpose that they don't progress beyond third date, since moving it further is sure to alienate the medias that threw General Halftrack into Sensitivity Training.
  • Noodle Incident: In one strip, the Captain asks where Sarge and Beetle are, before Mort informs him of Beetle and Sarge getting into an argument, leading to Sarge "taking a swing" at Beetle before promptly chasing him into the kitchen where he apparently did something with Cookie's meal, although the Captain cuts him off and tells him that he doesn't want the details and demands that he "cut to the chase." Mort then points out that the chase is occurring, literally, where in addition to Cookie and Sarge chasing him, the balding soldier is also chasing after them while wearing a towel (presumably was in the middle of a bath) and the General being right behind the balding soldier with broken golf clubs. Also qualifies as an In-Universe Off Screen Moment Of Awesome.
  • Noodle Implements: One weekday comic had Sarge saying that there's no excuse for what Beetle had done...but he'd love to hear the excuse. Beetle had, among other things, large boots, polkadot pants, a hoop around his neck with a ribbon shaped like a flower on it, and an alligator on a leash.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Lieutenant Fuzz. His ambition is to become the U.S. Army's greatest desk officer.
  • Office Golf: General Halftrack not only goes out golfing a lot even during the workday but also does it in his office frequently (although perhaps not in more recent strips). He's pretty bad at it. In one strip, Ms. Buxley mistakes his genuinely looking for a lost golf ball (with a hand reaching out from under his desk) for sexual harassment. In another, the general is pleased with his performance only to return later to find Beetle replicating the same using the handle of the mop he's supposed to be cleaning the office with.
  • Only One Female Mold: Along with Only Six Faces, the strip is guilty of this. Apparently, all of Killer's girlfriends have a small slender build.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: General Halftrack once tried to do this as a "This is how we did it back in my day!" demonstration — but just ended up throwing the still-pinned grenade along with his teeth (he wears dentures, obviously). Also played straight once when Beetle and Killer are very casually going through a training course they've done a million times.
  • The Pirates (Soldiers) Who Don't Do Anything: By Word of God, the strip is specifically about the foibles of the peacetime army. Accordingly, we never see the soldiers do any soldiering.
    • Used to be justified in-comic: General Halftrack's superiors know how bad he is (or they have even suppressed his existence), and don't want to risk anything by involving him in it. It was a running gag that the General would wait anxiously for "orders from Pentagon" that would never arrive because of this. When they did, in an album story, the eventual inspection was such a disaster the Pentagon felt at a liberty to go on ignoring him. Paraphrased conversation from the story:
    "I've never heard of this Camp Swampy."
    "We don't talk about it."
    "Top secret?"
    "Top shame."
    • Rather oddly used back in the Vietnam days; there were several instances when Sarge pined to go to war, when all he would have had to do would have been to say he wants to go; they weren't picky at Vietnam.
  • Plot Tumor: The strip originally had nothing to with the army.
  • Please Keep Your Hat On: An unpublished early strip had Beetle remove his hat after being instructed to do so by his college professor. One look was enough for the prof to tell Beetle to put the hat back on.
  • Power Fantasy: Beetle once takes the advice to think of something nice during a long march to make the time pass faster. He has so much fun imagining abusing an unresisting Sarge that he doesn't even notice when the march is over.
  • Preacher Man: Chaplain Staneglass.
  • Professional Slacker: Beetle works hard to avoid hard work.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Quicksand Sucks: In the strip for May 17th, 2013, when Beetle finds himself walking on some quicksand he immediately sinks below the surface, because the sand is "very quick".
  • Retool: The switch from college to army. Though the one-strip joke about Beetle being snatched when he accidentally enters an army recruitment office to hide from his girlfriend is subsequently ignored, it's followed by a Story Arc about how and why he joins the army after that, and his college life is largely forgotten for the rest of the series, though his old girlfriend hangs on for a while and his parents remain a fixture. Most people have forgotten that Hi and Lois is supposed to be a spin-off with his sister.
  • Reveal Shot: The first panel shows a close-up of someone asking Beetle whether Ms. Buxley had walked past in a bikini. The next panel shows the larger scene with Beetle having stepped in his can of paint and a general mayhem around them with soldiers still staring transfixed and having crashed their cars and whatnot. Yes, she had.
  • Rule 34:
    • Mort Walker once drew Ms. Buxley nude and released the drawing as a limited edition series of art prints.
    • Walker and his staff make several dirty gag strips that never get past the sketch level. Mostly, they do this for their own amusement, but some of the strips has been published in Scandinavian magazines.
  • Running Gag: Several, though the one the comic is most famous for is likely the neverending beatings Beetle will suffer from Sarge, for whatever reason at hand.
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: Sometimes appears in simulated combat where no ammunition are used. One longer story devoted a few pages to a whole "battle" like this, including guys in airplanes shouting machine gun sounds but one of them commenting the people down below probably couldn't hear them anyway.
  • Self-Deprecation: An odd variation involving Breaking the Fourth Wall comes from this (paraphrased) strip:
    Sarge: [...] Why aren't you mowing the lawn like I asked you to?!
    Beetle: It's not my fault, Sarge. Mort can't draw lawnmowers.
  • Shell Game: Parodied in-universe by Sarge: Beetle is hiding in one of three large metal carbage cans, so Sarge shuffles them around quickly and pretends it's a shell game to teach him a lesson.
  • The Shrink: Camp psychiatrist Dr. Bonkus.
  • Smelly Skunk: In a Sunday strip, Camp Swampy was forced to postpone its war games because Army A encountered a skunk and were heavily implied to have been sprayed by it.
  • Snap Back: Lampshaded here: "It's great how you can beat someone up in a comic strip, then they get better the minute you leave."
  • Soul Brotha: Lieutenant Flap, when he was introduced in the seventies. A JoshReads.com commenter scanned a few of his earliest appearances from microfilm.
  • Southern-Fried Private: Bammy, from the strip's earlier years.
  • Speech-Impaired Animal: Otto just barely manages to qualify in a few individual strips, turning his growls into something resembling speech. Most of the time he sticks to using thought bubbles to comment on things — or, rarely, communicate with another animal — sort of like Garfield.
  • Spider-Sense: In one strip, Sarge can sense when Beetle is about to start slacking off, but it doesn't help him catch him doing it, because Beetle can sense when Sarge is coming the same way.
  • Spin-Off: Mort Walker introduced the title characters of his second strip, Hi and Lois, in Beetle Bailey. (Lois Flagston is Beetle's sister, and there has been at least one Cross Over between the strips.)
  • Staring Contest: Sarge and Beetle are having one. Beetle gains an advantage because he falls asleep during it.
  • Status Quo Is God: Among other things, the reason why no one ever gets a promotion.
    • Two longer album stories use this to make their storylines especially notable: In one, Sarge actually manages to lose weight, while Lt. Fuzz tries to Take a Level in Badass; in the other, the General finally receives orders from Pentagon. Both end with the status quo returning with a vengeance.
  • Story Arc: Over the decades, there have been a handful connecting the actual strips (actual longer album stories notwithstanding), including at least "Beetle arrives at college," "A random pretty girl at college has a crush on Beetle for no reason (even though he's already dating)," "Beetle joins the army," "Beetle goes home on holiday alone," "Beetle goes home on holiday with Sarge," "Beetle goes on holiday at home with Sarge and Otto," "Zero goes on holiday home with Beetle and Sarge," and "Sarge briefly tries to leave the army but comes back."
  • Stout Strength: Sergeant Snorkel.
    • According to a one-off strip, when deprived of food he gets even stronger. He also turns a greenish shade and goes berserk in his pursuit of sustenance. "Look out! It's the Incredible Bulk!"
  • The Swear Jar: Due to an excess of Symbol Swearing, Sgt. Snorkel finds himself contributing.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Sgt. Snorkel is heavily implied to be the worst swear offender in the camp. He does lose a swearing contest once when his opponent hits him with something rendered as CENSORED. That's right, they couldn't even show the symbol for it.
  • Symbol Swearing: Sarge is a man of his word. Unfortunately, this is the word. Characters sometimes even converse with and about grawlixes in this comic, as if they're actual specific swearwords in themselves, or even an alphabet for writing those.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: "That's it, Beetle! Now roll with the punch!" Given as actual advice during a practice fight. Enough said.
  • The Teetotaler: When he's out with the other officers, Lt. Fuzz doesn't drink alcohol.
  • Token Minority: Lieutenant Flap and Corporal Yo.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Lt. Fuzz tries to invoke this once by becoming as heavy as Sarge. It doesn't work, though he does at least manage to intimidate the General with the strength he happens to acquire after the obesity ploy fails.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Sarge was obsessed with pizza long before the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made it their trademark. Of course, if this term ever appeared in the comic, they'd be sure to point out that food is his trademark favorite food.
  • 20% More Awesome: Plato gives an interpretation of what a demand of "giving 110%" is going to mean: The rest of them give 100%, Beetle gives 10%.
  • The Unreveal: Sarge and the Captain once conspire to see Beetle's eyes by scaring him so that his hat will jump off. When they do, it turns out he's wearing shades underneath.
  • The Un-Smile: Appears once when Beetle is depressed. Dr. Bonkus first tells him to smile, but seeing the result asks him to go back to looking sad.
  • Verbal Judo: Beetle has lots of tricks for avoiding Sarge's incoming rage. Usually this involves distracting him, especially by making him think of food, but also invoking other things such as John Wayne. He's also confused him by shouting back to him as if to an inferior or at most an equal, which he can't handle since it's so much out of the norm. That said, Beetle ends up being beaten into a pulp more often than not, sometimes in spite of an attempt at Verbal Judo.
  • Wardrobe Malfunction: The Army supply corps ended up from an unfortunate order mixup delivering pajama bottoms instead of standard army pants to Camp Swampy (which the corps refused to amend their mistake by rationalizing that they are "two legs, same thing, pal!"), and it is implied that this is not the first time such a tragic mixup happened (General Halftrack, when seeing their... new wardrobe, mutters in exasperation "First the berets, now THIS?!")
  • Where the Hell Is Camp Swampy?
  • Wingding Eyes: Though apparently just eyes is not enough.
    • Concentric circles and such have been spotted.
    • In one strip, the characters notice that a passed-out character's eyes really do turn into X's, even though they say that's supposed to only happen in comics.
    • Chip Gizmo has once been spending too much time on the computer, as evidenced by his right eye having turned into a :), left eye into a @, and mouth into ----.
    • Cosmo has Wingding Ears, as seen in one strip — fitting his personality, his ears contain a dollar sign (instead of the slightly similar squiggle usually drawn inside ears).
  • Yes Men: The Major and the Captain. Subverted with Lieutenant Fuzz, who tries so hard to be one that it usually backfires.
    "I haven't said anything yet."
    "But the way you cleared your throat, Sir... amazing!"

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alternative title(s): Beetle Bailey
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