Æresprisen – Mort Walker – Basserne – 2016

Også i år blev der uddelt en pris til en tegneserieskaber som i sit mere end 60 år lange virke, har haft enorm indflydelse på danskernes læsevaner i forhold til avisstriber. Walker familiens tegneserier har i årevis været de tegneserie striber der har opnået flest læsere, specielt på det danske marked, og selv om man ikke læser tegneserier, har man i Danmark ikke kunnet undgå at støde ind i Mort Walkers soldater og den familie der udsprang fra Basser striben. Det var selvfølgelig Mort Walker, der i år fik en ærespris, som blev modtaget af hans søn, Brian Walker, som i de sidste 30 år har arbejdet på sin fars livsværk. Tillykke Mr. Walker og tak for striberne!

Begrundelse: Hanne Hansen Award to Mort Walker, 2016 On special occasions The Hanne Hansen Award may be bestowed to a person from abroad, who has made an extraordinary difference in Danish comics culture. Today is such a special occasion, and the American recipient of this award is the comic strip artist and pioneer of comics culture Addison Mortimer Walker.

Born on September 3. 1923 Mort Walker could, a week ago, celebrate his 93. anniversary and has not been able to travel to Denmark this year. He was here several times before, though. We have, however, the pleasure of the presence of one of Mort’s many sons, Brian Walker. Unlike the Reuben Award – which Mort Walker received as early as 1953, that is 63 years ago! and which has its name in memory of the artist Rube Goldberg – the Hanne Hansen Award is not named after an artist or cartoonist, but after the protagonist and title-character of an extremely popular comic strip in the 30-es, 40-es and 50-es about this young woman, Hanne, a housemaid or domestic help of the family Olsen. Since Chic Young’s ‘Blondie’ and George MacManus’ ‘Bringing up father’ the family strip has always been one of the supporting pillars under the position of comics in the printed press. And Mort Walker has indeed contributed to this continued support with his and Dik Browne’s strip about Hi and Lois (Mads og Misse), printed in Danish weeklies since the 1950-es.

As I understand it, nowadays mr. Brian Walker writes the stories about Hi & Lois and their toddler-philosopher of a baby, Trixie, not to be forgotten. Mort Walker invented several other successful strips – Mrs. Fitz-Flats (Fru Fitz’ pensionat), Sam & Silo, Boner’s Ark (Olsens ark), The Evermores (Marius og Missa) and Gamin and Patches (Lasse & Pjalte). The most successful of them all, however, and the one with the strongest impact in Danish comics culture, is of course Beetle Bailey – Basserne!

Beetle Bailey started as a a strip about college life in 1950, the same year as the start of Schulz’ equally legendary comic strip about The Peanuts. So today Beetle Bailey must be the world’s oldest strip still created and overseen on a daily basis by the same artist. Bailey actually stayed on college for half a year, before he joined the army. That was during the Corean War, which also gave us the tv-series about life in the camp hospital M*A*S*H. Beetle Bailey arrived in Camp Swampy 65 years ago.

As you may be aware, mr. Walker, the Danish name for the Camp is a rather suitable word, if one wants to train the pronunciation of one of the special Danish vowels: Pløresødallejren. Only once during these 66 years has Beetle Bailey lifted his hat or helmet high enough, so that his millions of readers could see his eyes! Mostly they are shut in deep sleep. Beetle Bailey is a slacker, if there ever was one! Maybe that’s why the Danes love the strip so much? Or is it because of General Halftrack’s fruitless attempts to control anything at all? Or the blunt orders and juicy dreams of Sarge? Or simply because of the grace and charms of miss Sheila Buxley, the secretary? Maybe the sum of all these reasons? Yes, most probably we like the strip so much because of its kind and charitable sense of humour and knowledge of human nature, expressed by the simplistic, yet personal and distinctive, line and style of the drawings, from which so many other cartoonists – including some Danes – have learned. The daily strip first appeared in a Danish daily newspaper in 1958 and is still printed in 4 newspapers, 58 years later. Launched in 1972 the Danish Beetle Bailey-magazine Basserne (= the privates) is with 44 years the oldest still existing comics magazine on the Danish market.

So, Mr. Walker: If any cartoonist has made a difference in Danish comics culture, and thus deserved the Hanne Hansen Award, it’s your father, Addison Mortimer Walker. We thank him and congratulate him and you with the award. (Søren Vinterberg, Art-Bubble, Horsens, 10. sept. 2016)

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