Feb 21, 2023

Sad Sack

When I was a kid, I loved Harvey comics' supernatural titles, Casper, Spooky, and Hot Stuff having science-fiction and espionage adventures in the Enchanted Forest.  In a pinch, I didn't mind the kids-with-crazy-obsession titles, Little Dot, Little Lotta, and Richie Rich.  But I never even picked up Sad Sack.  

Military humor -- gross!  It was the middle of the Vietnam War.  Our fathers and older brothers were dying in Vietnam, or burning their draft cards and going into exile in Canada.  Who wanted to be reminded of all that?

But recently I came across an old book, The Sad Sack.  Apparently the character existed before Harvey Comics, in a pantomime strip published by Sergeant George Baker in the military magazine Yank during World War II.  The Sad Sack (short for "Sad Sack of Sh*) was a classic schmiel, beset-upon by bad luck, but tough, masculine, and sexually active (although here he's paying a woman to iron his pants).

Two hardcover compilations of Sad Sack strips appeared in 1944 and 1946.  There was a radio series (1946) starring Herb Vigran and a movie adaption (1957) starring Jerry Lewis.

Harvey took over the franchise in 1949, giving Sad Sack a voice, a nebbish personality, and surprisingly, a lot of shirtless and semi-nude shots (although he didn't have much of a physique).

 He was now a permanent private at Camp Calamity, so he would never go to war (like Beetle Bailey and Gomer Pyle), and he had a coterie of friends and superior officers, notably Sarge.

Sad Sack and Sarge have a "antagonistic best friend" relationship similar to that of Beetle Bailey and Sgt. Snorkel, with the same homoerotic subtext.

There were many spin-off titles, including Sad Sack's Funny Friends, Sad Sack's Gobs n Gals, Sad Sack and the Sarge, and Sad Sack Laugh Special.  Sounds like Archie spin-offs like Pals n Gals, and Laugh.

I never knew whether Sadie Sack was Sad in drag or just his girlfriend, but she turns out to be his female identical-twin cousin.  Rather a gender bender.

The Sad Sack title continued to be published for over thirty years, ending only when Harvey Comics folded in 1982.   so somebody was interested in Sad's chubby physique and buddy-bonding with the Sarge.

Just not me.

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