Sad Sack #44 cover art by George Baker.
|First appearance||Yank, the Army Weekly #1 (June 1942)|
|Created by||George Baker|
The Sad Sack is an American fictional comic strip and comic book character created by Sgt. George Baker during World War II. Set in the United States Army, Sad Sack depicted an otherwise unnamed, lowly private experiencing some of the absurdities and humiliations of military life. The title was a euphemistic shortening of the military slang "sad sack of shit", common during WWII. The phrase has come to mean "an inept person" or "inept soldier".
Originally drawn in pantomime by Baker, The Sad Sack debuted June 1942 as a comic strip in the first issue of Yank, the Army Weekly. It proved popular, and a hardcover collection of Baker's wartime Sad Sack strips was published by Simon & Schuster, Inc. in 1944, with a follow-up, The New Sad Sack (1946). The original book was concurrently published as an Armed Services edition mass market paperback, in that edition's standard squarebound, horizontal, 5 5/8" × 4" format, by Editions for the Armed Services, Inc., a non-profit organization of The Council on Books in Wartime; it was #719 in the series of Armed Service editions.
Harvey Comics published original Sad Sack stories in the Sad Sack Comics comic book series, which ran 287 issues, cover-dated September 1949 to October 1982. Harvey also published the one-shot comic The Sad Sack Comes Home in 1951.
Spin-off series were:
- Sad Sack's Funny Friends #1–75 (Dec. 1955 – Oct. 1969)
- Sad Sack and the Sarge #1–155 (Sept. 1957 – June 1982)
- Sad Sack Laugh Special #1–93 (Winter 1958/59 – Feb. 1977)
- Sad Sack's Army Life Parade #1–57 (Oct. 1963 – circa 1975)
- Little Sad Sack #1–19 (Oct. 1964 – Nov. 1967), featuring a child version of the character
- Sad Sad Sack (Oct. 1964 – Dec. 1973) commonly known as Sad Sad Sack World
- Sad Sack Navy, Gobs 'n' Gals #1–8 (Aug. 1972 – Oct. 1973)
- Sad Sack USA #1–7 (Nov. 1972 – Nov. 1973)
- Sad Sack USA Vacation one-shot (Oct. 1974)
- Sad Sack Fun Around the House one-shot (1974)
- Sad Sack's Army Life Today #1–4 (circa mid-1975 to Nov. 1975, and May 1976)
Supporting characters included the Sarge (Sack's First Sergeant, the potbellied and tough but reasonable Sergeant Circle); Slob Slobinski and Hi-Fi Tweeter (Sack's buddies); the General (Brigadier General Rockjaw, always drawn with dark glasses, cigarette holder and Ascot tie); Sadie Sack (Sad's redheaded female cousin in the WACs); Ol' Sod Sack (Sad's hillbilly uncle); and Muttsy the dog (whose dog tag # was K-9). The spin-off Sad Sack Navy, Gobs 'n' Gals had the supporting character Gabby Gob.
The Harvey Comics and newspaper strip were aimed at younger readers than Baker's wartime originals, and the style of the strip changed dramatically. In the newspaper strip, the pantomime style was abandoned in favor of a more conventional comic-story format.
In the mid-1950s, Harvey Comics and Baker brought in Paul McCarthy to draw the Sad Sack titles, followed by Fred Rhoads (who died February 20, 2000), Jack O'Brien, and Joe Dennett. Others who periodically drew for the titles include Warren Kremer and Ken Selig. Baker retained editorial control and continued to illustrate the covers of Sad Sack comics until his death in 1975.
In late 2000, Alan Harvey (eldest son of Harvey Comics founder Alfred Harvey) sued Steve Geppi (owner of Diamond Comics Distribution and many other properties), charging that Geppi had plundered Harvey's warehouses in the mid-1980s, specifically of original art from Harvey's Sad Sack comic books. Geppi countersued, claiming that he had legal title to the original art thanks to a 1984 agreement he had made with Steve Harvey—at the time President of Harvey Publications, Inc., as well as President of Sad Sack, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Harvey Publications, Inc. The suit was settled in late 2002; at the time of the settlement, the New York Supreme Court had dismissed Harvey's claims against Geppi. The settlement agreement allowed Geppi to keep the art, with no money changing hands.
The rights to Sad Sack are still owned by Alan Harvey, and have since been published under the name of Lorne-Harvey Publications and Re-Collections.
Sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes, The Sad Sack radio program aired in 1946 as a summer replacement series for The Frank Sinatra Show. It starred Herb Vigran in the title role with Jim Backus, Sandra Gould, Ken Christy and Patsy Moran. Dick Joy was the announcer for the series which began June 12, 1946 with the episode "Sack Returns Home from the Army" and continued until September 4 of that year.
At Paramount Pictures, Baker's strip was adapted by screenwriters Edmund Beloin and Nate Monaster for George Marshall's film The Sad Sack (1957), in which WAC Major Shelton (Phyllis Kirk) has the assignment to turn bumbling Private Meredith C. Bixby (Jerry Lewis) into a good soldier. The supporting cast includes David Wayne, Peter Lorre and Joe Mantell.
- "sad sack". Merriam-Webster.
- Mike Kelley. Minor histories: Statements, Conversations, Proposals, The MIT Press, 2004 p.19 n.4. ISBN 0-262-61198-8, ISBN 978-0-262-61198-5
- "Sad Sack" (title) at the Grand Comics Database
- Dean, Michael (November 2000). "Newswatch: Sad Sack vs. Steve Geppi". The Comics Journal (228): 35. Archived from the original on December 15, 2010.
- Dean, Michael (December 2000). "Newswatch: Geppi Accused of Plundering Harvey Warehouse". The Comics Journal (229): 5–6.
- "Newswatch: Geppi: I Had Legal Title to Both the Pre and Post-1955 Harvey Original Artwork". The Comics Journal (229): 7–8. December 2000.
- Dean, Michael (December 2002). "Newswatch: Sad Sack Suit Against Geppi; Countersuit Settled". The Comics Journal (249): 28.
- "Geppi and Harvey Settle Suit Over Sad Sack Art". ICv2.com. June 19, 2002. Archived from the original on June 11, 2011.
- Arnold, Mark (undated). "Harvey Comics History". The Harveyville Fun Times! (fan site). Archived from the original on July 24, 2008.
- "Sad Sack Net". (official site). Archived from the original on February 8, 2011.
- Sad Sack at Don Markstein's Toonopedia
- "Series: The Sad Sack". Jerry Haendiges Vintage Radio Logs (episode guide). Archived from the original on July 20, 2011.