Harvey ComicsFirst appearance Yank, the Army Weekly #1 (June 1942)
Created by George Baker
Sad Sack is an American 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 World War II. 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.
After the war ended, The Sad Sack ran in newspaper syndication in the United States until 1957. Baker then sold the rights to Harvey Comics, which produced a large number of commercial spin-offs.
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 World 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 bunk buddies); the General (Brigadier General Rockjaw, always drawn with dark glasses, cigarette holder and Ascot tie); Captain Softseat; Muttsy the dog (whose dog tag # was K-9); Sadie Sack (Sad’s redheaded female cousin in the WACs); Ol’ Sod Sack (Sad’s hillbilly uncle); and Little Sad Sack (Sad as a kid, before his army induction). The spin-off Sad Sack Navy, Gobs ‘n’ Gals had the supporting character Gabby Gob.
The army camp where most of the action took place was usually named Camp Calamity, but was sometimes called Camp Browbeat.
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, 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.
La Prensa, a Mexican publisher, released the Spanish language editions of the Sad Sack comics under the title Tristán Tristón. In addition to Sad Sack strips, other strips within each Tristán Tristón issue included Tristána Tristóna (Sad Sack’s cousin, Sadie Sack) and Capulín which was about a boy who had overly large feet. The latter two strips were often only one page and used as filler. Other filler strips included Firulais and Chiquilladas.