Beetle started out in college at the time of the Korean War. During the first year he dropped out of college and joined the army where he remains today. After 60 years the strip remains one of the most popular.
The strip features some weird and inept characters stationed around the fictional military base, Camp Swampy. No one ever actually goes into battle, although there are occasional training maneuvers.
Beetle Bailey is a lazy, endearing goof-ball who would rather nap than do much of anything else. His best friend Private Killer Diller would rather chase women than do much of anything else.
Other main characters include General Halftrack, who runs Camp Swampy in his own inept way, but is afraid of his wife; Plato, the intellectual private who writes long philosophical graffiti; Lieutenant Fuzz, the very young officer who can be seen sucking up to superiors and trying in vain to command the respect of enlisted men; Miss Buxley, the general’s sexy blonde civilian secretary.
Although he seems to be in control of his life, Sarge is often seen hanging on a small branch after having gone over the edge of a cliff.
While Sarge is grouchy and bossy, he is also lovable with a sentimental side.
Otto, Sarge’s dog, looks like a doggie version of him. The two are fiercely loyal to each other. At one time Otto was a four-legged dog, but Morton thought he was funnier on two legs in uniform. Otto communicates in thought bubbles of matters both doggie and existential.