Walt Kelly: Comic Book Cartoon Character Pogo Possum and the Okefenokee swamp Characters
Pogo Comic Strip
The Pogo comic strip was a favorite of mine, especially in high school and college years although some of my classmates thought I should grow up and quit reading comics. Pogo, could be read as an ordinary comic by children, or a vehicle for social and political satire.. Satirists in the past often wrote books that still appeal to children but could be read on a more sophisticated level.
According to Wikipedia “Pogo combined sophisticated wit and slapstick physical comedy in a heady mix of allegory, Irish poetry, literary whimsy, puns and wordplay, lushly detailed artwork, irresistible characters and broad burlesque humor.”
Kelley had some obvious influences, such as P.T. Barnum and Al Capp Kelly had a lifetime association with fellow cartoonists Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates, Steve Canyon) as well as Al Capp (Lil’ Abner.)
. There is something about the non-sense dialogue and verse that strikes me as coming from Lewis Carroll. To me Pogo has a very close resemblance to Lewis Carroll and I find he was an admirer of Lewis Carroll.
Another similarity is the setting. In the Alice books, Alice is the normal person running into all sorts of characters who are not normal, in fact, defy normality. Much the same for the Pogo character.
The primary source of information for this hub is Wikipeidia and my own memory.
Pogo Possum is friendly, humble and philosophical. He likes a simple life and tries to avoid trouble.
Albert Alligator is exuberant, dimwitted, irascible and egotistical. He often stumbles into trouble.
In addition there are a number of other animal characters that play a variety of roles, each with an individual personality and eccentricities.
Walter Crawford Kelly, Jr. was born in Philadelphia August 25,1913. His family moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut. At the age of 22 he went to California to work on Donald Duck cartoons for Disney Studios, from 1935 until the 1941 strike. In that time he did animation on Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo and The Reluctant Dragon . He then went to work for Dell Comics.
Between high school and Disney he got a job as a crime reporter for the Bridgeport Post.” When he took up cartooning he illustrated a biography of P.T. Barnum who was a Bridgeport, Connecticut native. A character like him and symbols show in Pogo at times. He was proud of his newspaper background.
For the first issue of Animal Comics he did a story titled “Albert takes the Cake.” Pogo the Possum and Albert the alligator were created at that time. They were supposed to be comic foils for a black boy named Bumbazine but this character was dropped because Kelly did not feel comfortable with writing dialog for a human child. Pogo became the straight man and lead character.
Okefenokee Swamp where Pogo and friends live
The location of the stories is in the Georgia section of the Okefenokee Swamp.
“The Predominant vernacular in Pogo sometimes referred to as ‘swamp-speak’ is essentially a rural southern U.S. dialect laced with non-stop malapropisms, fractured grammar, ‘creative’ spelling and mangled polysyllables such as ‘incrdibobble,’ and ‘hysteriwockle.’” According Wikipedia.
Earth Day Poster
Earth Day 1972
Even people who have not read Pogo comics seem to know the phrase “We have met the enemy and He is Us.”
When somebody asked me where it came from I didn’t know. As it happens it was on a 1972 poster for Earth Day. At that time I didn’t know there was more Pogo that I hadn’t read.
Satire and politics
Kelly portrayed Pogo as a reluctant presidential candidate in 1952 and 1956. In 1960 he commented on JFK’s relative youth by portraying an egg with two webbed feet as a candidate. Kelly claimed to be against all extremes-Left, Right and Middle. He helped campaign for voter registration with the slogan “Pogo says: If you can’t vote my way, vote anyway, but VOTE!”
He caricatured Senator Joseph McCarthy as a wildcat named “Simple J. Malarky.”
In the 1960’s Fidel Castro appeared as an alligator goat named “Fido” Nikta Krushev appeared as both a bear and a pig.
He had a feline reporter from “Newslife” whose name was “Typo” and resembled Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller. By the 1968 presidential campaign he portrayed George Romney, Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, George Wallace and Robert F. Kennedy as wind up toys. Eugene McCarthy as a white knight tied backwards to his horse
LBJ was portrayed as a befuddled longhorn steer with cowboy boots. At a previous time he had been portrayed as half man –half horse with a cowboy hat and referred to as “The Loan Arranger.”
In the 1970’s Kelly mocked the Nixon administration with Bulldog characters, He also caricatured J. Edgar Hoover, Spiro Agnew, and John Mitchell. Hoover may have taken it all too seriously. According to FBI documents Hoover suspected Kelly of sending coded messages in his nonsense poetry and southern accents in the strips.
The Bunny Strips
His satire and political content drew criticism from supporters of those he spoofed. A number of papers wanted to drop his comic strip, so when Kelly had a controversial story line he would write an alternate version that he called” bunny strips” because they were populated with the least offensive material he could come up with, often little bunnies telling jokes. However he often did a subtle rework of the original material which some papers published both versions.
Kelly died in 1973 from complications of diabetes.
Link to Pogo article
- Pogo (comic strip) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This is the wikipedia article about Pogo
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