Walt Kelly’s Pogo, a daily comic strip that graced American newspapers from 1948 to 1975, is a masterpiece that seamlessly blended humor, satire, and politics. This timeless creation introduced readers to the charming characters of the Okefenokee Swamp and took them on a journey filled with wit, wisdom, and social commentary. From its humble beginnings in Dell Comics to its resurgence in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Pogo has left an indelible mark on the world of comic art. This article explores Pogo’s rich history, captivating characters, and lasting impact.
Pogo (comic strip)
Author(s): Walt Kelly
Current status/schedule: Concluded
Launch date: October 4, 1948 (as a newspaper strip)
End date: July 20, 1975
Syndicate(s): Post-Hall Syndicate
Publisher(s): Simon & Schuster, Fantagraphics Books, Gregg Press, Eclipse Comics, Spring Hollow Books
Genre(s): Humor, satire, politics
The Birth of Pogo: Dell Comics and Animal Comics
Walt Kelly, born in 1913 in Philadelphia, embarked on his artistic journey at Walt Disney Studios in 1935. After contributing to Disney classics like Pinocchio and Fantasia, Kelly transitioned to Dell Comics, where he introduced the characters of Pogo the Possum and Albert the Alligator in 1941. Initially created for Dell’s Animal Comics, Pogo, and Albert quickly became the narrative’s focal point, ushering in a shift from human to animal characters for their comedic potential.
New York Star and the Birth of Pogo
1948, Walt Kelly leaped political cartooning for the short-lived New York Star. During this time, he decided to bring Pogo to the daily comic strip format. Pogo officially debuted on October 4, 1948, becoming the first comic series to transition from comic books to newspapers permanently. This marked the beginning of a remarkable journey spanning nearly three decades.
Syndication and Pogo’s Enduring Run
On May 16, 1949, Pogo was picked up for national distribution by the Post-Hall Syndicate, solidifying its place in American newspapers. Kelly’s wit and artistry continued to captivate readers until October 18, 1973, when complications from diabetes forced him to step back from drawing the strip. Reprints and contributions from other artists, including Kelly’s wife Selby, sustained Pogo until its conclusion on July 20, 1975.
The Revival: 1989–1993
Pogo experienced a revival from January 8, 1989, to November 28, 1993, under “Walt Kelly’s Pogo.” Larry Doyle and Neal Sternecky took the helm initially, with Kelly’s son Peter and daughter Carolyn continuing the legacy after their departure. Despite its eventual end, this revival reignited interest in Pogo, introducing a new generation to the charm of Kelly’s creation.
Setting and Characters: Life in the Okefenokee Swamp
Pogo is set in the enchanting landscape of the Georgia section of the Okefenokee Swamp, where anthropomorphic animal characters navigate a world filled with lush backdrops and fictitious landmarks. The main cast includes Pogo Possum, Albert Alligator, Howland Owl, Churchill “Churchy” LaFemme, Beauregard Bugleboy, Porky Pine, Miz Mam’selle Hepzibah, Miz Beaver, Deacon Mushrat, and a host of other memorable residents.
Political and Social Satire
What set Pogo apart was its multi-layered storytelling. While seemingly a children’s comic, Pogo delved into sophisticated social and political satire that resonated with adult readers. Kelly used his characters to comment on real-world issues, employing humor and satire to address topics such as politics, environmentalism, and human nature.
A Rich Landscape of Parody and Fantasy
Kelly’s creativity knew no bounds, and Pogo often ventured into exotic locations, including visits to Australia and the mythical land of “Pandemonia.” The comic also featured whimsical parodies of Mother Goose nursery rhymes and fairy tales, showcasing Kelly’s ability to blend fantasy with commentary seamlessly.
The Cast of Characters: Endearing and Timeless
The characters of Pogo, each with its unique quirks and traits, contributed to the strip’s enduring appeal. From Pogo’s wise and humble demeanor to Albert’s exuberant antics, Howland’s pseudo-intellectualism, and Churchy’s poetic absurdity, the ensemble cast created a tapestry of personalities that readers cherished.
Awards and Recognition
Pogo garnered widespread acclaim, with renowned cartoonists like Jeff MacNelly and Mort Walker praising Kelly’s artistic brilliance. The strip received a Reuben Award in 1951, and Kelly was likened to literary figures such as James Joyce and Lewis Carroll. Pogo’s influence on the comic strip medium and its ability to convey disinterested commentary on life’s patterns earned it a unique place in the history of comics.
Conclusion: Pogo’s Enduring Impact
Walt Kelly’s Pogo remains a timeless masterpiece that transcends generations. Its intricate blend of humor, satire, and social commentary set a standard for comic strips that few have matched. As we reflect on the enchanting journey through the Okefenokee Swamp and the enduring legacy of Pogo, it becomes clear that Kelly’s creation is not just a comic strip but a work of art that continues to captivate and inspire readers of all ages.
FAQs: Pogo Comic Strip
What is Pogo, and who created it?
Pogo was a daily comic strip created by cartoonist Walt Kelly. It was syndicated to American newspapers from 1948 until 1975. Set in the Okefenokee Swamp in the Southeastern United States, Pogo followed the adventures of anthropomorphic animal characters, including the title character, an opossum.
When did Pogo first launch, and when did it conclude?
Pogo debuted as a newspaper strip on October 4, 1948, and ran continuously until July 20, 1975.
Who syndicated Pogo, and who were the publishers?
The Post-Hall Syndicate distributed Pogo. Simon & Schuster, Fantagraphics Books, Gregg Press, Eclipse Comics, and Spring Hollow Books published the strip.
What genres did Pogo cover?
Pogo encompassed the genres of humor, satire, and politics. It was known for its layers of social and political satire targeted at adult readers.
Who was Walt Kelly, the creator of Pogo?
Walt Kelly was born on August 25, 1913, and worked on Donald Duck cartoons at Walt Disney Studios in 1935. He created the characters Pogo and Albert in 1941 for Dell’s Animal Comics. A talented animator, Kelly worked on various Disney projects and later became known for his significant contributions to comic strips.
After debuting in newspapers in 1948, Pogo was nationally syndicated by the Post-Hall Syndicate on May 16, 1949. The strip continued until Walt Kelly died in 1973, with some reprints after he fell ill. There was a brief revival from 1989 to 1993 under “Walt Kelly’s Pogo.”
Who were some of the main characters in Pogo?
Pogo featured a diverse cast of characters, including:
- Pogo Possum: The reasonable, patient, and softhearted opossum.
- Albert Alligator: An exuberant, dimwitted alligator and Pogo’s friend.
- Howland Owl: A horned owl and self-proclaimed “expert” scientist.
- Churchill “Churchy” LaFemme: A mud turtle who composes songs and poems.
- Beauregard Bugleboy: A hound dog, constable, and Fire Brigade chief.
- Porky Pine: A misanthropic porcupine and Pogo’s best friend.
- Miz Mam’selle Hepzibah: A French skunk admired by many in the swamp.
- Miz Beaver: A no-nonsense beaver, traditional mother, and “widder.”
- Deacon Mushrat: A muskrat and the local man of the cloth.
Was Pogo ever revived after its original run?
A revival was titled “Walt Kelly’s Pogo” from 1989 to 1993. It was written by Larry Doyle and drawn by Neal Sternecky.
What awards and recognition did Pogo receive?
Pogo and Walt Kelly received significant recognition. Critics compared Kelly’s work to literary greats, and Pogo was hailed as a unique contribution to comic art. Awards include the Reuben Award 1951 and high praise from fellow cartoonists such as Jeff MacNelly and Mort Walker.
How can I access Pogo comics today?
Pogo comics are available through various publishers, and you can explore collections from Simon & Schuster, Fantagraphics Books, and other outlets. Online platforms may also offer access to Pogo strips for readers interested in its timeless humor and satire.
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