Now, I never promised you the best of Walt Kelly, I more-or-less promised an appreciative examination of the Whirled of Kelly. This drawing from the Complete Nursery Song Book certainly isn't his best, and isn't even recognizable as his style. But for those who appreciate Kelly's Whirled, it's informative to know where he came from to get to where he got to—I think.
Walt Kelly had a love of editorial cartooning, politicizing with them in the late 40s and early 50s. Here, he portrayed President Eisenhower's plight "as that of a school bus driver who has had motor trouble, and while he studies a motor manual, his irresponsible passengers 'help' by indulging in assorted Katzenjammer Kids antics." Senator Joe McCarthy seems to be doing the most damage.
This ran as a (large) full page, commissioned by Life magazine in the 50s.
I can almost imagine those woods back there as being the far northern fringe of the Okefenokee, and ol' mouse hitching a ride on that train, coming in from Baltimore.
Y'see, Waldo is of the piscatorial persuasion, not that there's anything wrong with that, and . . . well, y'see, Waldo's in love with miss Li'l' Awry, and wants to marry her. Y'see, he proposed to her, but she's stalling him cuz, y'know, she's a bunny who's only a week old. And, well, that's a story for another time. Let's continue with this one . . .
Kelly certainly wasn't averse to going for jes' plain cute.
When I was reading the strip in real time, back in '65, Li'l' Awry wore pretty thin, I thought. But looking at these strips now, it's a nice change of pace to see this perpetually week-old bunny. And as for Waldo the fish, well . . .
. . . and we are back. I have met my deadline, and I am exhausted. But I knew I couldn't let a Sunday go by without a Kelly Sunday post. This one is completely out of season, but that won't bother us, will it?
I love Kelly bugs more'n any other bugs in the whirled.
And take a closer look at that opening shot. Wotta view. And take an even closer look at the birds—they have the face of the little mascot that Pat Oliphant drew into every editorial cartoon that he created. It just so happens that Oliphant tied with Johnny (BC) Hart to win the Cartoonist of the Year award the preceding year.
I think it's rather fascinating to see Kelly's early renderings take on a feeling of dimensionality. And in this case, hinting at character development for the Pogo strip, as the City Rat looks an awful lot like Ol' Mouse will end up looking like, all resourceful and independent.
We're quite used to Kelly's renderings of swamp settings, so it's fun to see his drawing of a British horizon, pulled from The Complete Nursery Song Book of 1947.
"Oranges and lemons," say the bells of St. Clemens. "You owe me five farthings," say the bells of St. Martin's. "When will you pay me?" say the bells of Old Bailey. "When I grow rich," say the bells of Shoreditch. "When will that be?" say the bells of Stepney. "I do not know," says the great bell of Bow. Here comes a candle to light you to bed; And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!
"Pancakes and fritters," say the bells of Saint Peter's.
"Two sticks and an apple," say the bells of Whitechapel.
"Old father Bald-pate," say the slow bells of Aldgate.
"Pokers and tongs," say the bells of Saint John's.
"Kettles and pans," say the bells of Saint Ann's.
"Brickbats and tiles," say the bells of Saint Giles.
Another Kelly illustration from The Complete Nursery Song Book, 1947. Kelly certainly could have made a career of children's book illustration, but I'm kinda glad he didn't. Still, awfully fun to look at, what with the bunrab and mouse.
I received the nice email shown below, and I want to ask y'all if anyone else has had trouble with the comments feature. If so, please email me as well, so I can work the bugs out. Thanks Mark!
As a long-time Kelly fan (a reader of the strips in the 1960s, a reader of the books since 1979), I wanted to thank you for posting all of the excellent Kelly scans on your pages.
I've actually tried to post comments on your site, but for some reason, the Comments feature has consistently defeated me. For that reason, I wanted to let you know here, by email, how much your work and dedication have meant to me. If you have the time and energy to continue, then I have the gratitude and enthusiasm to keep visiting your fine contribution to Pogo fans everywhere.
1952 is one of my favorite years for several reasons, one of which was the flowering beauty of Walt Kelly's art. This is his double page spread from Life Magazine. A very tip top Kelly favorite of all time.
February 2 – A tropical storm forms just north of Cuba moving northeast. The storm makes landfall in southern Florida the next day. It is the earliest reported landfall from a tropical storm, and the earliest formation of a tropical storm on record in the Atlantic basin.
July 19–26 – Washington D.C. is "buzzed" by several alleged UFOs tracked on multiple radars. Jets scramble on several occasions and the objects take evasive action, only to return after the jets leave the area.
My name is Thom Buchanan.
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I refer to myself as a pictorialist, a combination of image-making and journalist. Images are my life.
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