Pogo's 'look' certainly changed over the years. Starting out as a scraggly rat looking thing, turning cute and then cutest ever between 1952 and 1954 and then 'maturing' from there. His look in this first panel hearkens back to the early 50s. It's a subtle thing, but compare the 1st to the last panels.
This is, of course, a blog about Walt Kelly and his art, not just Pogo. So I feel the need to slip in some other cool Kelly stuff here and there to sweeten the pot.
Kelly created several editorial cartoons for Life magazine back in the 50s, and they tended to be quite complicated, as Kelly was most adept at.
This is a beautiful rendition of Adlai Stevenson's perilous path to the 1956 Democratic nomination for President. From November of 1955, it is a gauntlet of woe, though he be spurred on by the springy enthusiasm of Hubert Humphrey, and aided by Truman's elixirs of hope (though Truman did not endorse him). After jousting with contenders Estes Kefauver and Avrell Harriman, he needed to cross the perilous bridge of Civil Rights, at the risk of being dynamited by southern senators. And lastly to win the nomination (the fair damsel), he had to overcome himself, as the reluctant dragon, in the California primary.
Stevenson had been nicknamed 'an egghead' by Richard Nixon in 1952, and Stevenson even joked about it, and so we see little eggheads scurrying around and cheering him on.
It's sort of horrible seeing Albert, or his kin, lifelessly skinned. But wow, what a drawing!
Hepzibah is of course referring to good ol' Charlie Brown, who at that time had gone through several episodes of refusing to abandon the pitcher's mound during a blinding rainstorm.
Kelly was a true admirer of Charles Schulz and Peanuts. No wonder that those were my two favorite strips being published at that time. I saved Peanuts strips as religiously as Pogo, though I later gave away my Peanuts collection.
It's actually true that there are some folk who are generally not superstitious, but still feel that the hat on the bed is bad news. Back in Kelly's heyday, many people wore hats and many avoided the act, though the superstition may date back to the cowboy days, when, uh, lice would tumble out of the hat into the bedding. Whatever.
And Red Smith was a sports writer of Kelly's generation who was very quotable.
Here we is, just as we wuz in 1965 with a Friday falling ka-thud on the 13th. Some people (and turkles) might find that troubling. But I gotta tell ya—my wife and I intentionally chose to be married on a Friday the 13th, and we are still happily married 23 years later (yes, to each other).
Okay, when I first cut this strip out of the paper and trimmed it 45 years ago, this had too many words for me to appreciate. But even then I appreciated continuity and knew that I should save the strip anyways, which I dutifully did. And even if it's too many words for you now, hang in there, cuz there's some fine acting coming up in the next couple of days.
Saturdays were special back then even in the middle of summer vacation, sort of like double freedom if that makes any sense. Maybe it was a carry over from the school year that Saturday was the day of exploration and giving in to daydreams. It was the day I sorted comix and comic strips. It was the day I would paste the strips into albums.
It's a strange feeling to know what I was doing 45 years ago this very minute.
In response to a comment, yes, I don't think these particular strips have been collected before. As popular as Kelly's Pogo books had been up until then, sales had been starting to dwindle around this time. Oh they were still doing reprint books, but utilizing only select arcs.
This particular arc will be morphing a couple of times fairly quickly, so keep coming back for an interesting little turn down the road.
This strip brings up the absurdity of funny animal clothing. Pogo allus walks around with the bare bottoms, but we usually don't even notice that. Actually that just reminded me that Mam'selle Hepzibah is allus topless. Eek.
I'm aware of how long it seems between posts, when they're posted 'only' daily. Four panels and then that's it? We've got to wait 24 hours for the next 4 panels? But of course that's just how it is and was for the newspaper comics. Sometimes it was agony, wanting more, having to wait.
That's of course where the Pogo books came into play. Read, reread, go out and find and collect another Pogo book. Finding a Pogo book that you hadn't read before was the treasure of treasures.
But between those times, at least a new strip would show up every 24 hours. I would clip em, save em, and before I knew it—I had a bunch of em. And then I would collect them into a book of my own, laying them out in a similar fashion as Kelly's printed books, with room for extra art and commentary.
And that's why we have these strips to look at now, because I made my own books and kept them all these years.
We're joining the story, already in progress. I had to step in somewhere, cuz the storylines just wander all over the landscape, and there is no starting line. And it's funny that I was going to try to summarize the story up to this point, but I can't really. Kelly doesn't have a plot. Characters dance around for a while and then somehow they change partners.
This strip seems a good place to start, being today's date and all, and bringing Pogo back into the fray, when he hadn't been in for a whiles. And not to be too much of a spoiler, the story will get around to involving Pogo paternally. Huh?
Well anyway, it's 45 years ago, it's a lazy summer day. Hear the locusts buzz in the distance and the owl that hoots quietly in the morning in the tree outside the window. The heat is already sweltering at 8 in the morning, and the newspaper is unfolded to the comic section.
1965 was a pretty good year for searching out and collecting all sorts of pictorial ephemera. But a treasure that I didn't have to go looking for would come to my door, on its own, every day of the week.
That of course was the comic section of the paper, and most specifically the Pogo strip. The summer of '65 was an idyllic time for me. REALly needing a rest from school, it seemed like one of the longest summers of my life, daily escaping into my flights of imagination. Reading each of the daily Pogo strips was only momentary, but all these years later, as I look at the strips from that summer, I can recall the weather, the sounds, the dreaminess of those days.
In honor of that, and riding with the coincidence that the calendar of that year is the same as this year, starting today I'm going to post Pogo on a daily basis, Sundays and dailies—for a while at least, maybe into October. Gulp—that's going to be a lot of work. I beg your patience though, if I'm sick or have a sickening deadline, or I'm out of town, or have some emergency. If I miss a day, I will make good for it. And I haven't even checked to see if I'm missing any of those strips to begin with, but I've got most of em for sure.
AND, never fear, I will ALSO be posting other great Kelly stuff along the way, such as more Peter Wheats, and other non-Pogo material. But every day, for a while, you'll be able to toon into a new strip. It's not quite as much fun as having it show up in newsprint and ink, but try to enjoy it anyway.
And please leave a comment here or there. I need to know if anybody IS enjoying it.
My name is Thom Buchanan.
I'm an artist and photographer.
People are my favorite subjects to portray in art and photos. My wife (and studio partner) has called that my 'people skills', as I've been passionately creating portrait studies for many years.
I refer to myself as a pictorialist, a combination of image-making and journalist. Images are my life.
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