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It’s in this volume (featuring another two years' worth of Pogo strips) that we meet one of Walt Kelly's boldest political caricatures. Folks across America had little trouble equating the insidious wildcat Simple J. Malarkey with the ascendant anti-Communist senator, Joseph McCarthy. The subject was sensitive enough
that by the following year a Providence, Rhode Island newspaper threatened to drop the strip if Malarkey's face were to appear in it again. Kelly’s response? He had Malarkey appear again but put a bag over the character's head for his next appearance. Ergo, his face did not appear. (Typical of Kelly's layers of verbal wit, the character Malarkey was hiding from was a "Rhode Island Red" hen, referencing both the source of his need to conceal Malarkey and the underlying political controversy.) The entirety of these sequences can be found in this book.
But the Malarkey storyline is only a tiny portion of those rich, eventful two years, which include such classic sequences as con-man Seminole Sam's attempts to corner the market on water (which Porkypine's Uncle Baldwin tries to one-up by cornering the market on dirt); a return engagement of Pup Dog and Houn'dog's blank-eyed Little Orphan Annie parody "Li'l Arf and Nonny"; Churchy La Femme going in drag to deliver a love poem he wrote, Cyrano style, on Deacon Mushrat’s behalf to Sis Boombah (the aforementioned hen); P.T. Bridgeport's return to the swamp in search of new talent; and of course two rousing choruses of "Deck Us All With Boston Charlie."
In addition to presenting all of 1953 and 1954's daily strips complete and in order for the first time anywhere (many of them once again scanned from original syndicate proofs, for their crispest and most detailed appearance ever), Pogo Volume 3: "Evidence to the Contrary" also contains all 104 Sunday strips from these two years, presented in lush full color for the first time since their original appearance in Sunday sections 60 years ago — plus the usual in-depth "Swamp Talk" historical annotations by R.C. Harvey, spectacular samples of Kelly's work scanned from original art, and a whole lot more!
#5, Amazon.com Best Books of 2011: Comics & Graphic Novels Top 10
#4, Amazon.ca Best Books of 2011: Comics & Graphic Novels Top 10
"To say that it has been worth the wait is wild understatement. Pogo Through the Wild Blue Wonder is beautifully produced — no surprise to anyone familiar with the work of Fantagraphics Books in Seattle — and a joy to read. It comes as a genuine gift to anyone who loved Pogo and, it is to be hoped, as an introduction for younger readers to what many people believe was the best comic strip ever drawn in this country." – Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
"...[An] essential purchase for any collection that values comic-strip reprints ... [T]he
inventive wordplay, idiosyncratic swamp patter, and goofy slapstick are all in full effect right from the
start, as is the broad cast of loony critters that would eventually number upwards of 500 distinct characters.
Due to run 12 volumes, this collection completes the holy trifecta, along with Charles Schulz’ Peanuts and
George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, of comic strips whose influence cannot be overstated."
– Ian Chipman, Booklist
"...[T]here’s simply no denying Kelly’s mastery: he evokes full characters with nothing but a few choice words, and the sprightliness of his visual style is all fun here, laying the groundwork for what would become profoundly subversive later. The included essays, as is usually the case for Fantagraphics reissues, absolutely nail the context and import of the strip, too. I just don’t think you can say you love comics and not have this around." – David Berry, National Post
"The first volume is... absolutely beautiful, a big comic book with real heft and majesty.... This isn't a book you read so much as sink into: Kelly's brilliant ear for dialect and voice lulls you along, and then you're lost in his beautiful artwork.... The whole book is... a series of packed — but crystal clear — panels that grow together to establish a world of curious characters whose misunderstandings lead to great adventures. If I had to make one complaint about this Pogo collection, it'd be that it ends too soon.... If you like comics, or if you know any kids who read comic strip collections, this is the Christmas book for you." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
"The book is lovingly made and the strips presented with care and pleasure. But is it any good? Oh yes. It's funny and charming, bursting with witty wordplay and vivid characters you love immediately.... In short, read Pogo and you can immediately see it slide into the pop cultural matrix and how it drew upon the work that came earlier, moved forward the art form of comic strips and influenced artists after it for generations to come. But most of all you'll laugh..." – Michael Giltz, The Huffington Post
"This exceptional first volume of the collected adventures of Pogo Possum should remind readers of the substantial legacy left behind by Kelly.... The volume is beautifully put together, including excellent insights into Kelly and his work... With Pogo Possum and [his] supporting characters..., Kelly was able to blend hilarious humor, exceptional storytelling, keen political satire, and brilliant wordplay into a strip that could be appreciated both by children and adults. The more one reads this volume, the clearer picture one has of Kelly as comics' answer to Lewis Carroll, with Alice having changed into a possum and left Wonderland behind for a swamp." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"The biggest revelation of reading the first two years of Pogo is how polished and funny the strip was right from the start, and also how nearly every Pogo panel is a delight unto itself. Kelly didn’t necessarily build to big punchlines; he’d slip funny sight gags and memorable lines everywhere there was room. ...[T]here’s a classic Pogo moment on just about every page of this book." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
"Presenting his characters as animals gave Kelly the ability to explore human nature without the distraction that cartoon humans would have bought along with them. His illustration style was warm, highly expressive, and detailed without looking crowded. It's hard to think of another newspaper cartoonist who equalled his talents. Kelly's daughter, Carolyn, designed and co-edited this 290-page anthology, and her love and admiration for her father is evident in the beauty of this book. The design is impeccable and the quality of the line art reproduction is superb." – Mark Frauenfelder, Boing Boing
"It's a hefty volume, and will leave even the most dyspeptic Pogo fan wide-eyed with wonder and gratitude." – Jon Carroll, San Francisco Chronicle
Praise for Walt Kelly and Pogo:
"Kelly was clearly seeking to express something like the broad range of his daily interests and worries and pleasures in Pogo. That the newspaper strip is notoriously limited only ennobled Kelly's efforts. Inevitably, no matter how large or small the genre in question, there's something heartening in watching somebody of real doggedness and verve attempt to expand its borders. Pogo was a warmhearted reproof to most of the comics it appeared beside." – The New York Review of Books
"If Walt Kelly had written 'regular' books, he might be recognized today as one of the finest satirists of the 20th Century. As a wizard of wordplay he might well be mentioned, if not in the same breath with Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, then in the very next." – Chicago Sun-Times