#5, Amazon.com Best Books of 2011: Comics & Graphic Novels Top 10
#4, Amazon.ca Best Books of 2011: Comics & Graphic Novels Top 10
Walt Kelly started his career at age 13 in Connecticut as a cartoonist
and reporter for the Bridgeport Post. In 1935, he moved
to Los Angeles and joined the Walt Disney Studio, where he
worked on classic animated films, including Pinocchio, Dumbo,
and Fantasia. Rather than take sides in a bitter labor strike, he
moved back east in 1941 and began drawing comic books.
It was during this time that Kelly created Pogo Possum. The
character first appeared in Animal Comics as a secondary player in the “Albert the Alligator” feature. It didn’t take long
until Pogo became the comic’s leading character. After WWII, Kelly became artistic director at the New York Star, where
he turned Pogo into a daily strip. By late 1949, Pogo appeared in hundreds of newspapers. Until his death in 1973, Kelly
produced a feature that has become widely cherished among casual readers and aficionados alike.
Kelly blended nonsense language, poetry, and political and social satire to make Pogo an essential contribution to
American “intellectual” comics. As the strip progressed, it became a hilarious platform for Kelly’s scathing political views
in which he skewered national bogeymen like J. Edgar Hoover, Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace, and Richard Nixon.
Walt Kelly started when newspaper strips shied away from politics — Pogo was ahead of its time and ahead of later
strips (such as Doonesbury and The Boondocks) that tackled political issues. Our first (of 12) volume reprints approximately
the first two years of Pogo — dailies and (for the first time) full-color Sundays.
This first volume also introduces such enduring supporting characters as Porkypine, Churchy LaFemme, Beauregard
Bugleboy, Seminole Sam, Howland Owl, and many others. And for Christmas, 1949, Kelly started his tradition of regaling
his readers with his infamously and gloriously mangled Christmas carols.
Special features in this sumptuous premiere volume, which is produced with the full cooperation of Kelly’s heirs,
include a biographical introduction by Kelly biographer Steve Thompson, an extensive section by comics historian R.C.
Harvey explaining some of the more obscure current references of the time (read an unexpurgated version here), a foreword by legendary columnist Jimmy
Breslin, and more.
Download and read a 29-page PDF excerpt (7.7 MB) including the Editors' Notes and Table of Contents; 16 pages of daily strips; and 4 Sunday strips. Also, read R.C. Harvey's "Swamp Talk" annotations in unexpurgated form here.
"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
"After numerous delays, this essential purchase for any collection that values comic-strip reprints is finally
available.... In these... strips from the first two years of Pogo’s two-and-a-half-decades
run, the direct political satire is mostly broadly focused (thinly masked approximations of headliners from
McCarthy and Nixon to Castro and Khrushchev would all spend time in Okefenokee Swamp), but the
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