Sunday, August 05, 2012

Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips, Vol. 1: Through the Wild Blue Wonder by Walt Kelly

I'm not the person to tell you how important Pogo is as an American comic strip; Walt Kelly died when I was still just a (as one of his characters might put it) "l'il shirt-tail tad," in the early 1970s. The strip has been intermittently reprinted, but not for a long time, and I have to admit that I'd never read it before.

But the long-promised complete reprinting of the full comic-strip run of Pogo (there is also a separate stream of Pogo comic books, which started a few years earlier and ended much earlier) finally got started last fall, after all of the production difficulties of finding and cleaning up sixty-five-year-old (and, at the time, considered very disposable) art were finally cleared up. This book is the first of a promised twelve volumes that will take Kelly's Pogo from its start in 1949 (and, as an appendix here, a false start the fall before in the short-lived New York Star) through Kelly's death in the fall of 1973 -- there's no specific promise of how soon those subsequent eleven volumes will take, though presumably the hope is that it will take less time than the original publication.

Pogo later became a very political strip, commenting on the topics of the day through its lens of animals in a Georgia swamp, but these first two years of Pogo are less time-bound: there's the beginning of annual traditions around the World Series and Christmas, but Kelly mostly just takes the time to introduce his large cast and set them off on several extended sequences, mostly of confusion and slapstick. Kelly's line was supple and lovely from the beginning, and his trademark broken-English dialect and odd stage-Southern cadence works much better than any description of it could hope to explain; his characters talk like themselves, in their own little secondary world, and they started the strip already talking exactly like that, with all of their relationships and thoughts already set.

So Pogo is one of the great American comic strips -- as comics are one of the uniquely American art forms -- and it's more than time for Pogo to have its due in the form of a classy reprint collection. This one will certainly do.

No comments:

Post a Comment