Walt Kelly‘s Pogo came to mind yesterday, and I’m not sure why.
Walt Kelly’s comic strip was created before my time, but thanks to my dad and his Pogo books, I grew up with it all the same. And now, of course, the internet is full of imagery and references.
So it’s not that I don’t think of Pogo often; I more than suspect it’s a running thread in the back of my mind. But there I was, talking with a new pal, and Pogo (as himself as well as the comic strip) popped into the forefront.
Haven’t met Pogo yet?
With a full cast of over 1,000 set in the Okefenokee Swamp, the main characters are what make this comic stick so hard in my mind, and to which I attribute a lot of influence during my formative years.
They’re completely irreverent. Definitely omnivorous, but they don’t eat each other (though I’m not so sure about all the fishing that goes on). They have newspaper offices with tree stumps for desks, and a bunny that carries the hose in case of fires.
The characters often lean against the sides of the comic strip boxes. They notice if each other’s “sound barriers”–the bubbles above their heads–have something odd going on.
As for the way they fracture the English language and possibly several other languages…
The Cast (Some Of Them)
We’ve got our star, Pogo Possum. Often referred to as an everyman possum, he has a generous, kindly nature, getting along the best that he knows how, but is not as naïve as some think.
There’s his almost constant companion, Albert, an alligator by trade, who is in no doubt as to his charms (“Funny how a good-lookin’ fella look handsome in anything he throw on!”).
There’s Howland Owl, a crafty but dangerously inept scientist-type who affects a wizard’s cap, and his best chum Churchy LaFemme, a superstitious turtle (“Friday the 13th falls on a Wednesday–today!”) with gold-speckled eyes.
There’s Beauregard, a hound dog who aspires to lofty and heroic goals, and Porky Pine, Pogo’s best friend, the swamp’s self-appointed orphan with a Resting Prickle Face.
Contrastingly, Deacon Mushrat talks in calligraphy and P.T. Bridgeport in grand marquees, arrows, and stars. Walt Kelly “pioneered the use of different lettering styles to represent his characters’ personalities and accents,” as shown in these two images per the Font Bureau Blog (2022 update: This link no longer leads to their post):
You’ll also meet Miss Sis Boombah, a barbell-lifting Rhode Island Red chicken (Foghorn Leghorn was a Rhode Island Red, so imagine the female version, only far, far more belligerent), Ma’m’selle Hepzibah, as alluring a French skunk as a French skunk can be, and Miz Beaver, a pipe-smoking, thick-biceped widow.
And then there are the three bats in overalls, often found playing cards, named Bewitched, Bothered, and Bemildred; and Grundoon, who really needs to be seen to be believed.
So if I wanted to tie it all together…
Like I said, I don’t think of Walt Kelly’s Pogo every day, but this comic strip went deep into my psyche the way Calvin & Hobbes or Bloom County has done for others.
And maybe it was just part of the joy of finding common ground with a new pal that made me think of something else that has always brought me delight!
These two pages below are among my all-time favorites.
The set-up: Churchy and Owl start a weather bureau (Wehter 4 Tole) and predict more winter. Everyone goes off to find a ground hog to see what he says.
Unfortunately, they only find a natural-born woodchunk (so he says), so when they come upon this here bonafide groundhog cave, this happens:
Hope you enjoyed this little side trip!
- Walt Kelly & Pogo
- Wikipedia on Pogo
- Get your own Pogo
- Already have Pogo books? Here’s a comprehensive index of favorite scenes!
Oh, and…even if you didn’t know Pogo before this, you might have seen or read this little gem before: