Working name of US cartoonist Walter Crawford Kelly (1913-1973), who began his career with Disney in the early 1940s and who contributed to Comics like Fairy Tale Parade (Dell 1942-1946); he gained his central importance in US fantasy for his Pogo comic strip. The strip – begun October 4, 1948, and written and drawn by WK from its inception – was preceded by more than one comic-book incarnation of Pogo and his Companions, beginning with the first issue of Animal Comics (1942). The strip continued until WK's death; members of his family continued it for a period afterwards, but without success.
Set in a richly drawn Land-of-Fable Okeefenokee Swamp in the state of Georgia – a Pastoral environment which WK transformed into a Polder not always immune from invasions from the outer world – the Pogo sequence presents a Beast-Fable commentary whose sharpness about the contemporary USA often caused distribution difficulties: newspapers frequently excised strips satirizing politicians like Senator Joseph McCarthy ("Simple J. Malarkey"), the John Birch Society – these were famously assembled as The Jack Acid Society Black Book (graph coll 1962) as by Pogo – or Lyndon B Johnson, in strips assembled as Prehysterical Pogo (in Pandemonia) (graph coll 1967), which takes place in a Wonderland inhabited by a wide range of fantasy figures. A phrase coined by WK with reference to ecological issues – "We have met the enemy and he is us" – has become so well known that its origin in comics has often been forgotten.
The strip's linguistic inventiveness, the intense cleverness of WK's transformation of Disney-esque visual drolleries into an absolutely unmistakable and individual vision, and the genial surrealism with which he expressed his love for and anger with the USA – all make Pogo one of the central US fantasy sequences. Pogo the possum, Albert the alligator, Howland Owl, Churchy la Femme the turtle and about 600 other named characters occupy one of the most complexly sustained fantasy worlds yet conceived. Along with George Herriman's Krazy Kat, Pogo demonstrates the range and pathos and depth of feeling attainable in comics form.
Much of the strip was assembled, with the originals revised to form coordinated assemblies. These include: Pogo (graph coll 1951); I Go Pogo (graph coll 1952); Uncle Pogo So-So Stories (graph coll 1953); The Pogo Papers (graph coll 1953); The Pogo Stepmother Goose (graph coll 1954); The Incompleat Pogo (graph coll 1954); The Pogo Peek-A-Book (graph coll 1955); Potluck Pogo (graph coll 1955); The Pogo Sunday Book (graph coll 1956); The Pogo Party (graph coll 1956); Pogo's Sunday Punch (graph coll 1957); Positively Pogo (graph coll 1957); The Pogo Sunday Parade (graph coll 1958); G.O. Fizzickle Pogo (graph coll 1958); The Pogo Sunday Brunch (graph coll 1959); Ten Ever-Lovin' Blue-Eyed Years with Pogo: 1949-1959 (graph coll 1959); Beau Pogo (graph coll 1960); Pogo Extra (Election Special) (graph coll 1960); Pogo à la Sundae (graph coll 1961); Gone Pogo (graph coll 1961); Instant Pogo (graph coll 1962); Pogo Puce Stamp Catalog (graph coll 1963); Deck Us All with Boston Charlie (graph coll 1963); The Return of Pogo (graph coll 1965); The Pogo Poop Book (graph coll 1966); Equal Time for Pogo (graph coll 1968); Pogo: Prisoner of Love (graph coll 1969); Impollutable Pogo (graph coll 1970); Pogo: We Have Met The Enemy and He is Us (graph coll 1972). Posthumous compilations include: The Best of Pogo (graph coll 1982); Pogo Even Better (graph coll 1984); Outrageously Pogo (graph coll 1985); Pluperfect Pogo (graph coll 1987); Phi Beta Pogo (graph coll 1989); Pogo Files for Pogophiles (graph coll 1992). A proposed complete republication of the strips in their original order has begun with Pogo: Volume One (graph coll 1992) and Pogo: Volume Two (graph coll 1994). [JC]
Walter Crawford Kelly