Walt Kelly

From Academic Kids

Walter Crawford Kelly, Jr (August 25, 1913 - October 18, 1973), known simply as Walt Kelly, was a cartoonist notable for his comic strip "Pogo" featuring characters that inhabited a portion of the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia.

"Pogo" was a landmark strip in many ways and Kelly is arguably one of the greatest and most influential of cartoonists in the history of the craft. Kelly combined masterful line and brush-work (learned at the "mouse factory", i.e. Disney) with fluent and highly-amusing story-telling acted out by an endearing cast of "nature's screechers". He borrowed from various dialectical sources and his own fertile imagination to invent a unique and charming backwoods-patois, heavy on the nonsense, to fit his cartoon swampland. Although "Pogo" stands on its own as a superbly-realised cartoon strip for the ages, it was perhaps Kelly's interjection of political and social satire into the work that was its greatest pioneering accomplishment- such commentary was simply not done in the genre of dailies in Kelly's time.

The principal characters were Pogo the Possum; Albert the Alligator; Churchy LaFemme (cf. Cherchez la femme), a turtle; Howland Owl; Houndog; and Miss Mamzelle Hepzibah, a French skunk. Kelly used the strip in part as a vehicle for his liberal and humanistic political and social views and satirized, among other things, Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communist demagogy and the sectarian and dogmatic behavior of Communists.

In 1952 and later, a "Pogo for President" campaign, with followers wearing "I Go Pogo" buttons, became an expression of political protest. "Pogo" was also distinguished by exceptional linguistic inventiveness and playfulness, as expressed, for example, in the Pogo version of songs such as "Deck Us All with Boston Charlie" (for "Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly") and "Ma Booney lice soda devotion" (for "My Bonnie lies over the ocean").

Perhaps the most famous quotation to come from this series is, "We have met the enemy and he is us." The earliest form of this expression appeared in his introduction to The Pogo Papers (1953); it was used much later in the comic strip and as the title of a collection of strips. This is typical of the wry and politically astute commentary to be found in the daily and Sunday strip. It was distributed by King Features Syndicate to hundreds of newspapers for many years. The individual strips were collected into at least twenty books, some reprinted editions remain available today.

Walt Kelly illustrated a delightful children's book titled The Glob on the evolution of man written by John O'Reilly and published in 1952. The characters and creatures in the book have a distinctly Pogoian character.

There was even a claymation movie featuring the antics of those swamp creatures.

On his passing in 1973, Walt Kelly was interred in the Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn, New York.

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