Eighty-one years ago Walt Kelly introduced the world to Pogo Possum in a comic book.
For the next five years Pogo and Albert the Alligator appeared in those Animal Comics and in a couple Four-Color specials. Then in late 1947 Pogo and friends entered into a kind of limbo. Walt Kelly continued contributing to The Brownies and Mother Goose comic books, but Pogo went missing.
In early Summer of 1948 Walt Kelly went on staff at the nascent New York Star, a liberal newspaper. It took all of three months and a week for Walt Kelly to bring back his Pogo, not as a comic book but as a newspaper comic strip.
Pogo’s first newspaper comic strip was on October 4, 1948 in The New York Star, 75 years ago today.
That October 6th strip above may hold a clue as to why it took the better part of a year for Pogo to reappear. Animal Comics #30, cover dated December 1947/January 1948 (and released around late October/early November, 1947), shows the contents, including Pogo, were copyrighted by Oskar Lebeck. The Star Pogo is now copyright Walt Kelly. Was working out that detail the reason Pogo went on hiatus?
Anyway … Pogo ran weekdays in The Star until the paper folded on January 28, 1949.
The dream of most every cartoonist in those days was to get a successful syndicated comic strip, and that was Walt Kelly’s goal too. With a four month run to show he has the wits and artistic ability and the fortitude to do a daily strip it didn’t take a lot of arm twisting to convince Robert Hall of the Post-Hall Syndicate to take on Pogo. And so, four months after his last appearance in The Star, Pogo began appearing in newspapers around the country on May 16, 1948, with a bit of deja vu for readers who had read the Star strips:
Born in a comic book, Pogo (a possum by trade) outgrew the form (which, at the time, was a brand of juvenile literature) and graduated into the adult world, newspaper syndication, where he appeared in what became the greatest comic strip of the century. In Walt Kelly’s Pogo, the comic strip achieved the most of which the medium is capable. Comics can be high art in the right hands. And for over twenty years, Walt Kelly’s were the right hands.
In Pogo, the art form of the comic strip was raised to its zenith. If we accept the definition of comic strip art as a narrative of words and pictures, both verbal and visual, in which neither words nor pictures are quite satisfactory alone without the other, then we must say that Kelly welded the verbal and visual elements together into a comic chorus so unified, so mutually dependent, that it crystalized forever the very essence of the art.
Although the masterful Walt Kelly wouldn’t last as long, Pogo ran until July 29, 1975:
Pogo © OGPI