Pogo — Through the Wild Blue Wonder
The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips, Volume 1
[16 May 1949 - 31 December 1950]
by Walt Kelly

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

edited by Kim Thompson & Carolyn Kelly
foreword by Jimmy Breslin
introduction by Steve Thompson
annotations & historical data by R. C. Harvey

Fantagraphics: Seattle, 2011

xviii + 290 pages

August 2012


Walt Kelly's drawing for his Pogo comic strip for the newspapers is drolly inventive and actively imaginative; but what breathes into it the extra dimension of delight is the wonderful writing, Kelly's exuberant wordplay that comes tumbling out from some inspired cornucopia — probably with mice playing cards in it. Pogo's wit, both visual and verbal, lifts it far above the run-of-the-herd of the "funny-animal" comics genre.

Kelly's animal inhabitants of the Okeefenokee Swamp all enjoy displaying themselves via creative and free-flowing language, although very often (we may hope more often than ourselves) their verbal reach far exceeds their grasp, and the shouts and whispers, demands and imprecations and utter confusions, are hilarious. It is an Elizabethan exuberance, surviving or naturally generated deep in the heart of rural America.

Indeed, it is a thoroughly American-peopled landscape that Kelly spreads before us. American ways are lived and holidays are celebrated, occasionally with an artist's patriotic aside almost through the "fourth wall" of his stage directly to his audience. Curtis, a duck, is a mailman; and Seminole Sam, a fox, is "the carpet bag man" — a carpetbagger con-artist. Often, however, who they are is what they are: Pogo is "a possum by trade", and so on. Their concerns are rural, back-country; although there are plenty of outsiders wandering through, some of them lost, it's really a huge extended family in the warm-weather Okeefenokee.

Living remotely amidst the rather inaccessible swamp contributes to their closeness, saves them from many modern trends, and hopelessly mangles the fads and manufactures that do seep in. Their near-illiteracy also isolates them: Pogo reads fairly well, but for the others, school-learning is splotchy or never arrived — their lack stimulates rather than stifles them. When they do turn up something to read, it might be a newspaper from forty years before, whose untimely news spurs fresh confusions.

Pogo - Through the Wild Blue Wonder - Walt Kelly This sidewise-format book, Pogo — Through the Wild Blue Wonder: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips, Volume 1, covers the main daily strips from 16 May 1949 - 31 December 1950, which were reprinted earlier in a handful of Fantagraphics sidewise-format paperbacks. We also have color Sunday funnies from 29 January 1950 through 31 December 1950: these are attractive and even slip a bit into Classical mythology, although the thicket of verbal wit may not be as evident as in the dailies. And we have a run of pre-syndication dailies that appeared in the New York Star.

The editorial and production values are quite good, better than Fantagraphics' in their parallel set of the Disney Ducks by Carl Barks (of which the Gladstone Carl Barks Library super-sized color paperback set remains definitive). This is a fine collection in a handsome volume.

Do come meet, or reacquaint yourself with warm-hearted Pogo, his main pal Albert the alligator, sharp Porkypine, pretentious intellectual Howland Owl, Churchy LaFemme the turtle, Beauregard the bloodhound, the Rackety Coon family, and plenty of other talkatively outrageous denizens — including the moose who "came down here on a Elks convention in 19-ought-29 and never went back." A merry crew that you should know.


© 2010 Robert Wilfred Franson

Note:  Since from childhood I've known the words to the song "Wild Blue Yonder" (or "The Army Air Corps", later "The Army Air Force", eventually "The U. S. Air Force") — written in 1939, the official song of the United States Air Force — it is easy for me to misread "Yonder" rather than "Wonder" in Kelly's punning title of this Pogo collection. Avoid this error. — RWF

Walt Kelly's Pogo - official website

ArtWords at Troynovant
illustrated words, literate drawings;
cartoons, graphics, books about art

WordPoints at Troynovant
reading & writing, editing & publishing


Troynovant, or Renewing Troy:    New | Contents
  recurrent inspiration    200 Recent Updates

emergent layers of
untimely Reviews
& prismatic Essays


Books by Author:  A-B   C-F   G-L   M-R   S-Z
   Books by Title:  A-B   C-F   G-L   M-R   S-Z
Pamphlets by Title   Stories by Author   Stories by Title

Strata | Regions | Personae

Share this item —

Bookmark & Share

© 2001-2022 Franson Publications