I Go, Pogo!We have met the enemy, and he is us.Long-running
(1948-1975, plus a brief late-1980s revival) newspaper comic starring Pogo Possum, Albert Alligator, Churchy La Femme, Miz Beaver and other talking animals
in Georgia's Okeefenokee Swamp. Starting from a fairy-tale-esque comic book and quickly moving to the newspapers, the strip became one of the all-time comic strip classics. Creator Walt Kelly, a former Disney
animator, filled his strip with dozens, if not hundreds, of characters, all with distinct personalities, motivations and goals that would frequently collide. Kelly's ear for dialect and language, in addition to his skill with nonsense poetry, has been compared to Mark Twain
and Ogden Nash
While superficially a silly comic about funny animals
, the strip was also a satire — subtle and, well, not — about modern times, and frequently delved into politics — so much so that Pogo
often found itself the target of criticism and censorship. In such cases, Kelly often responded in kind; for instance, by placing a paper bag over the head of a controversial character (based on Senator Joseph McCarthy) when a newspaper said that they would drop the strip if his face ever appeared again. Later, he would write "fluffy bunny" versions of his Sunday strips, featuring rabbit characters engaging in simple slapstick, whose real purpose was to inform the readers that their local newspaper was censoring its comics page.
Charming ... surprisingly warm-hearted, even at its most vicious ... clever and occasionally subversive, Pogo
was The Office (US)
of its day ... if The Office
had a much larger cast, the writers of The Colbert Report
, the trenchant wit of H. L. Mencken
, and the idealism of Jon Stewart
. Its influence on modern cartooning cannot be overestimated. Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes
), Berkeley Breathed (Bloom County
), Jeff Smith (Bone
), Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury
), Jim Henson (The Muppet Show
), Bill Holbrook (Kevin & Kell
), Dana Simpson (Ozy and Millie
) and Frank Cho (Liberty Meadows
) have all cited it as inspiration.
This comic strip provides examples of:
- Alliterative Name: Pogo Possum, Albert Alligator, numerous other characters.
- Alliterative Title: Several of the book collections: Potluck Pogo, Positively Pogo, Pluperfect Pogo, etc.
- Asymmetric Dilemma
- Animated Adaptation: Pogo's Special Birthday Special (1969), animated by Chuck Jones; We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us (1970), a short film animated by Kelly himself; and I Go Pogo (1980), a feature length Stop Motion film.
- Anthropomorphic Shift: Varying amounts for different characters — Hepzibah, for instance, got a flatter face and longer legs over time.
- Art Evolution: Again, varies by the character, but the biggest changes occurred in the strip's New York Star run prior to national syndication.
- Author Tract: By the end of its run, Pogo was the pretty much the liberal equivalent of Lil Abner.
- Cannot Tell a Joke: Porkypine.
Porkypine: This is a humorous anecdote. A goat lost his nose — the first man says, "What will he smell with now?" The other replies, "As bad as ever." Haw haw haw?
(Pogo and Albert look at him indifferently)
Porkypine: One would think that the employees of a comic strip would have a sense of humor.
- Carnivore Confusion: The animals swing between having a fairly relaxed attitude towards carnivorism and treating it as cannibalism. In the comic's earlier days, Albert would sometimes swallow other animals by mistake (they were usually saved at the end) or be accused of eating whoever was missing at the time. The villains of the strip were more obviously carnivorous.
- Censorship by Spelling: Pogo uses it to talk to Albert without Pup-Dog understanding. Too bad Albert can't spell either.
- Cerebus Rollercoaster: No matter what wacky hijinks were going on in the swamp, everybody would stop on November 11th of each year in honor of Veterans' Day.
- Cerebus Syndrome: The strip always had a satirical bent, but got a lot more political as time went on. By the end it was basically Doonesbury with talking animals.
- Characterization Marches On: In the early days, before the strip was nationally syndicated, Pogo was the stupidest cast member and was easily taken advantage of by the other characters.
- Cigar Chomper: Albert
- Cloudcuckoolander: Most of the characters have their moments of this, but none more than Churchy La Femme.
- Comically Missing the Point: Anyone and everyone — If anything is at all possible to misunderstand, someone in the swamp will misunderstand it.
- Convicted by Public Opinion: Parodied in an early storyline when the Pup-Dog disappears and Albert is accused of eating him; he is saved only by the Pup-Dog's eventual return, and some of the old townsfolk still insist he was guilty and a great injustice has been done by letting him go free.
- Cunning Like a Fox: Seminole Sam, generally a con-man.
- Deep South: The deepest.
- Dork Horse Candidate: Pogo Possum, against his will, ran for president on three occasions; a write-in campaign in the real world attracted a surprising amount of support.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The earliest appearances of Pogo were standard issue Funny Animal comics, with none of the razor sharp wit or satire that the series became known for.
- Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Hepzibah, especially in the birthday special.
- Exposed Animal Bellybutton
- Fictionary: "Swamp-speak", based on U.S. southern dialect, with many made-up words. Many, many. Kelly was a master of nonsense verse, and had absolutely no shame in using his skill at the drop of a hat.
- These included malaprops, Spoonerisms and good ol'-fashioned American gibberish. Examples include rhiknockwurst (a large gray African herbivore), Walla Walla (a place-holder for the surprisingly-frequent occasions on which the characters forget the words to the song they're rehearsing), rackety coon (local swamp residents who have black masks and banded tails) and rowrbazzle (an exclamation of disbelief and/or disdain.)
- Funetik Aksent: The bits that weren't made up. The 'per-loo' they made out of everything (including squirrels—inside adding to the flavour) is in some areas spelled 'pilaf'.
- There are even characters whose names are Funetik Aksent examples - Churchy La Femme being the foremost.
- Funny Animal
- Green Aesop: Pogo was one of the first environmentally aware strips. But then again, they do all live in wetlands. The page quote - referring to littering - is probably the best-known example.
- Humanlike Foot Anatomy
- Insane Troll Logic: Par for the course. For example, when Albert is on trial for eating Pup-Dog, Seminole Sam notes that Pup-Dog was fond of water, "jus' like a fish," and produces a fish skeleton that he claims is Pup-Dog's. Porkypine refutes him by noting that it's a catfish skeleton.
Seminole Sam: Well, is you ever seen the Pup-dog's skeleton when he was alive?
- Jerkass Fašade: Played With in the case of Porkypine. He is capable of acts of kindness, but he does so in a pretty taciturn manner.
Porkypine: I dislikes most folks. But I dislikes you less than I dislikes folks what dislikes you less than they dislikes gossip. So I'll go alongside of you.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Several characters fit this description, but none more than Albert, who can get really jerkish and is really soft-hearted.
- Knight of Cerebus: Simple J. Malarkey, both in the sense that he's an antagonist who lacks any of the silliness of previous villains and has seemingly no compunction about attempting to kill the protagonists, and in the sense that his identity as an expy of Joseph McCarthy signaled the movement of the strip into addressing much more controversial political subject matters.
- Large Ham: P.T. Bridgeport (the P.T. Barnum expy) is such an example of this that his word balloons are even lettered in old-school circus advertising type.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Alan Moore had space aliens that bore a striking resemblance appear in an issue of Swamp Thing.
- Lighter and Softer: Kelly would occasionally produce alternate strips (which he called the "fluffy bunny strips") with "safer" gags that more timid newspaper editors could run when the regular strips got too political.
- Although the 'bunny strips' increased his already-formidable daily workload, he was willing to pay that price to express himself. The First Amendment prevented him from getting sued, but he had a lot of very nervous newspaper editors to pacify.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Thousands.
- The Magic Poker Equation: Parodied with the three bats. Six aces tended to be a losing hand.
- The Man in the Mirror Talks Back: Subverted. It looks like Porkypine's reflection is talking back to him, but it's actually a bug hiding behind his mirror playing a prank on him.
- Medium Awareness: The characters would occasionally acknowledge that they were in a comic, both by Painting the Medium (see below), answering mail from readers or otherwise make references to their status as comic book characters by (among other things) complaining that the comic wasn't funny enough or remarking that the punchline for today's strip was in the wrong panel.
- Never Heard That One Before: A few strips had a ladybug who was tired of always being told to "fly away home."
- Never Smile at a Crocodile: Averted with Albert.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Simple J. Malarkey was Senator Joseph McCarthy as a bobcat. In this case, though, the intent was pretty obviously not "not harming" the celebrity in question; the Jack Acid Society storyline was one of the most savage indictments of a politician in comics since Thomas Nash.
- One Steve Limit: The reason why Walt Kelly sued the band Poco, which originally had the same name as the strip.
- Only Sane Man: Pogo and Porkypine were frequently the only two sane characters in an environment where, e.g., a rabbit can be celebrating all known holidays at the start of the year to save time, an owl and a turtle might develop advertising slogans for dirt ("D as in dirt! I as in dirt! R as in dirt! T as in orange pekoe!") while, at the same time, an alligator is plotting to make his fortune and retire to the Sunny Bermoothies ("Land of the onion and the eel!") by ordering a million boxes of dirt with a penny-a-box discount, and then return the boxes. Sanity is very definitely an optional extra in the swamp.
- The Owl-Knowing One: Gloriously subverted and parodied with Howland Owl, who thinks he's a genius and is repeatedly shown to be an enormous fool even by Okeefenokee standards.
- Painting the Medium: P.T. Bridgeport and Deacon Muskrat speak in stylized fonts. Albert, Churchy, and others are known to lean on or against the comic border for support - and Albert even lights matches by striking them against the borders. One famous strip even has Albert explaining to Bear how the modern comic strip works ... by pointing to features in their own strip.
- Poor Communication Kills: One of the most prominent recurring themes in the comic. Nobody ever seems to quite understand what anyone else is talking about — the villains of the comic often try (and sometimes succeed) to use all the misunderstandings to their advantage.
- Punny Name: Oh so many. Starting with Churchy La Femme.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: And how! Even the bugs are adorable in this strip.
- Satire/Parody/Pastiche: Pogo is the very definition of satire.
- Scenery Porn: The comic had some beautiful backgrounds at times, particularly in the Sunday strips.
- Signature Line: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."
- Smelly Skunk: Averted. Hepzibah is never shown using her spray; the one time she resorts to long-distance discouragement, it's the more traditional rock salt shotgun round.
- Species Surname: Almost all the animals have this, and quite often they're even called by their species (for example, Churchy La Femme is often simply called "Turtle" and Beauregard is called "Houn' Dog") The exceptions are Pogo and Albert, who are always called exactly that.
- Strawman Political: Dozens of short-term visitors to the swamp were thinly-veiled caricatures of politicians of the day.
- Talking Animal: The ones that aren't Funny Animals.
- Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Most female swamp critters wear bonnets and/or aprons, and Hepzibah wears a skirt. Lampshaded in an early strip in which Miz Hop Frog fools Pogo into thinking she's Mister Hop Frog simply by removing her apron.
- The Trickster: Seminole Sam, the slick-talking fox, was always out to separate the Okeefenokee folks from their money. (They have money?) Over the decades he tried just about every scam imaginable - dirt in a box ("you can't wash clothes unless you have dirt!"), magic elixir ("Made of pure H20!"), admission to invisible or impossible things ("The U.S. Constitution engraved on the point of a pin!"), and more. At one point he swapped another character who'd fallen asleep to some passing church-mice for their boat, claiming the sleeping character was a "tumbled-down church." Sometimes he got his comeuppance: sometimes he didn't: and sometimes he and the rest of the characters got sidetracked by a fresh face, the resurfacing of an old plot, or the World Series.
- Unusual Euphemism: "Rowrbazzle", among others. Taking the unusual euphemisms out of the strip would probably reduce the amount of text by 90%, and the remaining would probably be articles and the occasional conjunction.