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Comic Strip / Pogo

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I Go Pogo!

Pogo: Considerin' that ever'body is got two left feet, us critturs don't do bad. I figgers, Porky, that every man's heart is eventual in the right place.
Porky Pine: An' I figgers, Pogo, that if a man's gonna be wrong 'bout somethin', that is the best wrong thing to keep bein' wrong about til forever.

A long-running (194875, plus a 198993 revival) daily Newspaper Comic that starred Pogo Possum, Albert Alligator, Churchy La Femme, Howland Owl, Porky Pine, Beauregard Bugleboy, Miz Mam'selle Hepzibah, Miz Beaver, and sundry other talking animals residing in Georgia's Okeefenokee Swamp.

Early versions of Pogo and Albert (alongside a quickly-phased-out human protagonist named Bumbazine) were regulars in Dell's Animal Comics starting with its first published issue in 1942, but within a few years the characters had moved to the newspapers, and Pogo soon established itself as one of the all-time comic strip classics. Creator Walt Kelly (19131973), a former Disney animator, filled his strip with dozens — actually, hundreds — of characters, all of them 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 that of Mark Twain and Ogden Nash.

While superficially a silly comic strip about funny animals, it 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 create "fluffy bunny" versions of his daily strips, featuring rabbit characters engaged in harmless gags, whose real purpose was to inform readers that their local newspaper was censoring its comics page.

Charming, clever, occasionally subversive, and surprisingly warm-hearted even at its most vicious, Pogo was The Office 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), Frank Cho (Liberty Meadows), Dana Simpson (Ozy and Millie), and Bill Holbrook (Kevin & Kell) have all cited it as inspiration, as did the late Jim Henson (The Muppet Show).

This comic strip provides examples of:

  • Adapted Out: Beauregard Bugleboy is notably absent from the 1980 animated film I Go Pogo.
  • Alliterative Name: Pogo Possum, Albert Alligator, numerous other characters.
  • Alliterative Title: Several of the book collections: Potluck Pogo, Positively Pogo, Pluperfect Pogo, etc.
  • Animated Adaptation: The Pogo 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 by the Chiodo Brothers.
  • 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.
  • Ascended Extra: Pogo himself. Though he is the only character apart from Albert who was present from the very start in the Bumbazine and Albert the Alligator days, he was more a secondary character at the point, like a kind of sidekick to Bumbazine. When Bumbazine was phased out of the comic, Pogo stepped up to become Albert's co-star and the comic was eventually renamed Albert and Pogo. By the time the comic strip started, Pogo was the sole titular character (even though Albert was still just as much of a main character.)
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: It's a pandemic condition in the Okeefenokee.
  • Author Tract: By the end of its run, Pogo was pretty much the liberal equivalent of Li'l Abner.
  • Baby Language: Grundoon, the ridiculously cute baby woodchuck, speaks only in random consonants like "GNBX" and "SVMPS."
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: P.T. Bridgeport evolved into this archetype with a full barker's suit and white spats on his paws. Other characters that apply to this include feline hillbilly heavy Wiley Catt and his cousin Simple J. Malarkey.
  • The Barnum: P. T. Bridgeport, as evidenced by his name and old-time circus poster dialogue-font.
  • Blind Mistake: Mole MacAroney claims to be a bird expert, but is clearly blind and keeps misidentifying everyone as a migratory bird, even the ones that aren't birds at all.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: Porky Pine has no sense of humor, so when someone tells him a joke, he never gets why it was funny. He then tries to retell it as best he can remember it...
    Porky: 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)
    Porky: 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.
    Owl: [A minute of silence] seems backward - we oughter spend the rest of the year silent, thinkin' what we should say during this minute.
  • 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. He was also a lot more jerkish and could get directly mean sometimes.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • Bumbazine, the human boy. In the earliest Animal Comics stories, titled, Bumbazine and Albert the Alligator, he's ostensibly the protagonist, but he's quickly Demoted to Extra in favour of focusing on Albert and to a lesser extent Pogo, as the comic was renamed simply Albert the Alligator. After a few more stories of being a very minor character, Bumbazine simply stopped appearing, and the comic was renamed Albert and Pogo and became purely about the animals.
    • The ridiculously cute Pup-Dog disappeared from the strip without explanation in the mid-1950s.
  • Cigar Chomper: Albert is often seen smoking a cigar.
  • 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.
  • Continuity Drift: Kelly tended to go with what was funny, not consistent. One specific example is exactly how well the various swamp denizens are able to read; a particular character can go from being completely illiterate to quoting the classics and back again.
  • 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.
  • Creator Career Self-Deprecation: One exchange goes as follows:
    Albert: I'm showing you how to become a famous cartoonist... first, you thinks of a catchy name... then you sits down an' writes half-a-dozen-jokes...
    Pogo: S'pose you can't think of any jokes?
    Albert: No drawback... you mere swipes 'em from your pals... actually, if you can't get up anything funny, then you gotta learn to draw guns and/or girls!
    Pogo: S'posin' you can't draw?
    Albert: No drawback! You makes cartoon animals that talk.
  • Cunning Like a Fox: Seminole Sam, generally a con-man.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Porky Pine.
  • Deep South / Sweet Home Alabama: A bit of a see-saw. The cast is poverty-stricken and ignorant; on the other hand they're also kind-hearted, generous and hospitable. (Albert's even generous with other peoples' stuff and hospitable with other peoples' houses.)
  • 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.
    • In the Dell comics, Pogo himself started out looking much more like an opossum (with grey fur, no less), and he was merely Bumbazine's sidekick, and Albert was overtly (if harmlessly) villainous, usually more annoying than aggressive. Even Churchy La Femme was initally an antagonist, being introduced as a villainous pirate (even if he was as much of a Harmless Villain as Albert).
  • Equal-Opportunity Offender: While Kelly leaned politically left, nobody was safe from his satire. During the 1968 presidential elections, he lampooned many of the candidates (Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, etc) as well as the outgoing president Lyndon Johnson.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Miss Ma'm'selle Hepzibah, the designated object-of-every-male's-affection, speaks in a heavy accent with occasional French words peppered throughout (often with no regard to what they mean).
  • Exposed Animal Bellybutton: Mainly Pogo.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Albert once ate half a kettle of tar on the assumption that somebody had made licorice. Other characters have made odd dietary choices too.
  • 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 Wallanote  (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.)
  • Foreign-Looking Font: A job- rather than country-specific variation, for P.T. Bridgeport and Deacon Muskrat.
  • 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: All characters qualified, with varying degrees of anthropomorphism.
  • Gonk: If it wasn't clear what Kelly's politics were, Simple J. Malarkey is by far the ugliest character in the strip— not that his model was exactly a come-hither ravishing beauty.
  • Green Aesop: Pogo was one of the first environmentally aware strips. But then again, they do all live in wetlands.
    Pogo: We have met the enemy, and he is us.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Pogo with his signature striped shirt, Barnstable Bear with his checkered hat and slacks, and Deacon Mushrat with his country preacher outfit, among others. Ma'm'selle Hepzibah is a borderline case, wearing a skirt that qualifies as more of an accessory.
  • The Heart: Pogo, as you might guess from the fact that the strip is named after him. He is a kind, uncomplicated character, less foolish and not as easily distracted as his neighbors. Generally.
  • Humanlike Foot Anatomy: For most of the cast (Owl, Miz Hepzibah and Houn' Dog being the foremost exceptions).
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: The 198993 revival strip was called Walt Kelly's Pogo, although Kelly himself (who'd died in 1973, even before the original strip ended its run) had nothing at all to do with it.note 
  • Informed Species: Pogo looks more like a monkey than a possum.
  • 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. Porky 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?
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Played With in the case of Porky Pine. 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.
    • Albert 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.
    • Because more children tended to read the Sunday color comics, Kelly usually made them less satirical and more kid-friendly than the daily strips.
  • 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, either by answering mail from readers or otherwise making 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. One famous strip even has Albert explaining to Bear how the modern comic strip works ... by pointing to features in their own strip.
    • The same gag popped up when Porkypine was trying to break into cartooning.
      Albert: ...And down here we have the date of the comical strip.
      Porky: Indisputably droll.
    • 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.
  • Mondegreen Gag: A frequent occurance in the strip. Whenever someone sings a popular song, they never get the words right, and the result is always a nonsensical mess. Churchy is the most prone to singing these songs; he'll mangle nursery rhymes and traditional folk songs until they're completely unrecognizable.
    • The most famous mangled song, and the one that appears most frequently in the strip is the mangled version of "Deck the Halls," which the characters would attempt to sing every Christmas. Though there are a few different versions of it, the one everyone knows begins "Deck us all with Boston Charlie, Walla Walla Wash., and Kalamazoo..."
    • Beauregard has his own version of the song, which he insisted was the "correct" one: "Bark us all bow-wows of folly; Polly wolly cracker an' a too-da-loo!"
    • Other versions of the song, that just showed up once or twice, went "Dunk us all in bowls of barley..." and "Tinkle salty boss anchovy..." but were shut down because the animals complained that those lyrics didn't make any sense.
  • Never Heard That One Before: A few strips had a ladybug who was tired of always being told to "fly away home."
  • Never Learned to Read: Sometimes made the subject of a gag, with various characters trying to bluff their way through "reading" something. (Although as noted above, the actual literacy rate of the swamp varied wildly from strip to strip.)
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Albert has quite the appetite, but with a few exceptions in the early days, the only times anyone ends up inside him are by accident or because someone tricked them into thinking his cavernous maw was a house.
  • Nice Guy: In addition to being the Only Sane Man of the strip, Pogo is also a genuinely good guy without many vices. Walt Kelly referred to him as the glue that held the strip together.
  • 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 Nast took on Tammany Hall.
  • 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 Porky Pine 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 but 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. Occasionally-appearing Creepy Undertaker Sarcophagus MacAbre initially spoke in rectangular, black-bordered speech balloons, after the fashion of memorial/funeral cards.
  • 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.
  • Pretentious Pronunciation: Of a sort— the Mole is sometimes referred to as "Molester Mole", but it's meant to be pronounced to rhyme with "pollster" (which is a job the Mole has a few times).
  • Punny Name: Oh so many. Starting with Churchy La Femme.
  • Reformed, but Not Tamed: Albert in the Animal Comics series. In the early stories, he was the carnivorous villain of the swamp — in the very first story, "Albert Takes the Cake" he first steals Pogo's birthday cake and then tries to eat both Pogo and Bumbazine. He soon became far less of a menace, stopped trying to eat the others and got on fairly good terms with the rest of the swamp critters, referring to himself as "reformed." He still remained a selfish and temperamental pest, and his carnivore instincts weren't completely suppressed... as is shown when he and Pogo try to console a crying Missus Rackedy Coon about her missing son.
    Missus Rackedy Coon: He wus so young and tender!
    Albert: Yes, ma'am! He sho' wuz — many a time he make ma mouth water jes' by passin' by — (Pogo nudges him) ..oop-umph!
    Pogo: Hey, psst! You is ree-formed, Albert!
    Albert: Of co'se I nevah even took so much as a bite of him myse'f.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: And how! Even the bugs are adorable in this strip. He very quickly became less of a threat and more of
  • 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.
  • Self-Deprecation: On one strip, Albert is reading the comics and thinks "this dog bone thing called Poggo is jes about incompreehensibule."
  • Ship Tease: Pogo and Hepzibah show mutual attraction.
  • Signature Line: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."
  • Sinister Minister: Deacon Muskrat, the only character among the main cast Kelly described as genuinely evil.
  • 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.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad:
    • While the strip had many characters who would routinely hog the spotlight to the point where Pogo himself often became more a supporting character in his own strip, no character is more spotlight-hogging than Albert. In the Dell comics he had star billing above Pogo, and in the comic strip itself he's got such a major role that a lot of readers will insist he's the real main character.
    • Howland Owl and Churchy La Femme are almost as spotlight-stealing as Albert. Quite often the strip ends up focusing on the two arguing with each other or getting up to bizarre hijinks for weeks at a time.
  • 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.
  • Tar and Feathers: Simple J. Malarkey tries to have everyone tarred and feathered so they can be classified as migratory birds and be run out of the country. Deacon Muskrat turns the tables on him.
  • Terrified of Germs: Mole in his first appearance is spraying disinfectant from a Cartoon Bug-Sprayer on everyone he meets, worried about "germs of every nation" polluting the country.
  • 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.
  • Too Dumb to Fool: The gullible, ignorant swamp folk were prone to accidental Logic Bomb situations that would leave the swindler as confused as his victims.
  • 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 Albert, who'd fallen asleep, to some passing church-mice for their boat, claiming Albert 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.
  • True Companions: The swamp critters are all one big family, especially around Christmas time.
  • 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.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Churchy and Howland. Even though they frequently argue and annoy one another, they are almost always together.
  • World of Ham: Almost every character loves the sound of their own voice, with the exception of a few mute characters, Porky the Deadpan Snarker, and Pogo himself.
  • Workaholic: Walt Kelly basically worked himself to death trying to keep up with all his self-selected projects.

"Don't take life so serious, son it ain't nohow permanent."