Walt Kelly’s Pogo, a daily newspaper strip that ran from 1948 to 1975, is justifiably hailed as one of the great achievements of the postwar comic strip. In theory, it belongs to the “funny animal” genre; in practice, it was a personal, whimsical combination of comedy and mood, dressed in linguistic wordplay and laced with sociopolitical satire. As such, it bears some affinity to George Herriman’s Krazy Kat and Tove Jansson’s Moomin, but with more of an edge. It was Kelly, through Pogo, who coined the famous parody phrase “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Pogo is a possum who lives in Okefenokee Swamp and plays straight man to a wacky gallery of varmints, including the vain, delusional, quick-tempered, unscrupulous yet blessedly naive Albert Alligator (combining the worst qualities of both Abbott & Costello); the good-natured turtle Churchy LaFemme, who loves singing songs like the immortal Christmas carol “Deck Us All With Boston Charlie”; the gruff and backwards Porkypine, who pines (as it were) for love of the svelte French skunk Miz Hepzibah; the bespectacled pseudo-intellectual Howland Owl; and a dizzying array of others. Although Kelly was a Yankee, his characters pursued their delicate misunderstandings and pratfalling nonsense while babbling in demented mock-Southern Li’l Abner-ese, sometimes in heavily decorated dialogue balloons (especially for bear-empresario P.T. Bridgeport and buzzard-mortician Sarcophagus Macabre).