I’ve been gradually reading this handsome third volume of the complete Pogo comic strips over the last month or so. It takes me a while because, unlike some strip collections such as those for “Peanuts,” I can’t read very many pages of Pogo at a time. They’re so dense with things to look at, enjoy and understand — clever dialogue, jokes, satire, physical humor, amazing cartooning, lush inking, incredible lettering and more — that after a few pages my brain begins to feel overloaded and I start missing things. This time I decided to only read one month’s worth of dailies or three months worth of Sundays at a time. As the book covers two full years, 1953 and 1954, it took a while, but I feel I got more out of the reading experience this time.
Here’s an example of what I mean. Just to read the dialogue on this daily strip takes a minute, to understand and appreciate the humor and satire a few more, and then I could study the figures, inking and lettering for an hour. It’s all so perfectly done, seemingly effortless and simple, but actually the product of a rare talent.
Just to consider one small part of the whole: look at the logos on the Sunday pages. They’re all different, no copy and paste for Walt Kelly. The designs are fabulous, and so many variations. Pogo is not the only strip to have new logos every time, other examples that come to mind are Winsor McCay’s “Little Nemo in Slumberland,” Gus Arriola’s “Gordo,” and today’s “Mutts” by Patrick McDonnell, but I don’t think anyone has ever done it so artfully as Walt Kelly.
Both the daily and Sunday strips had their own continuity. I’ve been a huge fan of Pogo since childhood, but it never ran in a paper I saw regularly. My exposure was through the series of paperback books authored by Kelly that often contain long runs of the strip along with new material, but those were all in black and white, so it’s a treat to see these Sunday strips in color, and I think all the ones in this collection are new to me, I don’t remember any of them from the books.
Fantagraphics, Walt’s daughter Carolyn, and Mark Evanier are doing a terrific job on this series, I can’t recommend it highly enough.