Images © OGPI.
I’ve been waiting a long time for this book, a handsome oversized hardcover about one of my favorite artists. At 238 pages, there’s lots to enjoy. It’s not a biography, it’s a series of essays about Kelly and his work, each focusing on different aspects and time periods from school days to early work for Disney to comic books to the Pogo newspaper strip, which made him famous. Some of the articles I enjoyed more than others. The ones about his Disney years, especially an interview with longtime Disney animator and Kelly friend Ward Kimball were great, I knew almost nothing about that period. Some of the Pogo essays, particularly the one about the politics of the strip, are not particularly well done, more a laundry list of politician appearances, and other essays are much less fun to read than the strip itself.
Where the book really excels is in the many reproductions of Kelly’s original art, often quite large. Big enough to see the smallest details in some cases, and revealing more of the man’s genius with every brush stroke and pencil line. (Much of the Pogo work was drawn in blue pencil, so you can see the drawing as well as the final ink lines.) Many examples of printed work are also included, quite of few of which I hadn’t seen. Hermes Press has done an excellent job with the photos/scans and the printing and production values on the book are excellent.
Here’s a sample page with a great panel of original art from the Pogo Prehysteria storyline, one of the best and most unusual in the strip’s history.
I highly recommend this book to Kelly fans, and fans of great comics art in general. I think there’s still room for a more thorough Kelly life story, but this volume will do fine in the meantime.