Simple J. Malarkey
September 10, 2018 8:43 AM   Subscribe

 
FTA: "It’s hard to imagine pre-teen kids understanding the densely lettered, complicated dialogue"

Speaking as a kid who learnt to read an suchlike from them there now Pogo books, that's a dogblamed insult.
posted by The otter lady at 8:49 AM on September 10 [57 favorites]


Kelly's linework is astounding, up there with the greatest draftsmen of all time. For years after his death, his widow Selby would sell original strips via a few intermediaries. I have three hanging on my wall.
posted by mwhybark at 9:08 AM on September 10 [14 favorites]


Deacon Muskrat

That's Mushrat! Sheesh.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:12 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]


Appears that the dealer I went through remains in business.
posted by mwhybark at 9:12 AM on September 10 [6 favorites]


Speaking as a kid who learnt to read an suchlike from them there now Pogo books, that's a dogblamed insult.

Same. I don't know about you, but I was coming upon it in the early '80s as a tot, when only a few people kept the books around, and my parents were among them. It taught me a lot about politics in its way, although Bloom County taught me more because I could recognize the politicians there.

There are very few non-Southerners who mastered Southern dialect, and Kelly is one of them, although he had to come around to it -- his first swamp comics are rough going, a thirdhand AAVE copy. Maybe he spent time listening to native speakers in the interim.

I think a lot about something Kelly's widow said, although I can't cite it. Apparently, when Watergate came to pass after Kelly's untimely death, their friends would say to her: what a shame Walt can't be here to see this, he would have had so much fun with it. That was wrong, she said. Kelly genuinely loved America and wished it well, and he would have been too heartbroken by Watergate to find any joy in cartooning about the situation. When people say that it's too bad that, for example, Terry Pratchett isn't with us now, I am reminded of that.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:18 AM on September 10 [18 favorites]


Pogo was the best kind of satire: as a little kid, you can read it as funny stories about animals. As an adult (or slightly older kid), you can read it for the political and social commentary. You can appreciate the art at any age, and it really is astounding. I don't think he ever drew a character twice in the same pose from the same angle - that's his Disney past showing.

And a lot of it's still relevant. These days I'd map the Jack Acid society ("What do you stand for?" "We won't stand for much!") to the Tea Party instead of John Birch. You can find plenty of other parallels, too. Or you can just read funny animal stories, and that's cool too.
posted by echo target at 9:23 AM on September 10 [7 favorites]


Children back then read the newspaper from cover to cover and watched network news. No cable or internet, so you took what was new where you could. Pogo made me laugh and made my parents laugh, and then they'd explain what they saw in it. It was how I learned their progressive views. Quite a few family catchphrases came from Pogo and Lil Abner.
posted by Miss Cellania at 9:52 AM on September 10 [3 favorites]


I love Pogo so much. Amazing pencils, multi-layered social commentary, brilliant gags, top notch wordplay. And so good hearted in its hopes for a better world. I rank Pogo significantly above Bloom County but just slightly below Calvin & Hobbes for how much they affected my life. And Pogo was always the one most worth re-reading, because it's so dense.

Not to be missed.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:54 AM on September 10 [7 favorites]


Old Pogo strips were run in our local paper when I was in my teens in the late 80s and early 90s. They were among the strips I'd skip over and read last (along with Bloom County and Calvin & Hobbes) because they were consistently good.

I still enjoy noticing that Friday the 13th falls on a Thursday this month.
posted by nickmark at 10:08 AM on September 10 [9 favorites]


At the time the Pogo strips with Simple J. Malarkey were some of scariest to appear on a newspaper cartoon page. Malarkey is the figure in the background with the ax. Mole, who has just fired his last round, represented conservatives who initially welcomed Senator McCarthy's actions but later went Never McCarthy.
posted by King Sky Prawn at 10:22 AM on September 10 [4 favorites]


I still enjoy noticing that Friday the 13th falls on a Thursday this month.

Ha! It's good to hear I'm not the only one who still does that.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:26 AM on September 10 [6 favorites]


I’m so happy that Fantagraphics have been putting the beautiful collections out. I first became aware of Pogo in the early 90s via an introduction in a Swamp thing book (possibly by Neil Gaiman) which reprinted the SW issue which had a lovely homage to it.

There had been a previous attempt to reprint them but it stopped after a few books and the prices were out of my reach.

It was worth waiting 20+ years for.
posted by gnuhavenpier at 10:29 AM on September 10 [4 favorites]


I read SO MUCH POGO as a kid in the seventies. Kelly was gone but there was this reprint of Ten Ever-Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Years With Pogo that I picked up on a whim, followed by one book after another that collected two or three of the smaller books that were put out during the strip’s run, followed by one attempt to reprint Every Strip Ever, followed by another... one hurricane later all I have is a new copy of that tenth anniversary book and whole bunch of fond memories of twisty dialogue, gorgeous art, and jokes that I knew damn well were about the politics of the past. Even as an eight year old kid I could pick up that, say, an extended story casting the gang as a group of advertising executives on the train to work in snowy Siberia who’ve been playing the same game of Russian Roulette for decades was talking about more than I quite understood. (This was outside the normal continuity, as a series of comic pages rather than a strip.)

Honestly I think Pogo probably taught me a lot of stuff about the parts of American history that never get covered in school because they’re too recent. And gave me context for... I wanna say the end of the Cold War but I think recent events make me feel like we’re still definitely in that. For the end of Cold War I, maybe.
posted by egypturnash at 11:08 AM on September 10 [3 favorites]


...I wonder if the “densely lettered” comment in the first link springs from assuming it was run at the same size as modern comics. It wasn’t. Newspaper comics have shrunk so, so much over the decades. It was wordy, sure, but the lettering was super readable, with ample white space around it.
posted by egypturnash at 11:16 AM on September 10 [6 favorites]


Ha, I know mwhybark's art dealer in another context and he is an amazing, super interesting guy. If you are thinking about asking him about buying some originals definitely broaden that conversation and learn more about him - he has many obsessive interests and I bet you, a Pogo nerd, share a few.
posted by potrzebie at 11:32 AM on September 10 [4 favorites]


" It’s hard to imagine pre-teen kids understanding the densely lettered, complicated dialogue."

The hell you say. 50% of what I read from age 4 to 13 was Pogo compilations that were lovingly and haphazardly collected by my father and grandfather.

I still think of the Pogo versions of christmas carols as the canonical - and the real lyrics as alternate versions. Good king wenceslas, look out! - Yo feets uneven," etc.
posted by sol at 11:57 AM on September 10 [6 favorites]


I am collecting the Fantagraphics compilations and rereading them closely. I read them as a kid, and only gradually realized how political they were. The language play, parody, and political commentary are matched only by the originality of the art and the use of the frame.
posted by Peach at 12:19 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]


Oh, and my Twitter handle (@howrawhowrue) is from a Pogo strip. How Raw! How Rue!
posted by Peach at 12:21 PM on September 10 [2 favorites]


How Raw! How Rue!

Stolt by an octopoots!
posted by The otter lady at 12:36 PM on September 10 [4 favorites]


Grew up on a pogo household. Deck the halls with boston charlie!
posted by parki at 12:40 PM on September 10 [4 favorites]


that's what fo I carry the hose.
posted by buildmyworld at 1:16 PM on September 10 [3 favorites]


I'm old enough to remember Kelly's parody of Spiro Agnew (as a jackal). There had been some controversy about the incoming Nixon administration wanting to restyle the livery of the White House staff, so Kelly drew Agnew in an overblown uniform. "You looks like the Head Cheese of the imaginary Blintz Republic! Or one-third of a Patagonian Postal Platoon!"

Goodness knows what Kelly would have made of Trump.
posted by SPrintF at 1:40 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]


Nickmark, the strip was revived during those years...I remember George HW Bush depicted as a rabbit and Quayle drawn as a bug that could only say "veep".

Nicwolff's grandfather was referenced in an early strip (11-17).
posted by brujita at 1:43 PM on September 10 [3 favorites]


I remember liking the new Pogo strips, but I was ten or so, and I liked a bunch of crap, so who can say.

Even as an eight year old kid I could pick up that, say, an extended story casting the gang as a group of advertising executives on the train to work in snowy Siberia who’ve been playing the same game of Russian Roulette for decades was talking about more than I quite understood.

Oh man, I remember that! I know how much I liked it because I had, at one point, gotten ahold of a bag of blue jellybeans, and I left blue smears all over those pages. I enjoyed the sequences where the characters assumed roles that obviously weren't theirs, using comical blond wigs and fairytale dresses.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:56 PM on September 10 [2 favorites]


I grew up reading Pogo every day, and loved it dearly, as much for Kelly’s exquisite line as for the satire. Yes, pre-teens understood satire (at least those of us who loved History class did, anyway)
posted by Thorzdad at 2:27 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]


I read the strip when I was a kid, and even went to kindergarten Halloween in a Pogo costume. The costume was a sort of onesie with some of the strips screened onto it, and a mask whose big Pogo nose could easily be pushed or punched in, much to my sorrow and my classmates' delight. I don't think that I got much out of the political allusions (even as a precocious reader), but I did like the funny animals.

Bonus: Alan Moore's tribute to Pogo in Swamp Thing.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:35 PM on September 10 [8 favorites]


I remember George HW Bush depicted as a rabbit and Quayle drawn as a bug that could only say "veep"

Now that you mention it, I think I remember that...
posted by nickmark at 3:00 PM on September 10


I've loved Pogo since I was a kid. Here's my review. My favorite quote, which I use often: "It's amazing how a handsome feller looks good in anything he throw on."

I don't care for the Moore tribute at all— a complete tonal mismatch, and thematically annoying. (Kelly himself sometimes had fun with the idea that his creatures ate fish and also talked to fish.)

The Jarvis article is interesting. I wonder how much of Kelly's stance is due to the uncomfortable facts of the FDR coalition, which included the South. Liberals were freed up to be much more unequivocal on race once the southern whites went Republican.
posted by zompist at 3:16 PM on September 10


Thanks for this. Pogo at its best is so great. Maybe someone drew better and maybe someone wrote better but no one did both so well, except maybe Watterson.
posted by acrasis at 3:48 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]


I should mention here that Kelly followed the Disney model in his production environment as well and did employ other artists as his publication base grew. Two names that come to mind are Henry Shikuma, who I beleive was the strip's primary letterer in later years, and George Ward, who I recall as a background specialist (all those trees and leaves). The Fanta books have good intros that address this. The originals I have show a clear evolution of lettering styles with the earlier ones displaying less polish and uniformity in the base balloon lettering and underlying blueline rules; my presumption is that these strips are entirely in Kelly's hand and the later ones represent all three artists working under Kelly's direction.

I have read that even when Shikuma was the primary letterer, Kelly would still letter some strips as he enjoyed doing lettering and the typographic invention that marks the strip is very definitely his. Ward's backgrounds, if my recollection is correct, are also to me indistinguishable from Kelly's except that in large panels Ward may include more detail and variation.
posted by mwhybark at 4:16 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]


Here's a post on Ward which describes him as leaving Kelly in 1959 and working as an inker, so my attribution of backgrounding to him appears incorrect.
posted by mwhybark at 4:19 PM on September 10


Another post from the same source with what seems likely to be Ward's work.
posted by mwhybark at 4:21 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]


When Pogo was running in my hometown paper as a kid, I hated it. Never got any of the references, stupid cartoon...
posted by Windopaene at 4:23 PM on September 10


The Okefenokee swamp is real.
posted by brujita at 9:33 PM on September 10


Another one who grew up reading my parents' Pogo collections as a pre-teen. Loved those things to pieces (literally). My mother worked on the first I Go Pogo campaign as an undergrad, being too young to vote herself, so she was ... a bit miffed at that.

"Onward! I guess..."
posted by Quasirandom at 12:51 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


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