Happy Earth Day from Walt Kelly and the beloved denizens of the Okefenokee Swamp!
Walt Kelly’s final contributions to Dell’s Christmas comics were published in Four Color #254 (Dell, December 1949).
The issue included a surprise appearance by Albert and Pogo, but the great writer-artist reached whole new levels of crazed holiday hi-jinks in a story that featured a cross-dressing elf (hello again, Google search bots!), a surprisingly worldly dog and a little girl who required a lesson in generosity.
Here’s “Santa’s First Helper” by Walt Kelly.
Santa is stranded on Christmas Eve! Who will save the world’s children from a holiday of disappointment?
How about some naked elves? (Hmmm … wonder why my Google search stats suddenly skyrocketed? Oh well.)
Writer-artist Walt Kelly sorts out this not-so-merry X-mess in the scintillating tale of “How Santa Got His Red Suit.” The story originally appeared in Four Color #61 (Dell, December 1944).
Walt Kelly’s Pogo is justly lauded for the brave stands it took against McCarthyism, segregationists, Vietnam and just about every other controversial issue of the time.
The strip, however, had its more sentimental side as well. Most notable was Kelly’s apparent soft spot for the Christmas holidays, because the denizens of Okefenokee Swamp always celebrated the Yuletide in style.
The care and craftsmanship Kelly brought to his Noel-themed work also extends to his time as a writer-artist for Dell Comics, where he wrote and illustrated several holiday annuals.
For the next few days, we’re going to feature a sampling of Kelly’s holiday comics for Dell. The first tale, “Christmas Comes To The Wood Land,” originally appeared in the publisher’s long-running anthology Four Color Comics, which adopted the title “Santa Claus Funnies” for the occasion.
(Dell published more than 1,000 issues of Four Color, although the title was usually downplayed in favor of whatever character or concept was published that particular month. It’s a long story.)
Today’s comic first appeared in Four Color #91 (Dell, December 1945).
A quick note for Daniel, a longtime visitor to this and our previous blog: I don’t believe Flickr allows the sort of links you’ve requested. Sorry!
Walt Kelly is rightfully lauded for Pogo, but his more obscure efforts for Dell’s Animal Comics possess the same magic that made the denizens of Okefenokee Swamp so unique and memorable.
“Nibble and Nubble,” a charming strip about a gadabout mouse and a friendly kitten, is a nice example of how Kelly could find humor in the simplest of situations – in this case, a well-intentioned if misguided attempt to make pudding.
The story, written and drawn by Kelly, originally appeared in Animal Comics #29 (Dell, October-November 1947).
Before Walt Kelly’s Pogo began its legendary run as a syndicated newspaper strip, the denizens of Okefenokee Swamp – specifically Albert the Alligator and Pogo Possum himself – debuted as supporting characters in Dell’s Animal Comics series. Originally cast as foils to a young boy, Kelly soon discovered the feature worked better without the presence of humans and elevated Pogo and Albert to starring roles.
The following story appeared about a year before the Pogo syndicated strip began, but Kelly’s distinctive art and humor are already in full bloom. The remarkable part is that Kelly command of his craft and characters would only get better over time.
Howland Owl learns just how difficult it is to properly educate “nature’s screechers” in an untitled story from Animal Comics #25 (Dell, February-March 1947). The story and art are by Kelly.
Although Pogo Possum long served as the Okefenokee Swamp’s voice of reason, the little critter was originally just as untamed as the rest of the fabled comic strip’s characters.
(Well … nobody really topped Albert in that category. His personality was pretty much set from Day 1.)
Pogo’s actions in the following story are largely derived from the character’s feelings of anger and spite toward his invading relatives, a rarity in later years as Kelly’s “every-possum” grew more reflective and even-tempered as he “matured.”
The untitled tale originally appeared in Animal Comics #17 (Dell Comics, October-November 1945). The story and art are by Walt Kelly.
I believe Fantagraphics’ long-awaited collection of Pogo comic strips is finally due to appear. It’s definitely must-read material, Time Bulleteers.
April Fools Day is a time for lightening things up a bit, so let’s sit back and enjoy a Walt Kelly classic from Pogo Possum #5 (Dell Publishing, 1951).
Here’s “The Big Comickal Book Business,” proof positive that the residents of the Okefenokee Swamp were “meta” before most people even knew what “meta” meant.
Story and art are by Kelly.
By the way, when is Fantagraphics supposed to begin publishing Pogo collections again?