Apr 19, 2023

The Evolution of Pogo Sunday Comics: A Retrospective

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The Pogo comic strip, created by Walt Kelly, ran from 1948 to 1975 and featured a cast of anthropomorphic animal characters who lived in the fictional Okefenokee Swamp. One of the most notable aspects of the strip was its Sunday comics, which often featured full-page layouts and intricate artwork. Over the course of its run, the Sunday Pogo comics evolved and changed in style and content, reflecting the changing times and Kelly’s own artistic vision.

In the early years of the strip, the Sunday comics tended to feature self-contained stories that were unrelated to the ongoing narrative of the strip. For example, a 1950 strip titled “Election Day” featured Pogo and his friends participating in a local election, while a 1954 strip titled “Uncle Baldwin’s Bluff” focused on a property sale. These early Sunday comics were often characterized by their use of humor and social commentary, and were often inspired by Kelly’s own experiences growing up in the American South.

As the strip progressed, Kelly began to experiment more with the format of the Sunday comics. He started to incorporate longer storylines and ongoing plot threads, as well as more intricate and detailed artwork. In 1956, Kelly introduced the character of Howland Owl, a pompous and erudite owl who became a popular fixture in the strip. That same year, he also introduced a storyline in which Pogo and his friends start a school in the swamp, which allowed Kelly to comment on issues related to education and learning.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Kelly’s artwork became even more elaborate and intricate. He began to use watercolors and other mixed media techniques to create highly detailed and visually stunning Sunday comics. The strip also became more political during this time, with Kelly using the characters to comment on issues such as environmentalism and civil rights. One of the most famous Sunday comics from this period was a 1971 strip that featured the line “We have met the enemy and he is us,” a commentary on the state of the environment and the role that humans play in damaging it.

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Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, Kelly continued to experiment with the format of the Sunday comics. He introduced new characters and storylines, including a 1967 Christmas-themed strip titled “Beware of Trees Bearing Gifts,” and a 1970 strip that saw Pogo and his friends embark on a journey through time. He also continued to use the characters to comment on issues related to politics and society, including the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal.

In the later years of the strip, Kelly’s health began to decline, and he had to rely more on his assistants to create the Sunday comics. Nevertheless, the strip continued to be popular and influential, and many of the Sunday comics from this period are still considered classics of the medium. Kelly passed away in 1973, and the strip continued for two more years before coming to an end in 1975.

In conclusion, the Sunday comics of Pogo are a testament to the evolution of the comic strip medium over the course of the 20th century. From its early days as a collection of one-off gags and humorous stories, to its later years as a platform for political and social commentary, the strip reflected the changing times and the creative vision of its creator, Walt Kelly. Today, the Sunday Pogo comics remain beloved by fans of the medium and are considered some of the finest examples of comic strip art and storytelling.

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