Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Ever-Elusive (But Great) Early POGO

The promised "Complete Pogo" project from Fantagraphics never quite materializes. First it was supposed to start in 2007. Then Amazon had a "November 2009" release date. But now Fantagraphics says that "it will definitely NOT be out in 2009."

The problem since 2007 has been that the first year of Pogo Sunday strips is in poor shape, and they haven't yet been able to track down adequate-quality versions of all those strips. (The early daily strips, on the other hand, have already been reprinted and are fine, but since many Pogo fans already have those dailies, it's the Sundays that would be the real selling point of a collection.) Hopefully they'll find what they're looking for and get the project started eventually. I get a little sadder every time I look at that Amazon listing, with the cover for the first volume that was designed two years ago.

While I'm on the subject of the early Pogo, I think the early strips are underrated. They're often dismissed a bit because Kelly hadn't started doing political humor yet. (The first story that was sort of political was the 1950 story where the pup-dog disappears and everyone assumes Albert ate him; it never struck me that way, but apparently Kelly meant it as a comment on red-baiting, and he used it as the basis for a more directly political guilt-by-suspicion story the following year.) But I was introduced to Pogo through the 1949 dailies, and I still think they're some of the best. The characters have more of an edge than they later had, with stories that sometimes have to do with them trying to cheat or hurt each other. (Albert gets into an argument with a moose and ropes Pogo into fighting the creature; Owl and Turtle team up to trick Albert into giving up cigars so they can get all his cigars for themselves.) In some of the later strips, the lighthearted stories can seem like talky filler in between the political material; here the stories have the feel of very good theatrical cartoons, except extended across a longer period of time.

Kelly later simplified the character designs and backgrounds, which is normal and understandable, but I do like something about the more elaborate drawing style in these early strips, as well as the smaller lettering. I also like Porkypine (my favorite character) without the hat that Kelly later added to make him cuter. This 1949 strip is probably my favorite in the whole run.

1 comment:

Tom said...

Thanks for passing on the info for the delay! I've been looking forward to the first release since hearing about it many months ago. Porky is also my favorite character from the cast. Nothing againist Albert, but I always considered Porkypine Pogo's true friend.