Walt Kelly’s Pogo: The Complete Dell Comics
Vol. 1, Animal Comics, Nos.1 - 30 (except Nos.4, 6,7, in which Pogo did not appear)
Vol. 2, Dell Four Color No.105 (April 1946) & No.148 (May 1947), plus Pogo Possum Nos. 1 & 2
Vol. 3, Pogo Possum, Nos. 3-7
300, 240 & 220 7½ x10-inch pages, color
Hermes Press hardcovers
All three volumes offer the same basics -- Table of Contents that lists and dates the volume’s contents (a highly helpful aspect, especially to historians), introductory essays by Thomas Andrae (and, in Volume 1, an Afterword by Mark Burstein; Volume 2, Preface by Trina Robbins), and reproduction of a smattering of original art, showing Kelly’s blue-line penciling. The color in all three books is quite satisfactory: shot from the comics themselves, the color has been somewhat enhanced, making the reds redder and the blues bluer; printed on white glossy paper, the over-all effect is bright and slightly garish.
The source comic books were the best printings so we find virtually no out-of-register colors. Hermes has clearly taken great pains to produce the best possible archival Dell Pogo.
Volume 1 is fastidiously (even tediously) reviewed in the Usual Place (RCHarvey.com, Rants & Raves Archive, Opus 332); I’ll add here only that in Animal Comics No.19, we learn that Pogo’s full name is Ponce de Leon Montgomery County Alabama Georgia Beauregard Possum — “or Pogo, fo’ short,” adds the patient ’possum.
The volumes as a whole offer not only superlative comical whimsy by Kelly but insight into his growth and maturation as a cartoonist and satirist. Kelly’s early comic book work does more than prefigure the comic strip: many of the gags and antics of the Animal Comics stories are recycled in the Pogo newspaper strip, and it’s instructive to watch how Kelly refined and improved his initial concepts.
Each volume includes scraps of the essential history of the strip. In Volume 1, for instance, we witness the debuts of Howland Owl and Churchy La Femme (Animal Comics No.13), and in Volume 2, we meet the irrepressibly prickly Porky Pine, calling himself Pompadour Q. Porcupine (in Four Color No.105).
Volume 2 also rehearses the “origin story” of Pogo and Albert’s relationship—their fateful initial encounter— in which Albert first enslaves Pogo and then tries to cook him for dinner, thinking he’s a duck. Along the way, Pogo gets stuck in a cooking pot and is consequently mistaken for a turtle as he crawls away on all fours. As usual, Albert loses sight of his objective before accomplishing it, and everyone runs off happily in all directions at once.
And Volume 2 corrects an error in Volume 1, which unaccountably left out two pages of the Pogo story in Animal Comics No.3; to make up for the oversight, the entire story is included in this volume.
Volume 3 is all from Pogo Possum, Nos.3 through 7, and with No.6, text stories begin on the inside front and back covers. (Were these written by Kelly? Probably, but it would be edifying if Andrae tole us.) Otherwise, the verbal-visual content of the stories includes Kelly’s usual antics both verbal and visual, crammed with leap-frogging puns and cascading malapropisms and stampeding misunderstandings that run off into further misunderstandings, all of a highly comical sort.
Subsequent volumes of the Hermes Pogo project will finish the Pogo Possum run (which ended with No.16, April 1954), plus one-shots in Our Gang No.6 (July 1943) and Santa Claus Funnies (Four Color No.254, 1949). That’ll take at least two more volumes by my calculation, and I’ll be looking forward to each delicious one of them, however many it takes.