When there were giants in the earth…

among them was Walt Kelly.  I grew up on Pogo, as my kids did on Calvin and Hobbes.  Finally, here is volume I of something that should have been done a long time ago (all the Amazon reviews seem to say, correctly, “Finally!”) .  My daughter gave it to me for Christmas and after all those decades away, I wasn’t sure it would hold up, but it does, even though I haven’t got to the Simple J. Malarkey episodes with which Kelly protected our national sanity while (for example) Al Capp pusillanimously sat out the bad times safely drawing shmoon.

Young readers, you can now fill in an important gap in your cultural capital.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

14 thoughts on “When there were giants in the earth…”

  1. Deck us all with Boston Charlie, fa la la la la… In the late 50’s my parents had several soft cover collections of Pogo. I found them more interesting than the daily strips. But I was 10 or 12. For a while Albert was a Sam Spade wanna-be. But I can’t recall his name, sigh…

  2. I got lost in reading the Foreward, Introduction and zipping back and forth to the drawings. I love seeing the non-repro blue sketches behind the ink lines.
    I think I need this book.

  3. Strip cartoons and jazz are American gift to the world. I know there were predecessors in Europe, but the American definition of the four-panel strip both enforced a useful discipline on authors and allowed newspapers to create a cartoon section of known size and format, expanding the market. When print newspapers disappear, cartoons will no doubt survive, but the discipline will be lost.

  4. An early Mad Magazine had a parody of Pogo, which ends with a mushroom cloud from an atomic bomb engulfing the scene. A survivor of the catastrophe is seen in a panel with a bunch of Walt Disney characters, and tells them that they had received advice from them to learn politics and join a party. Then Mickey Rodent says “Learn politics and join a party!? That is the kiss of death. We meant ‘Learn parlor tricks and join a party. It’s that Darnold Duck’s fault. No one can understand a word he says.”

  5. Pogo rolled a doctorate’s degree in philosophy into a single sentence: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

  6. I want to speak in defense of Al Capp (and Flanders and Swann, and Tom Lehrer, and Lenny Bruce). Kelly is wonderful, but there’s lots more treasure in the 50s and anybody rooting through the 50s pile at a used book store looking for Pogo who finds Capp should grab it and carry it home. Maybe he wasn’t a heroic defender of unchanging values, but he was funny and if you haven’t seen him he will enrich your life. Mort Sahl, there’s a name to conjure with!

    1. I’ll speak briefly in defense of the Shmoo from a six-year-old’s perspective, when I had a glorious Shmoo Christmas (1948?). I got the book, a set of Matryoshka-like white plastic Shmoos in six descending sizes, and a blow-up Shmoo, weighted on the bottom (what did they call those things?), that was bigger than I was. I was in Shmoo heaven. My dad (an ADA card-carrying liberal college perfesser) was a big Al Capp fan.

  7. This first volume is very early Pogo; Walt Kelly got much better as he went along.

    The tabletalk of the bats at cards.
    The grit and private despair of Ms. Beaver
    Porky’s simple decency
    Wonderful cursing: “Rowrbazzle Fazzbazz Numph!”
    The Okefenokee Glee and Perloo Union
    The ever-changing names on the flat-bottomed fishing skiffs
    PT Bridgeport [ in circus paste-up fonts ]
    Deacon Mushrat

    Some years ago, Fantagraphics began publishing a series of inexpensive paperback reproductions of the daily strips, but as far as I can tell, publication ground to a halt about half way through the canon.

    I’m delighted to see them start over in hardback, and to include the Sunday strips.
    But I hope they persevere this time: the best stuff comes later.

  8. As Joel notes, this is at least the second attempt by Fantagraphics to produce a complete Pogo. Their first effort ran 11 (softcover) volumes, contained the first 5-6 years of the series (about a quarter of the run), and ended in 2000.

    This attempt is much more likely to succeed. A large part of the delay came from their manic, obsessive desire to have the entire run of strips complete, in hand, before the first volume was published. Because of the success of their other strip reprints (most notably the Complete Peanuts), Fantagraphics is now much more financially secure than they ever have been, with better distribution and much better publicity.

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