My dad recently found and passed along to me his copy of The Return of Pogo. I'd read bits and pieces of Walt Kelly's work before, but never to my recollection more than a strip or two at a time. I was excited to see one of the greats "in action."
As I began reading through the book, though, I remembered that I had in fact read it before. That very book in fact. I didn't get past page one without laughing out loud and recalling that I laughed out loud at the very same joke years ago when I must have snagged it off Dad's bookshelf. (The joke, by the way, centered around that fact that Churchy was worried because Friday the 13th was fast approaching, and it was on a Monday!)
But reading through it again, some two and a half decades after my initial run-through, I wasn't surprised that it didn't leave a greater impression on me as a kid. The jokes that a 10/11 year old might get are amusing, certainly, but largely pretty broad in scope. What impressed me reading through the book this weekend was how much social and political commentary Kelly filled his stories with. Lots of references that make no sense without some semblance of understanding the various complexities grown-ups face in day-to-day life. Brilliance in nuanced subtlety.
Like many children of the 1970s, I grew up on Sesame Street. I stumbled across the show again in college and realized just how much of it was in fact aimed at adults. An architect named Frank Lloyd Left, for example. Or the derby-wearing Brit who provided absurd non-sequiturs and went by the name Monty. It was a kid's show that understood that parents might well be watching as well.
I think Kelly took a different approach. He wrote a comic strip for adults, with the understanding that kids would probably read it too. The funniest stuff is clever and insightful and thought-provoking, but a good pie-in-the-face gag never hurt anyone either!
So, how do you fall in love with Pogo? Simple. Wait until you're out of college, then pick up any collection of his work. You won't be sorry!