Here is another legacy contribution from the early days of Reckonings (roughly 2003).
Pogo and the other inhabitants of the Okefenokee Swamp* disappeared from newspapers' comic strip pages shortly after their maker, Walt Kelly, died in 1973. I grew up with his world in the 1950s and 1960s.
I still tune in to Doonesbury now and then. I have been devoted to Calvin and Hobbes, Opus, and Gary Larson's wonderful upside down and sideways view of the world. For a time, as a child, the thoroughgoing loving kindness of Al Capp's shmoos captivated me. But Kelly's way with character, setting and especially language were satisfying as no other comic strip. As Brad Leithauser writes, "Pogo was different. It had depth, a madcap unpredictability, and a restive verbal playfulness; it was, in short, the only comic strip spun through the mind of a poet."
The denizens of the Swamp—Pogo, Albert the alligator, Beauregard the hound, Owl, Porky Pine, the ominous wildcat Simple J. Malarkey (modeled on the infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy), the blowhard bear P.T. Bridgeport, Miz Beaver and the fetching French skunk, Ma'm'selle Hepzibah, with whom Pogo is shyly enchanted—lent the strip a wonderful range of linguistic warp and woof, lyricism, affection and (mostly) friendly dissension the likes of which we have not seen since.
The pace of life in the Swamp is... well, like a swamp should be: comfortable, slow, yet with rich, unpredictable depth and color.
There are some genuine bad guys among the residents of the swamp—Mole with his omnipresent shades, and his sidekick The Deacon, for example—but they are more like literate rednecks than real evil. The only source of threatened (never realized) violence is the manifestly malignant Malarkey.
Some of Kelly's lines remain with me well over a quarter century after they were uttered. "We have met the enemy and he is us." Whenever I hear "Deck the Halls" at Christmas time, I find myself quietly singing, "Deck us all with Boston Charlie, tra la la la la, la la de da" And when I tend to go on longer than I should--a common professorial malady--I recall one of Pogo's rhymes:
Riddle you the little dew
And little do you do?
Little did is little done,
Tho' little did'll do.
I plan to weave into these pages at least a little did'll of Pogo's gentleness, kindness, exuberance and nonsense, without which this battered world would be much the poorer.
For those interested in a contemporary tribute to Kelly and his creation, and a sample of some of his characters' antics, I recommend Brad Leithauser's essay, "Lyrics in the Swamp," in the April 25, 2002 issue of The New York Review of Books. There are several collections of Pogo still available in paperback.
* The real Okefenokee Swamp, thankfully, is still with us, and is a heartening story of environmental intelligence at work. Covering approximately 700 square miles of South Georgia and North Florida, it is a primitive wetland which harbors thousands of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, many of which are endangered or threatened. The north end of the swamp is bordered by pine forests and thick tangles of vegetation. Small water trails lead south to the open prairies and west to the Suwannee River. Nearly 400,000 acres of the Okefenokee were designated as the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in 1937 (by none other than President Franklin D. Roosevelt), protecting the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers from further development and depredation. For that, Pogo would be pleased and proud.