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Biography & Remembering Walt Kelly

January 3, 2015

Walt Kelly was born August 25, 1913 Philadelphia, PA?Death: October 18, 1973, Woodland Hills, CA (Diabetes complications)

Kelly was an Animator, Editorial Cartoonist, Comic Book Cartoonist, Comic Strip Cartoonist, Creator of POGO for Dell Comics and President of National Cartoonists Society 1954-1956

Parents were Walter Crawford Kelly and Genevieve [MacAnnula] Kelly. He was married to Helen DeLacey with children: Peter, Carolyn, Stephen

The family moved to Bridgeport, CT during Kelly’s second year. Kelly’s father was a painter of theatrical scenery. Kelly began his career at age 13 as a cartoonist and reporter for the local newspaper, the Bridgeport Pos

He waseducated at Warren G. Harding High School. During World War II, Kelly was at the Foreign Language Unit andillustrated manuals for the Army.

Career Outline
Walt Disney Studios – 1935 to 1941 (Kelly left the studio rather than strike). Western Publishing/Dell Comics ­ 1942 to 1953. New York Star ­ 1948 to 1949. He began POGO for the Post-Hall Syndicate in May, 1949. George Ward andHenry Shikuma were among Kelly’s assistants on the strip. After Kelly,s death, it was continued by Selby and Stephen Kelly until 1975.

Walt Disney Studios – 1935 to 1941 (Kelly left the studio rather than?strike)?Western Publishing/Dell Comics ­ 1942 to 1953?New York Star ­ 1948 to 1949?Began POGO for the Post-Hall Syndicate in May, 1949. George Ward and?Henry?Shikuma were among Kelly’s assistants on the strip. After Kelly¹s?death, it?was continued by Selby and Stephen Kelly until 1975.

T.S. Sullivant, George Herriman, Lewis Carroll, Joel Chandler Harris


he had a gruff personality on the exterior – although reportedly personable, highly energetic and extroverted. Kelly was also extremely proud of his journalism pedigree, and considered himself a newspaper man as well as a cartoonist.

Supposedly an L.A. production of SHOW BOAT nearly obsessed him, and led directly to the Southern setting of POGO.

Milton Caniff’s favorite anecdote about Walt Kelly: ”The one I remember involved Walt and Al Capp of LI’L ABNER. This was at the RCA Theater and was a meeting of the Newspaper Comics Council. At each of their meetings, after the business session was over, they usually had something that related to cartooning – visuals, or a panel. This time it was just Al and Walt, two boys from Bridgeport, Connecticut, nose to nose and no recording was made, I’m sad to say…Walt would say to Al, “Of course, Al, this is really how you should draw Daisy Mae. I’m only showing you for your own good.” Then Walt would do a sketch. Capp, of course, got ticked off by this, as you could imagine! So he retaliated by doing his version of Pogo. Unfortunately, the drawings are long gone; no recording was made. What a shame! Nobody anticipated there’d be this dueling back and forth between the two of them. Otherwise we would have set it up to be recorded…”

Kelly was the first strip cartoonist to be invited to contribute originals to the Library of Congress. Pogo’s famous phrase – “We have met the enemy, and he is us” – is a take-off on Commodore Perry’s “We have met the enemy, and he is ours.”

A Random fact: Kelly discontinued the POGO POSSUM comic book after 16 issuesand fell out with Dell in 1953 over publication of the POGO PARADE anthology. He was angry over the reprinting of his early work, whichembarrassed him. His bogus “1943” drawing of Pogo from TEN EVER-LOVIN’ BLUE-EYED YEARS was an (unnecessary) attempt to falsify the record and coverhis tracks.

Politically, Kelly would be more accurately described as a “progressive” rather than a leftist or a liberal – he was a great supporter of Eisenhower over Adlai Stevenson, for example. Conversely, he seemed to tilt to Truman over Dewey, and was (famously) an early critic of Senator Joe McCarthy. He seemed to skewer both Johnson and Nixon in later years, as well as J.?Edgar Hoover, George Wallace and Spiro Agnew. Kelly was considered a sufficient enough threat that his phone was tapped, and the US Government corresponded with a newspaper reporter who claimed that the eccentric jargon Kelly created was a secret Russian code! Needless to add, Kelly was an unquestioned supporter of desegregation and free speech, and his name was recently discovered on a petition in support?of Lenny Bruce. Kelly’s singing voice, a boozy Irish baritone – can be heard on the SONGS?OF THE POGO album, for which he also supplied the lyrics. Kelly was a prolific poet, especially in the “Anguish Languish” form (of which ”Deck Us All With Boston Charlie” is considered one of the prime examples).


NCS Reuben Award (Cartoonist Of The Year) – 1951 NCS Silver T-Square Award (Extraordinary Service) – 1972

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