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Biographies of the Stars

Walt Kelly

Walter Crawford Kelly was born on August 25, 1913 in Philadelphia ,Pennsylvania, moving to Bridgeport , Connecticut while Walt was still a child.

By some accounts Walt was taught how to draw by his father who painted scenery for theatre productions and vaudeville shows, but other accounts have his father as a munitions worker. A vexing mystery.

He went to work at the Bridgeport Post after graduating High School and in 1936 found himself working at Walt Disney Studios as an animator. During this time Walt worked on such famous Disney vehicles as Fantasia, Dumbo and Pinnochio. When the studio was hit by a strike in 1941 Walt moved back to Connecticut and began doing comic book work for Western Publishing, also known as Dell.

At Dell, he illustrated Walt Disney Comics & Stories covers & interiors, New Fun Comics and Animal Comics. It was in the last title he introduced what later became his footnote character, Pogo the Possum along with the other cast members of the Okefenokee swamp. It was also during this time that Walt's association with the fairy tale genre blossomed as Walt created, wrote and illustrated a number of titles for Dell called Fairy Tale Parade, Santa Claus Funnies, Raggedy Ann & Andy, Mother Goose and others..

During World War 2. Kelly could be found illustrating manuals for the armed services teaching language instruction.

In 1948, Walt was hired as the art editor of the foundling New York Star. It was in the Star that Walt introduced Pogo as a daily strip in early 1949. But the Star folded after a scant eight months in existence and was taken over by the New York Post, where Pogo continued to appear.

Gaining popularity quickly, Walt became one of the most talked about cartoonists of the era. His Pogo strips were a lusciously drawn polemic on American society. Humor, political and social commentary were inextricably fused in a style that was both easy to understand and enjoy by children, and yet loaded with high brow gaffs to challenge the intellectual.

Walt and Pogo became so popular that beginning in 1952, "Pogo for President" was heard for the first time. A devout Democrat, Walt for years attended all the Democratic Conventions, which in turn were graced by a Pogo for President party at Walt's suite. The suite could always be pinpointed by the artwork pinned to Walt's door, which was a picture of Pogo with the campaign slogan. These little treasures are sometimes seen for sale in collectors circles.

He was the elected as the president of the National Cartoonist's Society in 1954. That same year, syndication boomed to over 500 newspapers for the possum. He appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine - TWICE!

There was a downside to Pogo however. Because of the rich political and social commentary, Pogo was frequently removed from the comics pages and sometimes only appeared in the political sections of some newspapers. During an episode in which Kelly spoofed radical senator Joseph McCarthy, one editor banned the strip because "politics has no place on the comics page". Kelly promptly introduced a character into the strip. Miss Sis Boombah who was labeled a red and a political chicken from Providence, the town where the strip was banned.

In the 1960's the strip embraced the social change of the time and had flower children and Russian leaders, it was probably the first comic strip to comment on ecological disaster and man's treatment of the environment.

One particular daily strip featured Pogo talking to Albert stumbling upon a dump in the Okefenokee, stating "We have met the enemy and he is US." The strip was later cited by president Ford for it's frank statement. It also became the poster for earth Day in 1970.

Walt Kelly had a wit and artistic talent matched by few in the history of the comic medium, and copied by many, and when he died on October 18, 1973 from complications due to diabetes, the comics lost a great master whose joyous creation will be remembered for generations.

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