Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Rage Behind the Mask

Walt Kelly was born today, in 1913.

Because my father was a university professor, I had access to the university library while still in highschool.

In the summer of 1979 -- while I was being astonished by the novels of Mervyn Peake -- I chanced upon a book by Walt Kelly, Ten Ever-Lovin' Blue-Eyed Years With Pogo (1959). I had read the comic strip as a child, but I had never understood it; compared to the simplistic drawings and dialogue of the strips around it, Pogo had seemed like the relic of an ancient, eccentric world.

I glanced through the book, thought, "What the hell," and took it out.

By the time I had reached the halfway point, I was totally devoted to Kelly's art, his writing, and his world. I became a hunting fanatic: not only did I search through used bookstores for other volumes in the series, but I dreamed of Kelly books that had never existed.

What fascinated me about Kelly (beyond his power as a draughtsman and writer), was the tension in his work between a child-like whimsy and a seething rage at the idiocy of crowds, the mendacity of lunatics in power. Pogo was the mask of an angry man who had found a way to channel his anger for public consumption -- but the rage was there, like barbed wire in a birthday cake.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Perfect insight. Much enjoyed!