No Go Pogo.

§ October 14th, 2019 § Filed under question time § 4 Comments

Let’s tackle the ol’ virtual mail pile and get to more of your questions, shall we?

GiantsinThoseDays looks back with

“Doomsday Clock posits the DC metaverae responds to changes in the Superman story (and I think Milk Wars said something similiat, which is why Superman couldn’t be subject to the retcon). What’s your most controversial opinion about Superman?”

Huh. I’ve read Superman comics for a very long time…started in the late ’70s sometime, reading them off the stands off and on, then buying every issue of Superman and Action (and related titles like Man of Tomorrow and other series that work into the ongoing continuity) after the mid-1980s relaunch.

In all that time, I don’t know that I’ve had anything that’s a really controversial take on the character. My feelings on Superman tend to conform to what I believe is the general conception of Superman. Like, “Superman is the moral center of the DC Universe,” or “Superman should always win,” and “Clark Kent is secretly Superman, shhhh, don’t tell anyone.”

As I recall there was some pushback from fans during the ’80s reboot regarding some of the changesto the franchise…not everyone, obviously, but a non-zero number, so I suppose saying “I’m okay with New Luthor, and with the Kents still being alive, etc.” would put me in the “controversial opinion” side of things with them.

Maybe the one event from that period that got up the most people’s noses is Superman executing the Phantom Zone villains from that alternate universe (long story, go read the back issues, they’re cheap)…and I was okay with that, actually, which probably puts me on the other side of the fence from most fans who read this story. The “Superman Doesn’t Kill” aspect of the character was…well, still is…pretty important, and having this occur came as quite the shock at the time. I think what saves it is that it was not without consequences, with repercussions running through the Superman comics for months afterwards, culminating in Superman’s vow to never again take a life, at least until he seemingly kills Doomsday in Superman #75. Anyway, it worked for me, but I can understand if some folks felt that was an unnecessary tainting of the character.

Aside from that, I don’t really have any “hot takes” on Superman. I always liked pal Dorian‘s idea that Superman should have always been a period piece, that his stories should always take place in the 1930s. In place of my own controversial opinion, I’m going to steal his.

• • •

Thelonious_Nick underscores his question with

“You’ve mentioned Pogo before, and as a lover of old comic strips (Popeye, Prince Valiant, Peanuts, Annie, even, God help me, the reprint editions of the early Blondie & Dagwoods) I’ve long thought about trying Pogo out.

“But it’s a bit more intimidating than some of those others maybe, since I think there was some level of continuity and I believe also Pogo doubled as a commentary on the politics of the time.

“Is there a place you recommend somebody unfamiliar with the strip start? Is Vol. 1 of the Fantagraphics reprints a good place, or are the early strips only for completists? Is there a good cheaper collection if I’m not sure I’ll like the strip?”

Um…hate to tell you this, but while I have mentioned Walt Kelly’s Pogo one or twice on the site, I’ve never actually read much, if any at all. My primary exposure to Pogo is this issue of Swamp Thing a weird tribute to the strip. Oh, and also I watched a VHS copy of this stop-motion animated movie that the aforementioned pal Dorian let me borrow several years ago. He’s more of an aficionado of the strip.

For some reason, as I was exposed to several different comic strips via paperback collections as a kid, Pogo never made into my hands. Doonesbury did, somehow, but Pogo never made it into my grubby little hands.

Now keep in mind this is nothing against Pogo, or some kind of unwillingness on my part to give it a shot…just circumstances and time have never really quite allowed me sufficient exposure to the strip. I’m aware of the characters and general premise, but as to any actual specific knowledge of the strip, sufficient to send you in the proper direction.

Mark Evanier, who’s involved with the new Fantagraphics reprint volumes, has had plenty to say on his site about Pogo and you can probably learn a lot more from him. He does say that the most recent volume, the fifth one, “contains two prime years of what I think is the best newspaper strip ever” and that sounds like a fairly solid recommendation to me.

• • •

Gareth Wilson volleys the following to me

“Robin Hood and King Arthur have been handled badly in recent movies, and some people have suggested that modern movie-makers have problems handling old public domain characters. Have comics done any better with these two characters? What about similar characters like Sherlock Holmes?”

Well, there have certainly been a lot of comics featuring all three of these guys, as I’m sure you know. I think comics might have a better chance at doing interesting and possibly even good things with them, as comics are perhaps a bit less beholden to studio interference, test marketing, and so on. Of the three, Sherlock Holmes has had a lot of play in the funnybook realm, probably because the general success of TV and movie adaptations spurred on comic publishers riding that zeitgeist. Dynamite has published several series that weren’t bad, I think.

The King Arthur legend has seen several weird permutations in comics, either changing the setting or flipping genders or what have you, whereas the film/TV adaptations tend to hew a little closer to the source material. Right now there’s the popular comic Once & Future from Boom Studios, there was Once and Future Queen from Dark Horse a year or two back, and Matt Wagner’s Mage is a take on Arthurian legend. Gotta say, though, Camelot 3000 is still a favorite of mine.

Robin Hood is a little harder to nail down…there have been plenty of Robin Hood comics, both adaptations of the original legend and transformative reworkings, such as Zenescope’s multiple Robyn Hood series. To be honest, I haven’t really been exposed to enough of these to have an opinion as to their quality, but this one was drawn by Tim Truman, so how bad can it be. Though I guess basically any superhero with a bow and arrow is inspired by Robin Hood (Green Arrow being the more obvious of them).

My general sense is that comics may have better luck dealing with these public domain properties, just through sheer numbers and more willingness to experiment with them. One of the fascinating aspects of these characters is how they’re adapted and changed to relate to new audiences, to reflect new circumstances. Not always successfully, but rarely without value, either. And when this happens, sometimes we get Tomb of Dracula, and sometimes we get

4 Responses to “No Go Pogo.”

  • @misterjayem says:

    Apparently, Dell’s Dracula also couldn’t see himself in the mirror.

    — MrJM

  • Andrew-TLA says:

    I’ve managed to get into Pogo recently, by way of the Fantagraphics collections. There’s a nice set of annotations in the back, pointing out not just the political/current events references but also the running gags that show up once or twice a volume (I don’t mind saying that “Deck us All with Boston Charlie” is a new personal favorite bit).

    What makes Kelly a genius is that, at least in these earliest years collected so far, he’s very good at balancing the commentary with sheer silliness and character interaction. Trudeau used to be good at that, and Breathed has his moments, but they’re a shadow of what Kelly was capable of. I’m guessing his time at Disney may be to thank for that.

  • Voord 99 says:

    I don’t know if it’s a controversial opinion, really. But it’s always bothered me that Superman, the moral center of the DC universe, makes his living violating the public trust by reporting on himself under another name. Compounded by the fact that Lois, the most journalisty journalist who ever journalisted, does not immediately dump him when she finds out about his contempt for the ethics of her profession.

  • Daniel T says:

    My “controversial” opinion on Superman is John Byrne’s in the 80s–he should be the Last Son of Krypton. It got to the point where it seemed like nobody died on Krypton except Jor-El and Lara. And now it’s only Lara! I’ve never liked all the Kryptonian stuff that’s been played up in the comics over the last 20 years or so.

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