Friday, March 20, 2015

Number 1711: “But he hasn’t anything on!”

Walt Kelly’s beautifully drawn adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s original 1837 story is fairly faithful to the original. The Kelly touches and comic exaggeration are all over it, though. Andersen’s story works on several levels, but is also political satire. Andersen, according to some sources, was either bribed or bought off with a royal gift of jewelry so he would quit writing such satiric fare. It worked. It was a lot easier on Andersen than some governments’ responses to satire, including banishment, or imprisonment, or even death.

From Dell’s Fairy Tale Parade #2 (1942):

After leaving Disney, Walt Kelly went on to his comics career, doing much work for Dell in the 1940s, including early versions of Pogo. Pogo became a newspaper feature in the late forties, even while Kelly was still working on the comic books. My understanding is he had a falling out with Dell in the early fifties over his objection to reprints of early Pogo strips in the Dell giant, Pogo Parade. (Despite Kelly’s problem with it, from a fan’s perspective one of the best squareback Dell giants ever published).

Kelly occasionally had things to say about comic books. These short sequences from the Pogo newspaper strip take aim at comic books of the day, under heavy criticism for content. That would not be Dell Comics, though, a publisher that mainly kept itself out of the censors’ line of fire.

Scanned from The Incompleat Pogo, published by Simon and Schuster in 1954. My thanks to friend Dave Miller for providing me with a gift of this and other early Pogo books.


J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Kelly was always great although I think he acquired full maturity in "Pogo", so off with the art and on with some sad comments on the story.

1): "The author, according to some sources, was either bribed or bought off with a royal gift of jewelry so he would quit writing such fare. It worked".
Yep, it works. Take one country and start bribing intellectuals and satirical authors while, and at the same time, you gain not only political power but also total control of press and TV networks, and you'll have virtual disappearance of any form of satire in, say, 15 years. Long path maybe, but you won't need truncheons or black shirts.

2): Take your people and, in these 15-20 years of tv-press propaganda brainstorming, change radically their scale of moral values, putting on top the "I make my own rules and find a way to f..k the law, then in due time I myself re-write the law" gig.

3): Provide people with information that you're doing the exact opposite of what you're doing, i.e. call "Stop Corruption" a bill that actually gives plenty of legal loopholes for corruptors, or "Job's Act" (in english, please) a bill that erases every job security.

Not only you'll get a nation who won't say "But.. he hasn't anything on!), you'll have a nation that will always keep on BUYING the non existant clothes you offer. Now guess what country I'm talking about.
Sorry, but I had to get this off my chest. Won't repeat this kind of comments.
Thanks for your patience.

Ryan Anthony said...

Damn, that's beautiful art. Panel One of Page Two almost looks 3D because of the contrast between the color and black-&-white (or is that violet?). And the satire is almost all Kelly: As I recall the original (which I've not read in years), the "tailor" was trying to teach the emperor a lesson, not swindle him, and the people were never fooled by the "clothes." But I like this version. Good stuff.
Regarding the anti-comic book screed: many of the old comic strip people seemed to be against the magazine format, but Kelly did both, so why was he so violent about it? He did stuff like 'Our Gang' and the above 'Fairy Tale Parade' in the comic books. Sounds like some personal sour grapes to me.

Pappy said...

Ryan, as I understand it, Kelly's problem with reprinting the old Pogo stories is that the images conflicted with the current newspaper Pogo. Maybe he wasn't getting paid for the reprints (likely, based on publishing practices of the day), and maybe he felt he was being exploited by Dell. Just conjecture, though.

Pappy said...

J D, I assume you are speaking of your own country, but I believe every government is corrupt in its own way. Those who make the laws can figure out ways to make them pay off for themselves.

No one likes to be the object of satire or derision, but when elected it comes with the territory.

With the explosion of new technologies, many of the corrupt activities by individuals are being exposed by being recorded. I have asked, to my wife and my friends, why public officials or police continue to expose themselves to criticism by doing stupid things in front of cell phone cameras. Perhaps the answer is that old habits of greed and stupidity are hard to break.