Sunday, April 04, 2021

WALT KELLY'S EASTER MESSAGE




No one drew bunny rabbits better than the great Walt Kelly.  

This Easter  episode of his comic strip Pogo reminds us of the kind of brilliance that was once found in the comic section of daily newspapers.  


Not just the drawing, but the staging, the words, the timing, the charming message-- this combination of talents show what once made comic pages such a significant cultural force.  

Note for example the range of facial expressions of the bunny as they advance the story. 












Kelly's acting ability with an ink brush deserved an academy award. 
   

22 comments:

MORAN said...

Awesome. Kelly earned his chops at Disney.

Del said...

Kelly was super. I am also partial to Wallace Tripp's rabbits. I can see similarities in approach.

Mr. Bee said...

I wonder how Kelly would handle the present "Woke" Social Justice movement? He was a man of the left, but this version of fascism is coming from the postmodern left. In fact, I'm kind of wondering how the entire art community - who, in my experience, are as monolithic in political viewpoint as a bigoted southern baptist congregation in the 50s when it comes to tolerating those of differing opinions.

= "Punch a Nazi".

Enjoy the coming censorship - you helped put it in place.

Richard said...

Indeed Kelly rocks. Love that Deacon character, great nose.

Jean said...

Mr. Bee - I think Kelly was a classic liberal and truly believed in antiquated notions like free speech, open debate of ideas, tolerance of people who don't think just like you do , hence if he were alive today he would be a target of the progressive woke sjw's.

kev ferrara said...

Kelly’s cartooning is almost too adorable. If it wasn’t for that crotchety character (whose Calvinesque uptightness is wonderfully suggested by the use of the blackletter font) bringing in a sour note, this strip would be saccharine.

But that character choice, then the choice to hit the turn of the joke in the last panel quietly, emphasizing the ultra-sweet naiveté instead of the surprise, shows good narrative crafting; hid all the mechanics nicely.

Speaking of naiveté, citing “Russian Easter” in the context of showing up “McCarthyism” as crotchety and cold made me chuckle.

Celebrating “Russian Easter” was indeed possible in the USSR when this strip came out in the midst of “McCarthism” in the U.S. Stalin had (with WWII) stopped murdering priests by the thousands and reinstated the Russian Orthodox Church. However, we know now it was only resurrected as a KGB front to root out dissidents. So, now and again people were escorted out of the pews and ‘disappeared’; tortured in gulags, executed, and buried in ditches and mass graves.

I suppose Kelly can’t be much blamed for believing at the time – as this strip seems to suggest - that Communism as practiced had something to do with ‘love’. Much of the relevant history of communism was still hidden; Walter Benjamin was still thought to be a journalist, the revelation of Khrushchev’s Secret Speech was still to come, Robert Conquest’s histories were not yet written, and so on.

After the ‘McCarthyism” period in which this strip was created, Kelly went from lampooning Anti-Communists to lampooning Communists: Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro. He probably didn’t know much about politics or economics - he was about as poorly informed as everybody else back then; he believed whatever media memo he was handed.

Maybe the real parable behind the strip is, don’t be so hasty to use your talents and abilities to push for a certain fashionable political agenda just because it ‘sounds good’ on the radio, tv or internet. You may unwittingly be putting your own personal mask of charm over the kind of regressive self-righteousness and oppressive brutality you’d never sanction in real life.

David Apatoff said...

MORAN-- He did start with Disney, a great training ground despite their labor problems.

Del-- I just took another look at Wallace Tripp. I agree completely, terrific work!

Mr. Bee-- Kelly may have been a "man of the left," but he certainly lampooned left wing figures such as hippies and LBJ. The figures he lampooned on the right-- McCarthy, Spiro Agnew, J. Edgar Hoover-- were generally reviled by conservatives as well as liberals. As for intolerance and censorship, I haven't found them to be the purview of the left or the right, the communists or the fascists, the religious or the secular. Extremists of all types seem to embrace intolerance and censorship.

David Apatoff said...

Richard-- I agree, Kelly had the full range of characters from the sweetest little mice and bunnies to the dour deacon and the vicious Simple J. Malarkey.

Jean-- Well, Kelly took off after the ku Klux klan and J. Edgar Hoover, so I suspect that would've inoculated him against much criticism from progressive groups.

Kev Ferrara-- I don't interpret this strip as suggesting that communism had anything to do with practicing love. I think his point was that whether you celebrate Easter in the Russian-Orthodox church (using the old Julian calendar) or in christian churches in the west (using the Gregorian calendar), Easter is all about love. The deacon who hears the word "Russian" and assumes it must be about communism clearly does not understand the spirit of Easter, but even then Kelly cuts him some slack and says, "hard to say," the gracious reaction of a non-ideologue. Your point that the communist government was separate from and hostile to Russian Easter supports that view

kev ferrara said...

I don't interpret this strip as suggesting that communism had anything to do with practicing love.

I think his point was that whether you celebrate Easter in the Russian-Orthodox church (using the old Julian calendar) or in christian churches in the west (using the Gregorian calendar), Easter is all about love.

I went back and forth on the interpretation, so I won't insist on it. However, I'll make the case.

Easter is a religious holiday. Mostly a Christian celebration of the resurrection of their famed titular character, JC (Not Leyendecker). Thus a reminder of the 'eternal life' afforded to all believers in the religion. This coincides with springtime, which is a rebirth of nature. And relates to Eggs for the same reason. Within the celebration time frame, families get together, and people may give gifts of decorated eggs.

Obviously here, the only aspect of Easter that is referenced is the mutual gifting of eggs. And in the particular scenario, we have a state of reflexive mutual giving/sharing. The sweet 'joke' of the strip is that the gift you give reflexively might very well be, or is, a gift you give to yourself. And that'll work as a symbolic stand-in for a host of religions and philosophies.

However, the antagonist introduced as contrary to the spirit of this idea is a specifically anti-communist character. This introduces a political element into the Meta realm, which, like any paradigm-shifting presence, colors how that realm is to be interpreted. At least under ordinary aesthetic circumstances.

Since many naive people think of Communism, even to this day, as simply a benign paradigm of reflexive sharing (“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”) - only resisted by the miserable and selfish - the ouroboros of generosity narrated by the strip, as well as its antagonist, is a match. The parable fits.

Under your interpretation, this fit would be a mere coincidence.


Øyvind Lauvdahl said...

That there is no Easter Bunny in Russian Easter, underscores the fact that there are no Communists in this strip. And, in light of this, the blatancy of the religious scholar/leader's ...reflexive reponse further underscores the point.

Anonymous said...

"JC (Not Leyendecker)" Hysterical!

JSL

kev ferrara said...

That there is no Easter Bunny in Russian Easter, underscores the fact that there are no Communists in this strip.

A literalist has entered the chat.

Øyvind Lauvdahl said...

A literalist has entered the chat.

Reflexively.

Also, the Easter Bunny i̶s̶r̶a̶e̶l̶ is real.

Matthew Adams said...

David hops around, finding and presenting lovely art, while all the deacons exclaim "COMMUNISM!" and totally miss the point.

kev ferrara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kev ferrara said...

David hops around, finding and presenting lovely art, while all the deacons exclaim "COMMUNISM!" and totally miss the point.

A strangely distorted cartoon.

Anonymous said...

> “ David hops around, finding and presenting lovely art, while all the deacons exclaim "COMMUNISM!" and totally miss the point.”

Hey, are you calling David stupid? He doesn’t post provocative posts without intended to.

Anonymous said...

I think the idea that introducing elements of the political landscape to an Easter cartoon is creating such a spirited conversation here, is likely at least as much of a reflection on these times, as it is the times of the cartoon's creation.

Politics and political positioning have permeated and colored every facet of modern life. We can dwell on it, or look past it. I think the deacon's addition to the strip is a bit startling, but I am willing to let it go and move on. Until we all learn to let go of the small stuff, and fight the occasional bigger battles only when they are necessary, will we ever be able to move on from the emotional and spiritual shackles we are placing on our own ankles. Who is going to be the bigger, more brave person and go first?

kev ferrara said...

"Courage!" he shouted, anonymously.

Every now and again, the saying becomes true, that "you will be made to care." In such circumstances, the 'courage' to ignore what is going on is the opposite of courage.

Matthew Adams said...

Anonymous, I am quite capable of calling people stupid on my own without any help. I don't need people to put words in my mouth. Especially words I don't intend.

Kev, as you well know all cartoons are by necessity distorted, but strangely is too much of a compliment! Thank you.

Chris said...

The typeface for the block capitals is priceless. I love what it does for the sudden political tonal change, and what it says about the puritanical character with the beak and tail (whatever he's called).

Fritjof said...

David Apatoff , you are spot on with your interpretation of what Kelly is doing in this strip with the mention of "Russian Easter" (i.e. Eastern Orthodox Pascha).


"I think his point was that whether you celebrate Easter in the Russian-Orthodox church (using the old Julian calendar) or in christian churches in the west (using the Gregorian calendar), Easter is all about love. The deacon who hears the word "Russian" and assumes it must be about communism clearly does not understand the spirit of Easter, but even then Kelly cuts him some slack and says, "hard to say," the gracious reaction of a non-ideologue. Your point that the communist government was separate from and hostile to Russian Easter supports that view."