Sunday, May 24, 2009

Prehistoric Fairy Tale

On January 12, 1966 I had the great fortune to meet Walt Kelly and spend 30 minutes or so talking with him, one on one, in the comfort of a university chapel parlor. 

I was only 13 at the time, and my parents had brought me to a lecture Kelly had given earlier that evening. My dad introduced me to him, so that I could avoid any potential awkwardness. Kelly looked at some of my drawings and seemed to have genuine interest in who I was and why I was the only adolescent in the audience. I must have explained myself fairly well, because he invited me to stay and chat more with him after the rest of the audience left. We sat in comfy easy chairs across a tea table and Kelly talked with me as if I was a college student. He was full of energy, brimming with funny anecdotes and curious about my thoughts on cartooning.

We talked about artistic style and how that evolves for an artist.  And I told him that as much as I admired his Pogo work,  I was even more infatuated with his early fairy tale work. This seemed to surprise and delight him. 

At one point he stopped and looked at me with a conspiratorial sidelong glance and I thought, uh oh, what have I done wrong. But he smiled slyly and proceeded to tell me of the upcoming sequence of Pogo that would get under way in the summer, involving what he considered to be a prehistoric fairy tale.

He described it vividly, gesturing with drawings in the air, as I sat spellbound. At one point he pulled a small notebook from his jacket and made a couple of quick notes to himself, seemingly of ideas he was spontaneously coming up with.

At the end of our time together he drew a quick sketch of Pogo for me and inscribed it, the one shown above. We parted warmly as he told me to always stay interested in fairy tales.

The upcoming story sequence Kelly told me about was actually slowly starting in the Sunday comics just 3 days before I talked with him, but wouldn't kick into high gear until June.

Well, of course I collected the Pogo strip every day at that time, and have saved them all these years. In recent times I wasn't sure what to do with them other than to store them. But with the fun I've had with my other 'blogs, I concluded that this sequence deserved its own 'blog. All in all it lasts over a year, but I will begin with Sundays, starting at the first week of 1966. Then I will post dailies as well, starting in June, when the art gets really interesting. 

This is my tribute to Kelly and his prehistoric fairy tale.


  1. Hello!
    I am an avid and ardent Walt Kelly fan myself, and have become transfixed by your blog! Thank you so much for taking the time to document your experience with Kelly and to paintakingly reproduce what I consider to be Kelly's greatest work. As a cartoonist, your blog has become a place of endless inspiration!!! Thank you!!!
    -john Sanford

  2. Thank you so much for sharing. I love the part where Kelly whips out his notebook and jots down his ideas as he's telling them to you. Proof that you should always carry a sketchbook with you.