“Pogo” is without question one of the top three best comic strips of all time (I would put “Li’l Abner” and “Peanuts” as the other two) but for a long time it was a frustratingly difficult strip to read. Years ago I was able to obtain a copy of The Very Best of Pogo, but that was about it. There was a series of reprints put out by Kitchen Sink that went out of print quickly and a few years ago cost around 100 dollars a piece to purchase; quite a bit to pay for slim volumes. Kitchen Sink only published eight volumes anyway, so it was far from comprehensive. Nevertheless, I was able to explore a few of the volumes from the library, frustrated that I couldn’t read more of the strip that, in brief glimpses, was clearly a treasure.
A few years ago, IDW announced they would issue the definitive collection of the strip.. However, it was delayed for several years as the publisher scoured collectors and libraries for quality versions of the strips. After the third delay I decided that I would go a different route in order to read the strip.
I remembered that one of our neighbors growing up was a big Pogo fan and had the complete set of the original paperbacks that began in the fifties. Of course those were long out of print, but over the past few years with Amazon, Abebooks, ebay, and other reatilers it became very easy to locate copies of these book for, in most cases, in few dollars.
So I started from the beginning and began with those paperbacks, which were a terrific way to experience the strip. They are presented in what might be called a graphic novel format today; they aren’t presented in strips but instead are combined into longer narratives and divided into chapters. I was also told that Walt Kelly added new material to fill in the gaps and provide a more consistent narrative. Also, every third book or so was filled with entirely new material – songs, stories, parodies, and all sorts of fun stuff. Plus they have a really cool vibe – yellowed pages, faded covers – they even have that cool old book smell.
Since then IDW has started publishing their series in their usual gorgeous hardbound collections, which caused me to wonder if I should start collecting those instead. They have every single comic strip in them, which was a plus, as well as all the supplementary material that makes the IDW books such a treat. However, I decided to stick with collecting the old books for now. I’m fond of the way they are presented, and I love the time capsule feel of those books.