Saturday, August 31, 2013

Walt Kelly's Pogo: School for Burglars

The original Sunday artwork for Walt Kelly's Pogo is always a treat. The comic strip for May 27, 1956 had a pretty good gag too. Barnstable Bear is the only regular character in this strip, though, and perhaps this is why the original artwork did not command a premium on eBay.

The slight discontinuity between the third and fourth panels is easily explained. While many newspapers ran all three rows of a Sunday comic strip, others ran only the bottom two. Therefore, the top row is conceived as expendable as far as the storytelling is concerned. It can introduce the gag, but it an't be crucial to it.

Walt Kelly, Original Sunday Artwork for Pogo, May 27, 1956

Note: More of my blog posts on Walt Kelly can be seen here.

As you must know by now, the excellent Whirled of Kelly blog is here.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Walt Kelly's Pogo: Fifty Whacks

Walt Kelly's original artwork for the Pogo strip of June 26, 1971 features a bulldog who is a caricature of F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover. The strip also includes a hyena in full regalia who represents Vice President Spiro Agnew. I'm a little out of my depth here, so I'm going to quote Wikipedia:
In the early 1970s, Kelly used a collection of characters he called "the Bulldogs" to mock the secrecy and perceived paranoia of the Nixon administration. The Bulldogs included caricatures of J. Edgar Hoover (dressed in an overcoat and fedora, and directing a covert bureau of identical frog operatives), Spiro Agnew (portrayed as an unnamed hyena festooned in ornate military regalia), and John Mitchell (portrayed as a pipe-smoking eaglet wearing hightop sneakers.)[13] Always referred to but never seen was The Chief, who we are led to believe was Nixon himself[citation needed]. (Nixon eventually made his appearance—as a reclusive, teapot-shaped spider named Sam.)
J. Edgar Hoover apparently read more into the strip than was there. According to documents obtained from the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act, Hoover had suspected Kelly of sending some form of coded messages via the nonsense poetry and Southern accents he peppered the strip with. He reportedly went so far as to have government cryptographers attempt to "decipher" the strip.[14]

I'd love to know what the cryptographers came up with.

Walt Kelly, Original Comic Strip Art for Pogo, June 26, 1971

Note:  This blog has a lot more about Walt Kelly's Pogo here, but not as much as the Whirled of Kelly blog has here.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Signed with a Drawing of Pogo by Walt Kelly

A prized copy of the first Pogo collection was signed and inscribed by Walt Kelly with an original drawing of Pogo Possum. The eBay seller is correct to point out that this is not a first edition, but it is a highly-collectable copy just the same.

Walt Kelly, Pogo, 1948
Walt Kelly, Pogo, 1948, inscribed "Best wishes / to Mrs. Kirk Hoerman / Walt Kelly / + / [drawing of Pogo]"
Note that in the book, Simon & Schuster's logo "The Sower" has been redrawn by Kelly in the character of Pogo.

This printing of the book is dated 1951 and the recipient is a Mrs. Kirk Hoerman. From that, I pieced together some biographical information, mostly about her husband. One Kirk Hoerman is mentioned in the University of Missouri at Kansas City Kangaroo Yearbook for the Class of 1947. Acknowledgment is given on the School and Faculty page for the Bushwhacker section, the yearbook of the School of Dentistry, page 199, "to Kirk Hoerman for drawing the splendid cartoons...." In 1960, he coauthored a paper on nutrition in Ethiopia which indicated he was then a Commander in the Dental Corps of the U.S. Navy and the chief of the biochemistry laboratory of Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3 in Cairo, Egypt. He would be about 88 today. A Kirk Conklin Hoerman was married to Donna Wilson, according to, but the year isn't stated. Today he is retired in Arizona and I believe he remarried.

I'm going to speculate--it keeps me busy, after all--that in 1951 or perhaps later, Kirk Hoerman, a dentist with a talent for cartooning, must have admired Walt Kelly's Pogo, and may have obtained this book for his wife at a signing or by some other means. Of course, they could have gone together--there were, it seems, no children yet--or she could have obtained it herself, but I wanted to try to tie the story in with his cartooning. It seems to me that many amateur cartoonists, myself included, have a real appreciation for the works of the great cartoonists.

Note:  You can see more about Walt Kelly here.

Be sure not to miss the Whirled of Kelly blog here.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My Entry in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #392

Here is my entry in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #392 for August 26, 2013. The cartoon is by Harry Bliss, but the caption is mine.

"Because Hulk suspended from Major League Baseball!"

September 2, 2013 Update:  The Finalists

September 16, 2013 Update:  Winning caption

Note:  Check out my previous entry in the Cartoon Caption Contest here.

See more posts with work by Harry Bliss here.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Gaudeamus Igitur

In an annual rite of passage, eager college freshmen are moving into dormitories on campuses all over the country. This raises a concern, namely: are they prepared musically for the oldest college student's song of them all? Probably not.

"Gaudeamus Igitur" is a traditional student song dating from the days when almost everyone studied Latin. It's been in its current form for well over two centuries. Christian Wilhelm Kindleben published his version of the verses in 1781 to be sung to a well-known melody of the time. The serious nature of some of the verses did not preclude its use as a drinking song. In fact, it is the first line that sets the devil-may-care tone of the piece, not the morbid musings on life's brevity.

I leave it to the reader whether "Long live all young women" is a faithful translation of Vivant omnes virgines.

My personal introduction to the song was in the operetta "The Student Prince" (1924). The score is by Sigmund Romberg and the lyrics are by Dorothy Donnelly, but in addition there is that one traditional student's song. It's quite enjoyable and quite the showstopper. Mario Lanza, who does not himself appear on screen in the 1954 MGM movie, reportedly performed each track of the recording in just one take:
"Gaudeamus Igitur"
Mario Lanza (Voice of Prince Karl Franz)
"The Student Prince" 1954 MGM Film Soundtrack

Mario Lanza, "The Student Prince"

Is this traditional song still performed? Yes, I'm sure it is, but probably not as much as in years gone by and probably not very often with all ten verses. Even "The Student Prince" doesn't get past the first verse, which is sung a total of three times.

Speaking from my own experience, I'm pleased to report that "Gaudeamus Igitur" was performed at the Vassar College Fall Convocation on August 31, 1983. Don't worry if you don't have a program; I saved mine. Note that in this arrangement four verses were performed in the order 1, 4, 3, 10.

Vassar College, Fall Convocation, August 31, 1983

"Gaudeamus!" Vassar College, Fall Convocation, August 31, 1983

A lovely sound can be heard from the men of the Robert Shaw Chorale, who consider "Guadeamus Igitur" to be a "Glee Club Favorite." The verses sung are 1 and 10.
"Gaudeamus Igitur"
Men of the Robert Shaw Chorale
From "23 Glee Club Favorites" (1962)

Men of the Robert Shaw Chorale
"23 Glee Club Favorites" (1962)

The famous student's song is even quoted in an orchestral showpiece. Brahms's Academic Festival Overture concludes with the triumphant theme "Gaudeamus Igitur," which begins in the finale at around 9:11 on this video recording.
Johannes Brahms, Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80, 1880
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, 1983
Leonard Bernstein, Conductor

Johannes Brahms, Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80, 1880
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, 1983
Leonard Bernstein, Conductor

In 1953, the year prior to the release of the movie "The Student Prince" when the operetta was on no one's mind in particular, The New Yorker published this cartoon of a monk singing in the shower by Eldon Dedini. At this point, I bet you can guess what he's singing.
Eldon Dedini, "Gaudeamus igitur,
Juvenes dum sumus;
Post jucundam juvenutem,
Post molestam senectutem

Nos habebit humus."
The New Yorker, February 14, 1953, page 40

The Robert Israel score to Harold Lloyd's "The Freshman" (1925) features the theme at about 7:01.
Harold Lloyd, "The Freshman" (1925)
Video added February 22, 2016

Most recently, the traditional school song appeared in the soundtrack for "Monsters University." The melody of "Gaudeamus Igitur" is prominent at the beginning of this clip as Mike and Sulley chase Archie the Scare Pig, the stolen mascot belonging to Fear Tech, Monsters University's rival college. Got that?

"Monsters University" (2013) Animation Progression

Sulley and Mike chase Archie the Scare Pig to the tune of "Gaudeamus Igitur" in Disney/Pixar's "Monsters University" (2013). The traditional school music during the early part of the chase is a really deft touch, and it's too bad they didn't put the same care into crafting a satisfying ending for this movie.

OK, you now know what I know about this song, and if you're musically inclined, you can even sing it, which I can't do for love or money. All together, now!

Note:  Here's another handy Latin phrase for college kids: "Dimidus Asinus Genius." Does it mean half-assed genius? Not exactly, but still that might have been the inside joke among Disney's top brass. I am the current owner of former Disney President Donn Tatum's Ludwig von Drake cufflinks bearing those inspiring Latin words and if you agree that that's certainly worth a blog post, check it out here.

My pleas to have Attempted Bloggery's contents inform our nation's college curricula have gone unheeded, perhaps because I chose to run my entire academic campaign on April Fools Day and I don't think it was taken seriously. Nevertheless, I would love to hear all about it if this blog should ever be referenced in any college syllabus or other academic course materials. Look, it could happen. There's got to be secondary source material for a senior Comics thesis in here somewhere. Yes, they teach courses in Comics now. I believe the subject has replaced Latin.

Vivat Academia!


Monday, August 26, 2013