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Pogo Possum

Georgia State Possum

Walt Kelly's Pogo Possum needlepoint; photo by Meredith on Flickr (noncommercial use permitted with attribution / no derivative works).

Official State 'Possum of Georgia

Georgia adopted Pogo as the official state ‘possum in 1992. Arts & Drama Symbols

Pogo is a friendly cartoon "swamp critter" that comments wryly on politics and philosophy. Created by Walt Kelly (cartoonist and movie animator), who was inspired after visiting the Okefenokee Swamp in 1942.

Pogo ‘Possum appeared in comic books in the early 1940’s and starred in a nationally syndicated newspaper comic strip in 1949. Quoting Pogo: "We have met the enemy and he is us." Pogo poked fun at the vanity and shortcomings of people everywhere.

It's hard to gather a complete list of every character that appeared in Pogo over the comic strip's 27 years, but estimates tally the total cast at over 300. Kelly would create characters as he needed them and discard them when they had served their purpose.

Though most characters have full names, some are usually referred to only by their species. For example, Howland Owl is almost always called "Owl"; Beauregard is usually called "Hound Dog"; Churchy LaFemme is sometimes called "Turtle" (or "Turkle," in swamp-speak).

Permanent Swamp Residents

Pogo Possum: one of few major characters with the sense to avoid trouble. Though he prefers to spend his time fishing or picnicking, his kind nature often gets him reluctantly entangled in his neighbors' escapades. Pogo is often the unwitting target of matchmaking by Miz Beaver. He was also forced to run for president, against his will, multiple times by the swamp's residents. His kitchen is well-known around the swamp for being fully stocked, and many characters impose upon him for meals, taking advantage of his kind nature.

Albert Alligator: enthusiastic and loyal, dimwitted and irascible, Albert is often the comic foil for Pogo or the fall guy for Owl and Churchy. Having an alligator's voracious appetite, Albert would often eat things indiscriminately, and was accused on more than one occasion of eating another character. Even though he has been known to take advantage of Pogo's kindness and generosity, Albert Allilgator is ferociously loyal to Pogo and would, at softer times, be found scrubbing him in the tub or cutting Pogo's hair.

Beauregard: Beauregard Chaulmoogra Frontenac de Montmingle Bugleboy (usually just called "Beauregard"; scion of the Cat Bait fortune). Beauregard is a hound dog and occasional policeman. He sees himself as a romantic figure, often narrating his own heroic deeds. Beauregard frequently will wear a trench coat and fedora hat - squinting his eyes when impersonating a Dick Tracy type detective.

The Bats: Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered (sometimes Bemildred): bats. The bats are hobos and gamblers, good-natured but totally innocent of any temptation to honesty. They admit nothing. Soon after arriving in the Swamp they are recruited by Deacon Mushrat into the Audible Boy Bird Watchers Society. Their names (a play on the song title Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered) are rarely mentioned; often even they cannot say for sure which brother is which. They tell each other apart, if at all, by the patterns of their trousers (according to one of the bats, "Whichever pair of trousers you put on in the morning, that's who you are for that particular day.").

Churchill "Churchy" LaFemme: a turtle. His name is a play on the French phrase Cherchez la femme. Though superstitious to a fault (for example, panicking when he discovers that Friday the 13th falls on a Wednesday that month), Churchy is usually an active partner in Howland's schemes. Churchy may once have been a pirate, as for a long time he wore a buccaneer's hat and was sometimes referred to as "Captain LaFemme." He enjoys composing songs and poems, often with ridiculous and abrasive lyrics and nonsense rhymes.

Deacon Mushrat: the local man of the cloth, the Deacon speaks in blackletter, and his views are just as modern. He is typically seen haranguing others for their undisciplined ways, attempting to lead the Bats in some wholesome activity (which they inevitably subvert), or reluctantly entangled in the crusades of Mole and his even shadier allies; in either role he was the straight man and often wound up on the receiving end of whatever scheme he was involved in. Kelly described him as the closest thing to an evil character in the strip.

Dr. Howland Owl: the swamp's self-appointed resident scientist, professor, doctor, explorer, witch doctor, and anything else he thought would generate respect for his knowledge. In his earliest appearances, he wears a pointed wizard's cap. Thinking himself the most learned creature in the swamp, he once tried to open a school but had to close it for lack of interest. Actually he was unable to tell the difference between learning, old wives' tales, and use of big words. Most of the harebrained schemes come from the mind of Owl.

Grundoon: A baby groundhog (or "groun'chunk" in swamp-speak). An infant, Grundoon spoke only baby talk, which Kelly represented by strings of random consonants like "Bzfgt ktpv mnpx gpss twzkd znp." Eventually, Grundoon did learn to say two actual words: "bye" and "bye bye."

Miss Mam'selle Hepzibah: a beautiful French skunk modeled after Kelly's mistress, who would later become his second wife. Miss Mam'selle was long courted by Porky and others but rarely seemed to notice. Sometimes she pined for Pogo. She speaks with a heavy French dialect and has a tendency to be overdramatic. She is flirty but proper, and enjoys attention.

Miz Beaver: washerwoman for the Swamp, and best friend to (and occasional match-maker for) Miss Mam'selle. A traditional mother, uneducated but with homespun good sense, who "took nothin' from nobody".

Porky Pine: a porcupine, a misanthrope and cynic. Porky never smiled in the strip (except once when the lights were out). Pogo's best friend, equally honest and with a keen eye both for goodness and for human foibles, Porky has two weaknesses: his infatuation for Miss Mam'selle Hebzibah and a complete inability to tell a joke. Porky also had a doppelgänger, his "kissing cousin" Uncle Baldwin, who wore a trenchcoat to hide his bald backside. Uncle Baldwin usually tried to grab and kiss any female in the panel with him. Most of the females (and more than a few of the male characters) fled from the scene when Uncle Baldwin arrived.

Frequent Swamp Visitors

Bun Rabbit: an enthusiastic rabbit with a drum and majorette hat who appears often with P. T. Bridgeport and likes to broadcast news in the manner of a town crier.

Lil Mouse: an unnamed mouse with a bowler hat, cane and cigar who frequently pals around with a snake, Pup dog, a flea or Albert. He sometimes takes the name "F. Olding Munny" but only when Albert is posing as a Fakir/Swami.

Molester Mole (née Mole MacCarony): a nearsighted and xenophobic grifter. Obsessed with contagion both literal and figurative, he was a prime mover in numerous campaigns against "subversion," and in his first appearances had a habit of spraying everything and everyone with a disinfectant that may have been liberally laced with tar. Modeled somewhat after Senator Pat McCarran of the McCarran-Walter Act.

P.T. Bridgeport: a bear and flamboyant circus operator, named after P.T. Barnum, the most famous resident of Kelly's boyhood home, Bridgeport, Connecticut. His speech balloons resemble classic circus posters.

Picayune: a talkative frog that is a "free han' pree-dicter of all kinds weather an' other social events - sun, hail, moonshine or ty-phoonery".

Pup Dog: a "lil dog chile" who frequently wanders off and gets lost. Being so young he has a hard time figuring out how to bark and often resorts to yelping "Ralph, Ralph, Ralph"!

Reggie and Alf: Two cockney insects that wander around bickering and looking for cricket matches.

Roogey Batoon: The undeniable pelican who made the Lou'siana purchase and is a part time snake oil salesbird.

Sarcophagus MacAbre: a large, sinister-looking vulture, whose speech balloons are edged in black, suggesting he is an undertaker.

Seminole Sam: a fox and traveling con man, he often attempts to swindle Albert and others, for example by selling bottles of the miracle fluid H2O, and occasionally allies with darker characters such as Mole.

Sis Boombah: a matronly cheer leading hen who is a gym coach and fitness enthusiast as well as a close friend to Miz Beaver.

Snavely: a friendly snake who pals around with the Lil Mouse or a group of angle worms that he is training to be cobras or rattle snakes.

Tammananny Tiger: a political operator, named in allusion to Tammany Hall. He typically appeared in election years to offer strategic advice to the reluctant candidate, Pogo. He first appeared as a companion to P. T. Bridgeport.

The Cowbirds: Two freeloading birds that have a penchant for moving into Pogo's hollow tree home anytime he is out traveling. They grift any food and valuables that cross their path and have been known to keep company with a pirate pig that has more than a passing resemblance to Khrushchev.

Wiley Catt: a sinister, wild eyed bobcat hillbilly that smokes a corn cobb pipe, carries a hangman's noose or shotgun and frequently hangs out with Sarcophagus MacAbre and Seminole Sam.