The title character of a syndicated comic strip by cartoonist and Disney animator Walt Kelly.
The strip originally began as a comic book. After departing Disney in 1941 to move to New York, Kelly worked on the Western Printing and Lithographing Company's line of Dell comic books, his two main titles being Animal Comics and Our Gang. The former consisted of Uncle Remus-like stories of mischievous animals living in an unidentified swamp of the American South and their human friend, a little black boy named Bumbazine. The featured animal character at this time was Albert, a villainous alligator who was always on the lookout for his next meal (often Bumbazine). A mild-mannered possum named Pogo joined the cast in 1942. As Bumbazine's role in the comic gradually diminished, Pogo moved to the forefront where he provided a wry and levelheaded counterpoint to Albert's foolish antics. Animal Comics ended its run in 1948.
In 1949 Kelly joined the staff of the New York Star and brought the cast of Animal Comics back - in a daily strip now titled simply Pogo. He also wrote and drew a revival of the comic book, titled Pogo Possum, which ran from 1949 to 1954. The comic strip passed from the Star to the New York Post and its Post-Hall Syndicate, and then to Field Enterprises. The strip, and the books it was subsequently collected in, were wildly successful.
Pogo is a furry, round-headed creature with a bulbous upturned nose and a skinny hairless tail, wearing a vertically-striped long-sleeved shirt. His wide eyes and uplifted eyebrows give him a perpetually surprised look. There's good reason for this expression as with the possible exception of Pogo's best friend Porkypine, the other animal residents of Pogo's Okefenokee Swamp are completely off their rockers and the dawn of every day sees the hatching of some new harebrained scheme.
Albert remains a part of the cast, still with food on his mind; but his character is now more gruff than evil. Other main cast members include know-it-all Howland Owl and his dim turtle sidekick Churchy La Femme, the beautiful lady skunk Ma'm'selle Hepzibah and the pipe-chewing Miz Beaver. Villainy is chiefly provided by the sinister Molester Mole, his colleague Deacon Mushrat, and the shotgun-toting Wiley Catt (a caricature of senator Joseph McCarthy), who continually try to manipulate Pogo into being the patsy in one of their many grabs for power.
In 1970 Pogo appeared on a poster for Earth Day, looking forlornly at a patch of woods befouled by litter. The caption for the poster marked the first appearance of the most famous slogan from the strip: "We have met the enemy and he is us." Indeed, what made the strip so special for many was its brilliant combination of gentle humor, broad slapstick, and stinging social commentary. (One example is when the Jack Acid Society, a satirical jab at the John Birch Society, decides to drive out all immigrants. Following their program to its logical conclusion requires them to claim that they are American Indians in order to be among those allowed to stay. Mole and Mushrat spend the rest of the story running around in blankets and feathered headbands.)
In nearly every Presidential election since 1952, Pogo has been entered as a candidate either officially (as a promotion by the newspaper syndicates) or unofficially by fans. Pogo campaign buttons from the 50s and 60s are especially prized as collector's items. In the strip itself Pogo has always been deeply reluctant about running for office and often is completely unaware that his fellow Okefenokee residents have nominated him at all.
Kelly passed away from diabetes-related complications in 1973. His wife Selby continued the strip in order to pay the medical bills incurred during Kelly's last bout with illness. She ended the strip in mid-1975, though it was briefly revived in 1989 by the writer-artist duo of Larry Doyle and Neal Sternecky. An animated Pogo for President film was released by Disney in 1980 with the alternate title I Go Pogo.