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Comics and the U.S. South$
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Brannon Costello and Qiana J. Whitted

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9781617030185

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617030185.001.0001

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Bumbazine, Blackness, and the Myth of the Redemptive South in Walt Kelly’s Pogo

Bumbazine, Blackness, and the Myth of the Redemptive South in Walt Kelly’s Pogo

(p.29) 1 Bumbazine, Blackness, and the Myth of the Redemptive South in Walt Kelly’s Pogo
Comics and the U.S. South

Brian Cremins

University Press of Mississippi

The swamp occupies a central place in the history of American comic strips and comic books, from the funny animals of Walt Kelly’s Pogo to the grotesque creatures of Swamp Thing. Pogo depicted the swamp and, more specifically, the South as territories filled with images of innocence, escape, and magic. This chapter examines race and region in Pogo, focusing on the strip’s Okefenokee Swamp setting as an idiosyncratic entry into the discourse of the “redemptive South” prevalent throughout the mid-twentieth century. It considers Kelly’s use of a conceptual framework derived from discourses on race and geography, and argues that Pogo’s most human, most endearing, and most transformative qualities were inherited from the character of a black boy named Bumbazine. The chapter discusses Kelly’s appropriation of blackness as a sign of essential humanity and the South as a region of redemptive power.

Keywords:   swamp, comic strips, Walt Kelly, Pogo, race, redemptive South, geography, blackness, humanity, innocence

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