The Sandman; Pogo and Dylan

by Larry Fyffe

The Sandman

Ancient mythology’s Morpheus (Sandman) sends forth recipes containing human shapes for artistic cooks to shake up into dreams.

For example, to the American civil rights leader Martin Luthor King:

(I) had a dream
- that the cook leaned over and shook ...
- and he said this to the people

- "(I)want four cups of stormtrooper
- a tablespoon of catholic
- a half pound of communists
- six cups of rebel
- two tablespoons of bitter liberal ..."
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

Sandman’s brother Icelus mails out recipes filled mostly with animal forms.

For example, to the drawing board of cartoonist Walt Kelly, the creator of the long-lasting “Pogo” newspaper cartoon.

American politician Richard Nixon’s transformed by Walt into a Mark Twainian Indian Joe; calls him “Indian Charlie”, the fish fryer.

Cat-look-alike Senator Joseph McCarthy (Simple J Malarkey) speaks to the bird-like Deacon of Swampland:

I want to say one word about the fine young man
who gave me so much time to prepare these fish ...
(Walt Kelly: Pogo 'Possum)

Inspired by Kelly, the musician/singer/songwriter of the lyrics below (note the right-wing con man therein is still in human-face, and moreover he’s named outright), severely trashes the politician for being hypocritical, and unprincipled:

Now I'm liberal, but to a degree
I want everybody to be free
But if you think that I'll let Barry Goldwater
Move in next door, and marry my daughter
You must think that I'm crazy
(Bob Dylan: I Shall Be Free, No.10)

Walt Kelly’s wicked burlesque is quite unique; it has staying power above and beyond his departure, and the passing of the time in which it was written.

Pogo And Dylan

The newspaper cartoons of Walt Kelly illustrate what’s happening  in the United States at the time singer/songwriter/musician Bob Dylan travels on down the road from the North Country.

With its somewhat hidden satire that focuses on American politics, the humour of Walt Kelly’s “Pogo Possum” falls flat overseas; the cartoon strip is not followed that much  in Europe.

By no means is the ‘liberal’ humour of the Pogo cartoon all that subtle.

For example, segregationist Governor George Wallace, who blocks black students from entering a white university, gets presented by Walt as an AntiChrist figure.

In the cartoon racist Wallace rides on the back of a white horse, lifts its tail, and shouts “forward.”

The anti-Wallace influence of Walt Kelly on Bob Dylan is made clear and concise in the song lyrics beneath:

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
(Bob Dylan: The Times They Are A-Changing)

Later on, unable to bring the Vietnam War to an ‘acceptable’ end, American  president Lyndon B. Johnson resigns, leaving politicians Eugene McCarthy, Robert Kennedy, and Hubert Humphrey to campaign for the leadership of Johnson’s Democratic Party.

Walt charaterizes LBJ in a cartoon as a lonesome Texas Long Horn ~ a  nutless steer sitting downcast atop a worn out horse.

For the United States, the War goes from bad to worse.

Eugene McCarthy’s political “peace” platform winds up going nowhere – he’s portrayed by Kelly as an out-of-control rider on a  wooden toy horse in that the North Vietnamese completely ignore his domestic platform; instead they increase their military attacks on the South.

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