Al Capp
Al Capp
Alfred Gerald Caplin, better known as Al Capp, was an American cartoonist and humorist best known for the satirical comic strip Li'l Abner. He also wrote the comic strips Abbie an' Slats and Long Sam. He won the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Award in 1947 for Cartoonist of the Year, and their 1979 Elzie Segar Award (posthumously) for his "unique and outstanding contribution to the profession of cartooning.
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Beck's Israel Rally Losing Joe-mentum - Media Matters for America (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
And that he must be another closeted Rethuglican...there are so many,I have lost count... by mary59 (August 19, 2011 11:58 pm ET) The name and cartoon is from Al Capp. The character was a jinx who brought misfortune wherever he turned up
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IN THE GARDEN; Ken Smith’s Pod Planters Land on a Midtown Terrace
NYTimes - over 5 years
SOME might think the blob-like fiberglass forms on Wendy Evans Joseph and Jeffrey Ravetch’s roof terrace look like Al Capp’s sweet-natured Shmoos. But for the couple and their landscape architect, Ken Smith, the voluptuous planters are whimsical abstractions of scholars’ rocks, the stones found in traditional Chinese gardens. Two
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Ken Smith's Pod Planters Land on a Midtown Terrace - New York Times
Google News - over 5 years
SOME might think the blob-like fiberglass forms on Wendy Evans Joseph and Jeffrey Ravetch's roof terrace look like Al Capp's sweet-natured Shmoos. But for the couple and their landscape architect, Ken Smith, the voluptuous planters are
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Yoko puts new Lennon bed-in documentary online -
Google News - over 5 years
Celebrities such as Tommy Smothers, Dick Gregory, Timothy Leary and satirist Al Capp arrive and leave as the couple gives more than 60 interviews, according to former Lennon aide Anthony Fawcett in his memoir One Day at a Time
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Today in History - Aug. 13 - (press release)
Google News - over 5 years
In 1934, Al Capp's comic strip "Li'l Abner" made its debut. In 1942, Walt Disney's animated feature "Bambi" premiered at Radio City Music Hall in New York. In 1946, English author and social critic HG Wells died in London at age 79
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Should We Laugh or Should We Cry? - Southern Pines Pilot
Google News - over 5 years
Many of us “seniors” will remember with relish the late, great cartoonist Al Capp and his popular comic strip Li'l Abner. We daily followed the antics of Abner, Daisy Mae, Marryin' Sam, Jubilation T. Cornpone, General Bullmoose and the other characters
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Notes From Madoo: The Eye at Large - East Hampton Star
Google News - over 5 years
I have never pruned the weeping pine that, year after year, has done its own merry topiary, at one time very definitely an Al Capp Shmoo, the year following an English sheepdog, and then the very same sheepdog but with puppies, and so on until this
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Attack Of The Saturday Programming At San Diego Comic Con - Bleeding Cool News
Google News - over 5 years
Room 6BCF 3:00-4:00 Spotlight on Mell Lazarus— Legendary cartoonist and Comic-Con special guest Mell Lazarus talks to Tom Gammill (The Simpsons) about his long career in newspaper strips, from his early years with Al Capp (Li'l Abner) to his own work
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Young Broadneck Actors in Lil' Abner -
Google News - over 5 years
Starting Friday at 7:30 pm the musical version of Al Capp's comic strip "L'il Abner" with music by Gene de Paul and lyrics by Johnny Mercer will be brought to life by youngsters playing such immortal Dogpatch characters as Mammy and Pappy Yokum,
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PHOTO GALLERY: Preparing for Amesbury Al Capp ceremony - Wicked Local
Google News - over 5 years
The Upper Millyard Amphitheater in Amesbury was dedicated for legendary Amesbury artist Al Capp in a ceremony last weekend. At the height of his popularity, Capp's comic strips were seen across the world by 60 million people. A mural to Amesbury artist
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Heard Around Town - The Daily News of Newburyport
Google News - over 5 years
Al Capp — one of America's best-known comic strip artists — spent much of his life in the town, and is buried in Mount Prospect Cemetery. Last year marked what would have been his 100th birthday. The town will hold a dedication ceremony for the Al
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Comic Book Legends Revealed #320 - Comic Book Resources
Google News - over 5 years
COMIC LEGEND: Sadie Hawkins Day was invented by Al Capp in his Li'l Abner comic strip. Every so often, I will come across a legend that I have avoid because I think it might be too well known, and I am reminded each time that that is a dumb idea of
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Ups and downs while playing poker are not unusual - GamingTodaySlotsToday
Google News - over 5 years
Recall the character in the Al Capp "Li'l Abner" comic strip of yesteryear (one of my favorites), who always had a black cloud over his head that followed him wherever he went? Well, I was a bit more fortunate: The black clouds seemed to float in the
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Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Al Capp
  • 1979
    Age 69
    A lifelong chain smoker, Capp died in 1979 from emphysema at his home in South Hampton, New Hampshire.
    More Details Hide Details Capp is buried in Mount Prospect Cemetery in Amesbury, Massachusetts. Engraved on his headstone is a stanza from Thomas Gray: The plowman homeward plods his weary way / And leaves the world to darkness and to me, (from "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," 1751). "Neither the strip's shifting political leanings nor the slide of its final few years had any bearing on its status as a classic; and in 1995, it was recognized as such by the U.S. Postal Service," according to Toonopedia. Li'l Abner was one of 20 American comic strips included in the Comic Strip Classics series of USPS commemorative stamps. Al Capp, an inductee into the National Cartoon Museum (formerly the International Museum of Cartoon Art), is one of only 31 artists selected to their Hall of Fame. Capp was also inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 2004.
  • 1977
    Age 67
    On November 13, 1977, Capp retired with an apology to his fans for the recently declining quality of the strip, which he said had been the best he could manage due to declining health. "If you have any sense of humor about your strip—and I had a sense of humor about mine—you knew that for three or four years Abner was wrong.
    More Details Hide Details Oh hell, it's like a fighter retiring. I stayed on longer than I should have," he admitted, adding that he couldn't breathe anymore. "When he retired Li'l Abner, newspapers ran expansive articles and television commentators talked about the passing of an era. People magazine ran a substantial feature, and even the comics-free New York Times devoted nearly a full page to the event," wrote publisher Denis Kitchen. Capp's final years were marked by advancing illness and by family tragedy. In October 1977, one of his two daughters died; a few weeks later, a beloved granddaughter was killed in a car accident.
  • 1972
    Age 62
    In passing sentence in February 1972, the judge rejected the D.A.'s motion that Capp agree to undergo psychiatric treatment.
    More Details Hide Details The resulting publicity led to hundreds of papers dropping his comic strip, and Capp, already in failing health, withdrew from public speaking. Celebrity biographer James Spada has claimed that similar allegations were made by actress Grace Kelly. However, no firsthand allegation has ever surfaced. "From beginning to end, Capp was acid-tongued toward the targets of his wit, intolerant of hypocrisy, and always wickedly funny. After about 40 years, however, Capp's interest in Abner waned, and this showed in the strip itself," according to Don Markstein's Toonopedia.
  • 1971
    Age 61
    On April 22, 1971, syndicated columnist Jack Anderson reported allegations that Capp made indecent advances to four female students when he was invited to speak at the University of Alabama in February 1968.
    More Details Hide Details Anderson and his associate Brit Hume confirmed that Capp was shown out of town by university police, but that the incident had been hushed up by the university to avoid negative publicity. The following month, Capp was charged in Eau Claire, Wisconsin in connection with another alleged incident following his April 1 lecture at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Capp was accused of propositioning a married woman in his hotel room. Although no sexual act was alleged to have resulted, the original charge included "sodomy." As part of a plea agreement, Capp pleaded guilty to the charge of "attempted adultery" (adultery was, and still is a felony in Wisconsin) and the other charges were dropped. Capp was fined $500 and court costs. In a December 1992 article for The New Yorker, Seymour Hersh reported that President Richard Nixon and Charles Colson had repeatedly discussed the Capp case in Oval Office recordings that had recently been made available by the National Archives. Nixon and Capp were on friendly terms, Hersh wrote, and Nixon and Colson had worked to find a way for Capp to run against Ted Kennedy for the U.S. Senate. "Nixon was worried about the allegations, fearing that Capp's very close links to the White House would become embarrassingly public," Hersh wrote. "The White House tapes and documents show that he and Colson discussed the issue repeatedly, and that Colson eventually reassured the President by saying that he had, in essence, fixed the case.
  • 1970
    Age 60
    Vice President Spiro Agnew urged Capp to run in the Democratic Party Massachusetts primary in 1970 against Ted Kennedy, but Capp ultimately declined. (He did, however, donate his services as a speaker at a $100-a-plate fundraiser for Republican Congressman Jack Kemp.) Besides his use of the comic strip to voice his opinions and display his humor, Capp was a popular guest speaker at universities, and on radio and television.
    More Details Hide Details He remains the only cartoonist to be embraced by TV; no other comic artist to date has come close to Capp's televised exposure. Capp appeared as a regular on The Author Meets the Critics (1948–'54) and made regular, weekly appearances on Today in 1953. He was also a periodic panelist on ABC and NBC's Who Said That? (1948–'55), and co-hosted DuMont's What's the Story? (1953). Between 1952 and 1972, he hosted at least five television shows–three different talk shows called The Al Capp Show (1952 and 1968) and Al Capp (1971–'72), Al Capp's America (a live "chalk talk," with Capp providing a barbed commentary while sketching cartoons, 1954), and a CBS game show called Anyone Can Win (1953). He also hosted similar vehicles on the radio—and was a familiar celebrity guest on various other broadcast programs, including the long-running NBC Radio Monitor Beacon as a commentator dubbed "An expert of nothing with opinions on everything", Monitor.
  • 1968
    Age 58
    In 1968, a theme park called Dogpatch USA opened at Marble Falls, Arkansas, based on Capp's work and with his support.
    More Details Hide Details The park was a popular attraction during the 1970s but was abandoned in 1993 due to financial difficulties. As of late 2005, the area once devoted to a live-action facsimile of Dogpatch (including a lifesize statue in the town square of Dogpatch "founder," General Jubilation T. Cornpone) has been heavily stripped by vandals and souvenir hunters, and is today slowly being reclaimed by the surrounding Arkansas wilderness.
  • 1967
    Age 57
    In August 1967 Capp was the narrator and host of an ABC network special called Do Blondes Have More Fun?
    More Details Hide Details In 1970, he was the subject of a provocative NBC documentary called This Is Al Capp. In the early 1960s, Capp regularly wrote a column entitled Al Capp's Column for the New York newspaper The Schenectady Gazette (currently The Daily Gazette). Capp, who by all accounts was contrary and contentious by nature, was a maverick politically. He was a liberal during the conservative 1950s, only to switch to conservative during the liberal, hippie-era 1960s. Capp and his family lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts near Harvard during the entire Vietnam War protest era. The turmoil that Americans were watching on their TV sets was happening live—right in his own neighborhood. Campus radicals and “hippies” inevitably became one of Capp’s favorite targets in the sixties. Alongside his long-established caricatures of right-wing, big business types such as General Bullmoose and J. Roaringham Fatback, Capp began spoofing counterculture icons such as Joan Baez (in the character of Joanie Phoanie, a wealthy folksinger who offers an impoverished orphanage ten thousand dollars' worth of "protest songs"). The sequence implicitly labeled Baez a limousine liberal, a charge she took to heart, as detailed years later in her 1987 autobiography, And A Voice To Sing With: A Memoir. Another target was Senator Ted Kennedy, parodied as "Senator O. Noble McGesture," resident of "Hyideelsport." The town name is a play on Hyannisport, Massachusetts, where a number of the Kennedy clan have lived.
  • 1965
    Age 55
    Capp was the Playboy interview subject in December 1965, in a conversation conducted by Alvin Toffler.
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  • 1961
    Age 51
    He also appeared as himself on The Ed Sullivan Show, Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows, The Red Skelton Show, The Merv Griffin Show, The Mike Douglas Show, and guested on Ralph Edwards' This Is Your Life on February 12, 1961 with honoree Peter Palmer.
    More Details Hide Details Capp also freelanced very successfully as a magazine writer and newspaper columnist, in a wide variety of publications including Life, Show, Pageant, The Atlantic, Esquire, Coronet, and The Saturday Evening Post. Capp was impersonated by comedians Rich Little and David Frye. Although Capp's endorsement activities never rivaled Li'l Abner's or Fearless Fosdick's, he was a celebrity spokesman in print ads for Sheaffer Snorkel fountain pens (along with colleagues and close friends Milton Caniff and Walt Kelly), and—with an irony that would become apparent later—a brand of cigarettes, (Chesterfield).
  • 1959
    Age 49
    Capp portrayed himself in a cameo role in the Bob Hope film That Certain Feeling, for which he also provided promotional art. He was interviewed live on Person to Person on November 27, 1959 by host Charles Collingwood.
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    In 1959, Capp recorded and released an album for Folkways Records (now owned by the Smithsonian) on which he identified and described "The Mechanics of the Comic Strip."
    More Details Hide Details Frazetta, later famous as a fantasy artist, assisted on the strip from 1954 to December, 1961. Fascinated by Frazetta's abilities, Capp initially gave him a free hand in an extended daily sequence (about a biker named "Frankie," a caricature of Frazetta) to experiment with the basic look of the strip by adding a bit more realism and detail (particularly to the inking). After editors complained about the stylistic changes, the strip's previous look was restored. During most of his tenure with Capp, Frazetta's primary responsibility—along with various specialty art, such as a series of Li'l Abner greeting cards—was tight-penciling the Sunday pages from studio roughs. This work was collected by Dark Horse Comics in a four-volume hardcover series entitled Al Capp's Li'l Abner: The Frazetta Years. In 1961, Capp, complaining of declining revenue, wanted to have Frazetta continue with a 50% pay cut. "Capp said he would cut the salary in half. Goodbye. That was that. I said goodbye," (from Frazetta: Painting with Fire). However, Frazetta returned briefly a few years later to draw a public service comic book called Li'l Abner and the Creatures from Drop-Outer Space, distributed by the Job Corps in 1965.
  • 1956
    Age 46
    Capp detailed his approach to writing and drawing the stories in an instructional course book for the Famous Artists School, beginning in 1956.
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  • 1955
    Age 45
    On December 27, 1955, Fisher committed suicide in his studio.
    More Details Hide Details The feud and Fisher's suicide were used as the basis for a lurid, highly fictionalized murder mystery, Strip for Murder by Max Allan Collins. Another "feud" seemed to be looming when, in one run of Sunday strips in 1957, Capp lampooned the comic strip Mary Worth as "Mary Worm." The title character was depicted as a nosy, interfering busybody. Allen Saunders, the creator of the Mary Worth strip, returned Capp's fire with the introduction of the character "Hal Rapp," a foul-tempered, ill-mannered, and (ironically) inebriated cartoonist, (Capp was a teetotaler). Later, it was revealed to be a collaborative hoax that Capp and his longtime pal Saunders had cooked up together. The Capp-Saunders "feud" fooled both editors and readers, generated plenty of free publicity for both strips—and Capp and Saunders had a good laugh when all was revealed.
  • 1954
    Age 44
    Capp would resume visiting war amputees during the Korean War and Vietnam War. He toured Vietnam with the USO, entertaining troops along with Art Buchwald and George Plimpton. He served as chairman of the Cartoonists' Committee in President Dwight D. Eisenhower's People-to-People program in 1954 (although Capp had actually supported Adlai Stevenson for president in 1952 and 1956), which was organized to promote Savings bonds for the U.S. Treasury.
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    In 1954, when Capp was applying for a Boston television license, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) received an anonymous packet of pornographic Li'l Abner drawings.
    More Details Hide Details The National Cartoonists Society (NCS) convened an ethics hearing, and Fisher was expelled for the forgery from the same organization that he had helped found; Fisher's scheme had backfired in spectacular fashion. Around the same time, his mansion in Wisconsin was destroyed by a nor'easter.
  • 1952
    Age 42
    In 1952, Capp and his characters graced the covers of both Life and TV Guide. 1956 saw the debut of the Bald Iggle, considered by some Abner enthusiasts to be the creative high point of the strip, as well as Mammy's revelatory encounter with the "Square Eyes" Family—Capp’s thinly-veiled appeal for racial tolerance. (This fable-like story was collected into an educational comic book called Mammy Yokum and the Great Dogpatch Mystery!, and distributed by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith later that year.) Two years later, Capp's studio issued Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, a biographical comic book distributed by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Capp had often parodied corporate greed—pork tycoon J. Roaringham Fatback had figured prominently in wiping out the Shmoos. But in 1952, when General Motors president Charles E. Wilson, nominated for a cabinet post, told Congress " what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa," he inspired one of Capp's greatest satires—the introduction of General Bullmoose, the robust, ruthless, and ageless business tycoon.
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    Highlights of the 1950s included the much-heralded marriage of Abner and Daisy Mae in 1952, the birth of their son "Honest Abe" Yokum in 1953, and in 1954, the introduction of Abner's enormous, long lost kid brother Tiny Yokum, who filled Abner's place as a bachelor in the annual Sadie Hawkins Day race.
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  • 1950
    Age 40
    In 1950, Capp wrote a nasty article for The Atlantic entitled "I Remember Monster."
    More Details Hide Details The article recounted Capp's days working for an unnamed "benefactor" with a miserly, swinish personality, who Capp claimed was a never-ending source of inspiration when it came time to create a new unregenerate villain for his comic strip. The thinly-veiled boss was understood to be Ham Fisher. Fisher retaliated clumsily, doctoring photostats of Li'l Abner and falsely accusing Capp of sneaking obscenities into his comic strip. Fisher submitted examples of Li'l Abner to Capp's syndicate and to the New York courts, in which Fisher had identified pornographic images that were hidden in the background art. However, the X-rated material had actually been drawn there by Fisher himself. Capp was able to refute the accusation by simply showing the original artwork.
    In 1950, Capp introduced a cartoonist character named "Happy Vermin"—a caricature of Fisher—who hired Abner to draw his comic strip in a dimly lit closet, (after sacking his previous "temporary" assistant of 20 years, who had been cut off from all his friends in the process).
    More Details Hide Details Instead of using Vermin's tired characters, Abner inventively peopled the strip with hillbillies. A bighearted Vermin told his slaving assistant: "I'm proud of having created these characters!! They'll make millions for me!! And if they do—I'll get you a new light bulb!!" Traveling in the same social circles, the two men engaged in a 20-year mutual vendetta, as described by the Daily News in 1998: "They crossed paths often, in the midtown watering holes and at National Cartoonists Society banquets, and the city's gossip columns were full of their snarling public donnybrooks."
    For years, Fisher would bring the characters back to his strip, billing them as "The ORIGINAL Hillbilly Characters" and advising readers not to be "fooled by imitations." (In fact, Fisher's brutish hillbilly character—Big Leviticus, created by Capp in Fisher's absence—bore little resemblance to Li'l Abner.) According to a November 1950 Time article, "Capp parted from Fisher with a definite impression, (to put it mildly) that he had been underpaid and unappreciated.
    More Details Hide Details Fisher, a man of Roman self esteem, considered Capp an ingrate and a whippersnapper, and watched his rise to fame with unfeigned horror." "Fisher repeatedly brought Leviticus and his clan back, claiming their primacy as comics' first hillbilly family—but he was missing the point. It wasn't the setting that made Capp's strip such a huge success. It was Capp's finely tuned sense of the absurd, his ability to milk an outrageous situation for every laugh in it and then, impossibly, to squeeze even more laughs from it, that found such favor with the public," (from Don Markstein's Toonopedia). The Capp-Fisher feud was well known in cartooning circles, and it grew more personal as Capp's strip eclipsed Joe Palooka in popularity. Fisher hired away Capp's top assistant, Moe Leff. After Fisher underwent plastic surgery, Capp included a racehorse in Li'l Abner named "Ham's Nose-Bob."
  • 1949
    Age 39
    Capp had earlier provided the Shmoo for a special Children's Savings Bond in 1949, accompanying President Harry S. Truman at the bond's unveiling ceremony.
    More Details Hide Details During the Soviet Union's blockade of West Berlin in 1948, the commanders of the Berlin airlift had cabled Capp, requesting inflatable shmoos as part of "Operation: Little Vittles." Candy-filled shmoos were air-dropped to hungry West Berliners by America's 17th Military Airport Squadron during the humanitarian effort. "When the candy-chocked shmoos were dropped, a near-riot resulted," (reported in Newsweek—October 11, 1948). In addition to his public service work for charitable organizations for the handicapped, Capp also served on the National Reading Council, which was organized to combat illiteracy. He published a column ("Wrong Turn Onto Sesame Street") challenging federally funded Public Television endowments in favor of educational comics—which, according to Capp, "didn't cost a dime in taxes and never had. I pointed out that a kid could enjoy Sesame Street without learning how to read, but he couldn't enjoy comic strips unless he could read; and that a smaller investment in getting kids to read by supplying them with educational matter in such reading form might make better sense."
    Capp briefly resigned his membership in 1949 to protest their refusal of admission to Hilda Terry, creator of the comic strip Teena.
    More Details Hide Details According to Tom Roberts, author of Alex Raymond: His Life and Art (2007), Capp delivered a stirring speech that was instrumental in changing those rules. The NCS finally accepted female members the following year. In December 1952, Capp published an article in Real magazine titled “The REAL Powers in America” that further challenged the conventional attitudes of the day: "The real powers in America are women—the wives and sweethearts behind the masculine dummies "
  • 1947
    Age 37
    Capp received the National Cartoonists Society's Billy DeBeck Memorial Award in 1947 for Cartoonist of the Year. (When the award name was changed in 1954, Capp also retroactively received a Reuben statuette.) He was an outspoken pioneer in favor of diversifying the NCS by admitting women cartoonists.
    More Details Hide Details Originally, the Society had disallowed female members.
    In 1947, Capp earned a Newsweek cover story.
    More Details Hide Details That same year the New Yorker's profile on him was so long that it ran in consecutive issues. In 1948, Capp reached a creative peak with the introduction of the Shmoos, lovable and innocent fantasy creatures who reproduced at amazing speed and brought so many benefits that, ironically, the world economy was endangered. The much-copied storyline was a parable that was metaphorically interpreted in many different ways at the outset of the Cold War. Following his close friend Milton Caniff's lead (with Steve Canyon), Capp had recently fought a successful battle with the syndicate to gain complete ownership of his feature when the Shmoos debuted. As a result, he reaped enormous financial rewards from the unexpected (and almost unprecedented) merchandising phenomenon that followed. As in the strip, Shmoos suddenly appeared to be everywhere in 1949 and 1950—including a Time cover story. A paperback collection of the original sequence, The Life and Times of the Shmoo, became a bestseller for Simon & Schuster. Shmoo dolls, clocks, watches, jewelry, earmuffs, wallpaper, fishing lures, air fresheners, soap, ice cream, balloons, ashtrays, comic books, records, sheet music, toys, games, Halloween masks, salt and pepper shakers, decals, pinbacks, tumblers, coin banks, greeting cards, planters, neckties, suspenders, belts, curtains, fountain pens, and other shmoo paraphernalia were produced. A garment factory in Baltimore turned out a whole line of shmoo apparel, including "Shmooveralls."
  • 1946
    Age 36
    In 1946 Capp created a special full-color comic book, Al Capp by Li'l Abner, to be distributed by the Red Cross to encourage the thousands of amputee veterans returning from the war.
    More Details Hide Details Capp was also involved with the Sister Kenny Foundation, which pioneered new treatments for polio in the 1940s. Serving in his capacity as honorary chairman, Capp made public appearances on its behalf for years, contributed free artwork for its annual fund-raising appeals, and entertained crippled and paraplegic children in children's hospitals with inspirational pep talks, humorous stories and sketches. In 1940, an RKO movie adaptation starred Granville Owen (later known as Jeff York) as Li'l Abner, with Buster Keaton taking the role of Lonesome Polecat, and featuring a title song with lyrics by Milton Berle. A successful musical comedy adaptation of the strip opened on Broadway at the St. James Theater on November 15, 1956 and had a long run of 693 performances, followed by a nationwide tour. The stage musical, with music and lyrics by Gene de Paul and Johnny Mercer, was adapted into a Technicolor motion picture at Paramount in 1959 by producer Norman Panama and director Melvin Frank, with a score by Nelson Riddle. Several performers repeated their Broadway roles in the film, most memorably Julie Newmar as Stupefyin' Jones and Stubby Kaye as Marryin' Sam.
  • 1942
    Age 32
    Other highlights of that decade included the 1942 debut of Fearless Fosdick as Abner's "ideel" (hero); the 1946 Lena the Hyena Contest, in which a hideous Lower Slobbovian gal was ultimately revealed in the harrowing winning entry (as judged by Frank Sinatra, Boris Karloff and Salvador Dalí) drawn by noted cartoonist Basil Wolverton; and an ill-fated Sunday parody of Gone With the Wind that aroused anger and legal threats from author Margaret Mitchell, and led to a printed apology within the strip.
    More Details Hide Details In October 1947, Li'l Abner met Rockwell P. Squeezeblood, head of the abusive and corrupt Squeezeblood Comic Strip Syndicate. The resulting sequence, "Jack Jawbreaker Fights Crime!," was a devastating satire of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's notorious exploitation by DC Comics over Superman. It was later reprinted in The World of Li'l Abner (1953). (Siegel and Shuster had earlier poked fun at Capp in a Superman story in Action Comics #55, December 1942, in which a cartoonist named "Al Hatt" invents a comic strip featuring the hillbilly "Tiny Rufe.")
  • 1937
    Age 27
    In addition to creating Li'l Abner, Capp also co-created two other newspaper strips: Abbie an' Slats with magazine illustrator Raeburn van Buren in 1937, and Long Sam with cartoonist Bob Lubbers in 1954, as well as the Sunday "topper" strips Washable Jones, Small Fry (a.k.a.
    More Details Hide Details Small Change), and Advice fo' Chillun. According to comics historian Coulton Waugh, a 1947 poll of newspaper readers who claimed they ignored the comics page altogether revealed that many confessed to making a single exception: Li'l Abner. "When Li'l Abner made its debut in 1934, the vast majority of comic strips were designed chiefly to amuse or thrill their readers. Capp turned that world upside-down by routinely injecting politics and social commentary into Li'l Abner. The strip was the first to regularly introduce characters and story lines having nothing to do with the nominal stars of the strip. According to Marschall, Li'l Abner gradually evolved into a broad satire of human nature. In his book America's Great Comic Strip Artists (1989), Marschall's analysis revealed a decidedly misanthropic subtext. Over the years, Li'l Abner has been adapted to radio, animated cartoons, stage production, motion pictures and television. Capp has been compared, at various times, to Mark Twain, Dostoevski, Jonathan Swift, Lawrence Sterne and Rabelais. Fans of the strip ranged from novelist John Steinbeck, who called Capp "possibly the best writer in the world today" in 1953, and even earnestly recommended him for the Nobel Prize in literature—to media critic and theorist Marshall McLuhan, who considered Capp "the only robust satirical force in American life." John Updike, comparing Abner to a “hillbilly Candide,” added that the strip’s “richness of social and philosophical commentary approached the Voltairean.” Charlie Chaplin, William F. Buckley, Al Hirschfeld, Harpo Marx, Russ Meyer, John Kenneth Galbraith, Ralph Bakshi, Shel Silverstein, Hugh Downs, Gene Shalit, Frank Cho, Daniel Clowes and (reportedly) even Queen Elizabeth have confessed to being fans of Li'l Abner.
  • 1934
    Age 24
    In later years, Capp always claimed to have effectively created the miniskirt, when he first put one on Daisy Mae in 1934.
    More Details Hide Details Li'l Abner also features a comic strip-within-the-strip: Fearless Fosdick is a parody of Chester Gould's Dick Tracy. It first appeared in 1942, and proved so popular that it ran intermittently over the next 35 years. Gould was personally parodied in the series as cartoonist "Lester Gooch"—the diminutive, much-harassed and occasionally deranged "creator" of Fosdick. The style of the Fosdick sequences closely mimicks Tracy, including the urban setting, the outrageous villains, the galloping mortality rate, the crosshatched shadows, and even the lettering style. In 1952, Fosdick was the star of his own short-lived puppet show on NBC, featuring the Mary Chase marionettes. Fearless Fosdick—and Capp's other spoofs like "Little Fanny Gooney" (1952) and "Jack Jawbreaker"—were almost certainly an early inspiration for Harvey Kurtzman's Mad Magazine, which began in 1952 as a comic book that specifically parodied other comics in the same distinctive style and subversive manner.
  • 1933
    Age 23
    Leaving his new wife with her parents in Amesbury, Massachusetts, he subsequently returned to New York in 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression. "I was 23, I carried a mass of drawings, and I had nearly five dollars in my pocket.
    More Details Hide Details People were sleeping in alleys then, willing to work at anything." There he met Ham Fisher, who hired him to ghost on Joe Palooka. During one of Fisher's extended vacations, Capp's Joe Palooka story arc introduced a stupid, coarse, oafish mountaineer named "Big Leviticus," a crude prototype. (Leviticus was actually much closer to Capp's later villains Lem and Luke Scragg, than to the much more appealing and innocent Li'l Abner.) Also during this period, Capp was working at night on samples for the strip that would eventually become Li'l Abner. He based his cast of characters on the authentic mountain-dwellers he met while hitchhiking through rural West Virginia and the Cumberland Valley as a teenager. (This was years before the Tennessee Valley Authority Act brought basic utilities like electricity and running water to the region.) Leaving Joe Palooka, Capp sold Li'l Abner to United Feature Syndicate (now known as United Media). The feature was launched on Monday, August 13, 1934 in eight North American newspapers—including the New York Mirror—and was an immediate success. Alfred G. Caplin eventually became "Al Capp" because the syndicate felt the original would not fit in a cartoon frame. Capp had it changed legally in 1949.
  • 1932
    Age 22
    He left the Associated Press in September 1932.
    More Details Hide Details Before leaving, he met Milton Caniff, and the two became lifelong friends. Capp moved to Boston and married Catherine Wingate Cameron, whom he had met earlier in art class. She died in 2006 at the age of 96.
    By March 1932, Capp was drawing Colonel Gilfeather, a single-panel, AP-owned property created in 1930 by Dick Dorgan.
    More Details Hide Details Capp changed the focus and title to Mister Gilfeather, but soon grew to hate the feature.
    In early 1932, Capp hitchhiked to New York City.
    More Details Hide Details He lived in "airless rat holes" in Greenwich Village and turned out advertising strips at $2 apiece while scouring the city hunting for jobs. He eventually found work at the Associated Press when he was 23 years old.
  • 1919
    Age 9
    In August 1919, at the age of nine, Capp was run down by a trolley car and had to have his left leg amputated, well above the knee.
    More Details Hide Details According to his father Otto's unpublished autobiography, young Capp was not prepared for the amputation beforehand; having been in a coma for days, he suddenly awoke to discover that his leg was removed. He was eventually given a prosthetic leg, but only learned to use it by adopting a slow way of walking which became increasingly painful as he grew older. The childhood tragedy of losing a leg likely helped shape Capp’s cynical worldview, which, funny as it was, was certainly darker and more sardonic than that of the average newspaper cartoonist. "I was indignant as hell about that leg," he would reveal in a November 1950 interview in Time magazine. "The secret of how to live without resentment or embarrassment in a world in which I was different from everyone else," Capp philosophically wrote (in Life magazine on May 23, 1960), "was to be indifferent to that difference." It was the prevailing opinion among his friends that Capp's Swiftian satire was, to some degree, a creatively channeled, compensatory response to his disability. Capp's father, a failed businessman and an amateur cartoonist, introduced him to drawing as a form of therapy. He became quite proficient, learning mostly on his own. Among his earliest influences were Punch cartoonist–illustrator Phil May, and American comic strip cartoonists Tad Dorgan, Cliff Sterrett, Rube Goldberg, Rudolph Dirks, Fred Opper, Billy DeBeck, George McManus and Milt Gross.
  • 1909
    Born on September 28, 1909.
    More Details Hide Details
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