Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Comic Pages Heroes

While most of the following falls within the realm of my personal memory, some of the information was garnered from various websites. You, too, can find this sort of info about this man there, along with much more.
With the possible exception of "Blondie" by Chic Young, "Li'l Abner" was probably the first comic strip that really grabbed my attention. (In the town in which we lived there were three school buses. Numbers were much too mundane for the brilliant children in our community; so each bus was emblazoned with a Young icon, Dagwood, Blondie and Cookie. Oh, you said our children couldn't read 1,2,3? Bad person.)

Al Capp was born Alfred G. Caplin in 1909. and Li'l Abner was born, full-grown teenage hillbilly, in 1934, the very year of my nativity; albeit I was born a scrawny less than six pound infant. Li'l Abner is considered by many to be the greatest comic stip of all time. I certainly hold it in high regard; it is among the greatest. Capp doubtless engendered my love for the funny papers.
I have not included Mr. Capp under the "Philosophers" heading, as I regard him as a great writer and fabulous cartoonist; and essentially as an entrepreneur. But his metaphysics and ontology were suspect. He set out on his own after working for Ham Fisher, creator of "Joe Palooka," which established a life-long feud between these purveyors of fun and goodwill. He wrested control of his own work from the syndicate which distributed it. His empire grew from there. He was into pop culture, sold dolls (Shmoo and Kigmy) which became a national rage. His work was translated into a Broadway musical and was twice recorded on Hollywood celluloid. Capp had his own radio show, wrote a syndicated newspaper column and appeared frequently on popular television talk programs; and was a frequent guest lecturer at universities across the country.
Li'l Abner remained a bachelor for twenty years; but when he finally wed Daisy Mae, it so shocked the nation that it became front-page news. Sadie Hawkins Day, created by Capp, is honored yet in the girl-asks-boy tradition. Who can forget characters such as Moonbeam McSwine, General Bullmoose, Fearless Fosdick, Mammy and Pappy Yokum, Jubilation T. Cornpone, Lonesome Polecat and Hairless Joe; as well as one of my personal favorites, to whom I so easily related as a teenager, Joe Bfstplk whose personal rain cloud hung over him at all times.
Capp, who at the age of nine lost a leg in a trolley accident entitled his memoirs My Well Balanced Life on a Wooden Leg. The Li'l Abner comic strip was retired in 1977 and Capp died two years later.
John Steinbeck said that Capp was "the best writer in the world."
Al Capp 1909 - 1979 RIP

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