Tuesday, March 17, 2009
More On Meta-Strips (Or, Because It's Fearless Fosdick, "Moron" Meta-Strips)
In my post about meta-strips, I somehow forgot to mention the Fearless Fosdick strips from Li'l Abner, even though those are some of the most interesting meta-humor in any comic strip. Al Capp didn't just use Fearless Fosdick to make fun of Dick Tracy and action-adventure strips; by having Li'l Abner read the strip and discuss it with Daisy Mae, he used it to comment on his own strip and his readers.
The greatest of all Capp's self-reflexive stories is of course the story where Abner promises to marry Daisy Mae if Fosdick gets married: Abner explains all the ruses that Fosdick's creator uses to make it look like the hero will have to get married (including making the whole thing a dream, something that many people probably thought Capp would resort to), and Daisy Mae meets the Fosdick artist and complains that he's setting a bad example for American men by having a hero who never marries his faithful girlfriend. The way Capp used Fosdick is an early example of a type of humor that became more popular later on, where a show-within-a-show parallels and parodies the show itself. The Simpsons used to do this all the time with Itchy and Scratchy.
Comics.com recently re-started the "Fosdick vs. the Chippendale chair" storyline, which rivals only the "poisoned can of beans" story for the sheer amount of destruction caused by Fosdick. They re-started it at this link and are still going on with it at this writing; they reran the whole thing last year, but I can't find them online. I wish the syndicate would put all the Abner strips online the way they've done for Peanuts, but I'm not pretending that that would be feasible.