Friday, April 25, 2008

I Love Al Capp

Eddie Fitzgerald points us to this big post on Al Capp and Li'l Abner at the ASIFA-Hollywood Archive.

I don't think Capp is as well-known today as Walt Kelly, but, much as I love Pogo, I think in some ways I like Li'l Abner even better, and its best stories are about the best I've ever seen in comic strips. Capp's attitude to his characters was much less good-natured than Kelly's; he has contempt for most of his characters and most contempt of all for his "hero," Li'l Abner. But that gives a kind of complexity to the strip, because his open contempt for Abner butts against the moments of goodness and likability that he gives to Abner and other characters.

Update: In comments, Thad K points out that Mark Kausler has been posting strips from Capp's "Joanie Phoanie" story from the late '60s, the ultimate symbol of his decline into unfunniness. Too much is sometimes made of Capp's move to the political right; I don't think that specifically is what caused him to stop being funny. (My Dad recalls Capp going on talk shows and saying similar things in the '50s, when the strip was still funny.) Capp hated everybody and his sense of humor was very dark, very bitter. At some point the sense of humor started to fade away and all that was left was the bitterness; the problem with the Joanie Phoanie strip is not that he's angry at her or at student protests, but that there isn't much humor here. Plus he caricatures Baez, a good-looking woman, as an ugly crone: if Al Capp passes up an opportunity to draw a good-looking woman, you know he's letting his anger overwhelm his sense of humor and his love of drawing women.


Thad said...

And Mark Kausler has been posting strips from the never-reprinted Joanie Phoanie story... You know, from the era where Capp went off the deep end.

Anonymous said...

I saw on some of your earlier posts that you spoke about the cancellations of Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, and Freakazoid. Do you have any official or press documents that report on these show cancellations? Stuff that can be cited? It would help me alot with citing things in those respective articles on wikipedia.

Unknown said...

I loved Li'l Abner when I was growing up. I started reading the strip about as soon as I could read, around the time the Shmoos first appeared, I think. Later on, I heard Capp speak a couple of times. The first time, he seemed a little sarcastic, but he was still funny and entertaining. The second time, about the time of Joanie, he appeared so bitter and full of rage that there was no joy for anybody.

VP81955 said...

Capp was a cartoon genius, but apparently also a bit of a lech, as Goldie Hawn let on in her quasi-autobiography. As the Washington Post review stated, in the mid-sixties, when Goldie was a New York-based dancer-actress, "The aging creator of the 'Li'l Abner' comic strip tried to wrangle Hawn into bed in return for a vague promise of career favors. When she refused, he huffed that she should forget showbiz and marry 'a Jewish dentist.' A few years later, she sent him a triumphant telegram: 'AS YOU CAN SEE I DIDN'T HAVE TO MARRY A JEWISH DENTIST AFTER ALL.'"

Brent McKee said... runs Li'l Abner as one of thier classic strips. They were running strips from the 1950s and then in a change of policy that is too much for my poor addled skull has gone back to the very beginning in the 1930s. It's off putting to see Mammy and Pappy Yokum as full sized human beings.

Anonymous said...

Some twenty years ago, our local paper ran old "Li'l Abner" comic strips for awhile. Unfortunately, current comics page formatting reduced the old strips to such a tiny size that one needed a magnifying glass to read the things, and Capp's always interesting artwork tended to melt into blobs of black and white.