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  von All Capp ( 1909-1979) zusammengestellt von Julie Allec

Cartoonist Al Capp (1909-1979) created "Li'l Abner," regarded by many as the greatest comic strip of all time. He was born Alfred Gerald Caplin in New Haven, CT. At the age of nine he lost his left leg in a trolley accident. Encouraged by an artistic father, young Alfred developed his own cartooning skills. At 19, he became the youngest syndicated cartoonist in America, drawing "Colonel Gilfeather," a daily panel for Associated Press. But, bored with the staid and formulaic Gilfeather, Capp left AP and soon was ghosting the popular boxing strip "Joe Palooka" for Ham Fisher. But Capp found the working conditions in Fisher's studio intolerable.

In 1934 Capp struck out on his own. He took his hillbilly idea to United Features Syndicate (creating a lifelong public feud with Fisher) and "Li'l Abner was born. Abner was carried at first by only eight newspapers, but his hapless Dogpatchers hit a nerve in Depression-era America. Within three short years it climbed to 253 newspapers, reaching over 15,000,000 readers. Before long he was in hundreds more, with a circulation exceeding 60,000,000. At a time when syndicates owned the copyrights, trademarks and merchandise rights to comic strips, Capp wrested control of "Li'l Abner" from United Features, an almost unprecedented event.

Besides entertaining millions, Capp permanently affected the popular culture. In 1937 he introduced the annual Sadie Hawkins Day race into his strip. It quickly inspired real life girl-asks-boy dances across America and Sadie Hawkins Day became a national institution. In 1948 his lovable Shmoo characters became a national sensation, creating the largest mass merchandising phenomenon of its era, followed on its heels by the Kigmy. After nearly 20 years of prominent bachelorhood, Li'l Abner finally married Daisy Mae in 1952, an event that shocked the country and made front page news.

Capp's celebrity admirers ranged from actor/director Charlie Chaplin, writer John Updike and economist John Kenneth Galbraith. Author John Steinbeck was not only a fan, in fact, he called Capp "the best writer in the world." Capp speckled his wild narratives with unforgettable characters - among them heartless capitalist General Bullmoose; human jinx Joe Bfstplk, who was followed by his own bleak rain cloud; Evil Eye Fleegle whose double whammies could melt skyscrapers; cave-dwelling buddies Lonesome Polecat and Hairless Joe who concocted Kickapoo Joy Juice, the ultimate moonshine; Mammy Yokum, the sweet old lady who could outbox men twice her size; fumbling detective Fearless Fosdick, whose bullet-riddled body resembled Swiss cheese; and the gorgeous but odorous Moonbeam McSwine who preferred the company of pigs to men. And when readers thought there was no sadder and poorer place than Dogpatch, Capp would take his readers to frostbitten and poverty stricken Lower Slobovia. It is no surprise that the colorful Li'l Abner cast inspired a long-running Broadway musical in 1957 and two film adaptations.

In addition to the enormous popularity of his comic strip, Capp's fame stemmed from a high media profile. He was a frequent and outspoken guest on the "Tonight" show, spanning hosts Jack Paar, Steve Allen and Johnny Carson. He authored his own newspaper column and radio show and was a guest lecturer at campuses nationwide. Capp retired the strip in 1977 and died two years later. Capp's "Li'l Abner" stands the test of time as a pinnacle of cartoon art and social satire.opyright © 2000 Capp Enterprises


Li'l Abner was the title character in the long-running (1934-1977) syndicated newspaper strip by cartoonist Al Capp. Hardly "li'l," Abner was a hulking, naive man-child, and the frequent foil for Capp's satiric stories about American life and politics. This simple-minded citizen of humble Dogpatch was a paragon of virtue in a dark and cynical world. Abner often found himself far from home, whether in the company of unscrupulous industrialist General Bullmoose, in hapless snowbound Lower Slobbovia, or wherever Capp's whimsical and often complex plots led our heroic hillbilly.

 

Li'l Abner was the unlikely son of tiny Mammy (Pansy) and Pappy (Lucifer) Yokum. Mammy was the industrious "sassiety leader" of backward Dogpatch who instilled honesty and All-American ideals in Li'l Abner. Pappy, in contrast, was an illiterate and hopeless parasite. From the inception of the strip, Abner was vigorously pursued by Daisy Mae, a beautiful Dogpatch damsel hopelessly in love with the bumbling, unappreciative and seldom amorous bachelor. Abner spent nearly two decades outracing Daisy in the annual Sadie Hawkins Day race but the couple finally married in 1952, a fictional event that captured national attention and was a cover story for Life magazine. Their only child, Honest Abe, was born in 1953.

Li'l Abner generally had no visible means of support but he sometimes earned his living as a mattress tester. When not involved in worldwide escapades, he was engrossed by his favorite "comical strip," Fearless Fosdick. He interacted with many marvelous and fantastic characters creating language and situations which have become permanent parts of the American lexicon.


Beautiful Daisy Mae Scragg was hopelessly in love with Li'l Abner through the entire course of the 43 year run of Al Capp's comic strip. During most of it Abner took Daisy for granted and exhibited little romantic interest in her voluptuous charms. In 1952 Abner reluctantly proposed to Daisy Mae to emulate the wedding of his comic strip ideel, Fearless Fosdick. Fosdick's wedding turned out to be fake, but Abner and Daisy's was real. Once married, Abner became relatively domesticated and the two produced their only child, Honest Abe, in 1953. Like Abner's Mammy Yokum and other wimmenfolk in Dogpatch, Daisy Mae did all the work while the menfolk generally did nothing whatsoever. Despite this near slavish role, Daisy Mae seldom complained, one of her countless virtues. Her blood family, on the other hand, was as evil as could be. Wild plot twists often took Daisy Mae to exotic locales and she was frequently wooed by rich and handsome men, but she always returned to Dogpatch and her true, if worthless, love.

 


Mammy, born Pansy Hunks, was the pint-sized, highly principalled, cornpipe smoking leader of the Yokum clan. Her lethal right undercut, sometimes called the "good night Irene punch" helped her uphold law, order and decency. She seemed the toughest character and kept up the integrity of the strip. Her mantra was "good is better than evil because its nicer".

Pint-size Lucifer "Pappy" Yokum had the misfortune of being the patriarch in a family completed dominated by his better half, "Mammy" Yokum. On the other hand, Pappy didn't seem to complain. He had a free ride for many years. Mammy did all the household work. Ostensibly a turnip farmer, Pappy was rarely seen working. In fact, he was so lazy, he didn't even bathe himself. Mammy was regularly seen lathering and scrubbing Pappy in an oak tub next to the modest Yokum cabin. Mammy was the unofficial mayor of Dogpatch and could read. Pappy was illiterate. Mammy was smart. Pappy was dull-witted and gullible. Though their unlikely offspring Li'l Abner was at least twice his father's (and mother's) size, Abner obviously inherited a good many of his father's lesser traits.


The Shmoo first appeared in the strip in August 1948. According to Shmoo legend, the lovable creature laid eggs, gave milk and died of sheer esctasy when looked at with hunger. The Shmoo loved to be eaten and tasted like any food desired. Anything that delighted people delighted a Shmoo. Fry a Shmoo and it came out chicken. Broil it and it came out steak. Shmoo eyes made terrific suspender buttons. The hide of the Shmoo if cut thin made fine leather and if cut thick made the best lumber. Shmoo whiskers made splendid toothpicks. The Shmoo satisfied all the world's wants. You could never run out of Shmoon (plural of Shmoo) because they multiplied at such an incredible rate. The Shmoo believed that the only way to happiness was to bring happiness to others. Li'l Abner discovered Shmoos when he ventured into the forbidden Valley of the Shmoon, against the frantic protestations of Ol' Man Mose. "Shmoos," he warned, "is the greatest menace to hoomanity th' world has evah known." "Thass becuz they is so bad, huh?" asked Li'l Abner. "No, stupid," answered Mose, hurling one of life's profoundest paradoxes at Li'l Abner. "It's because they're so good!"

Ironically, the lovable and selfless Shmoos ultimately brought misery to humankind because people with a limitless supply of self-sacrificing Shmoos stopped working and society broke down. Seen at first as a boon to humankind, they were ultimately hunted down and exterminated to preserve the status quo. (Thought extinct after the 1948 adventure, one Shmoo always seemed to escape to Dogpatch's Valley of the Shmoon to form a new colony and a later plot revival by Capp). Licensed Shmoo merchandise became a huge phenomenon in the late '40s and early '50s, spawning a wide variety of dolls, toys, glasses, wallpaper, belts, books, jewelry, balloons, clocks, ashtrays, cannisters, salt & pepper shakers, dairy products, banks, belts and ear muffs. There was even an official Shmoo fishing lure! These are all highly collectible items today.


As wretched as existence was in Dogpatch, there was one place even worse: faraway Lower Slobbovia. The hapless residents of frigid Lower Slobbovia were perpetually covered with several feet of snow. Icicles hung from every nose. Polar bears stalked the homeless. There was no visible civilization, no money, no hope. The politicians were even more corrupt than in Dogpatch. Conditions couldn't be worse. Astute readers knew that Capp's Slobbovia was a thinly disguised Siberia.

In an era well before "political correctness" entered the vocabulary, Dogpatch exceeded every stereotype of Appalachia. The hillbillies in Li'l Abner's town were poorer than poor. The houses were hopelessly ramshackle. Most Dogpatchers were dumber than dumb. The remainder were scoundrels and thieves. Most of the men were too lazy to work, yet Dogpatch women were desperate enough to chase them. One preferred to live with hogs. Those who farmed their "tarnip" crop watched turnip termites descend every year, locust-like, to devour the crop. In the midst of the Great Depression, lowly Dogpatch allowed the most hard-up Americans to laugh at yokels worse off than they were. In Al Capp's own words Dogpatch was "an average stone-age community" nestled in a bleak valley, between two cheap and uninteresting hills, somewhere. To old friends, the denizens of Dogpatch will be old friends. To strangers, however, they will probably be strangers.


Sadie Hawkins Day, an American folk event, made its debut in Al Capp's Li'l Abner strip November 15, 1937. Sadie Hawkins was "the homeliest gal in the hills" who grew tired of waiting for the fellows to come a courtin'. Her father, Hekzebiah Hawkins, a prominent resident of Dogpatch, was even more worried about Sadie living at home for the rest of his life, so he decreed the first annual Sadie Hawkins Day, a foot race in which the unmarried gals pursued the town's bachelors, with matrimony the consequence. By the late 1930's the event had swept the nation and had a life of its own. Life magazine reported over 200 colleges holding Sadie Hawkins Day events in 1939, only two years after its inception. It became a woman empowering rite at high schools and college campuses, long before the modern feminist movement gained prominence. The basis of Sadie Hawkins Day is that women and girls take the initiative in inviting the man or boy of their choice out on a date, typically to a dance attended by other bachelors and their aggressive dates. When Al Capp created the event, it was not his intention to have the event occur annually on a specific date because it inhibited his freewheeling plotting. However, due to its enormous popularity and the numerous fan letters Capp received, the event became an annual event in the strip during the month of November, lasting four decades.


Throughout the years fans of the Li'l Abner comic strip were not only entertained by creator Al Capp's major characters, Li'l Abner, Daisy Mae, Mammy Yokum, Pappy Yokum, and Fearless Fosdick, but they were also treated to a constant and colorfully unique world of supporting characters.

Joe Bfstplk: World's most loving friend and worst jinx who always travels with a dark cloud over his head.
Tiny Yokum:Abner's 15 1/2 year old brother.
Honest Abe Yokum: Abner and Daisy Mae's little boy.
Evil Eye Fleegle: His quadruple whammy can melt a battleship.
Marryin' Sam: The preacher who specializes in $2 weddings.
General Bullmoose: Al Capp created General Bullmoose in June 1953 as the epitome of a ruthless capitalist. Bullmoose's motto "What's good for General Bullmoose is good for the USA!" was adapted by Capp from a statement made by Charles E. Wilson, the former head of General Motors and Secretary of Defense under President Dwight Eisenhower. In 1952 Wilson told a Senate subcommittee, "What is good for the country is good for General Motors, and what's good for General Motors is good for the country." Li'l Abner became embroiled in many implausible but hilarious adventures with the cold-hearted Bullmoose over the years.
Earthquake McGoon:The bearded and barrel-chested Earthquake McGoon billed himself as "the world's dirtiest wrassler." He first appeared in the comic strip as a traveling exhibition wrestler in the late '30s and became increasingly prominent when early television greatly enhanced the popularity of professional wrestling. McGoon is one of the very few secondary characters to make an appearance in both the 1940 "Li'l Abner" movie and the 1950's Broadway musical. In the latter he came close to marrying Daisy Mae.
Stupefyin' Jones:Statuesque actress Julie Newmar played Stupefyin' Jones in the 1956 Broadway musical of "Li'l Abner" and she never spoke or sang a single line! Stupefyin' was so gorgeous that men who saw her literally froze in their tracks.
Jubilation T. Cornpone:A town as forlorn as Dogpatch is bound to be hard up for heroes. Thus it comes as no surprise that its most famous son, memorialized by a statue, is civil war General Jubilation T. Cornpone, best known for "Cornpone's Retreat," "Cornpone's Disaster" and "Cornpone's Rout." But what he is really best known for is inspiring the most rousing and memorable song in the popular "Li'l Abner musical. The first verse:
"When we fought the Yankees and annihilation was near, who was there to lead the charge that took us safe to the rear? Why it was Jubilation T. Cornpone, old toot-your-own-horn pone. Jubilation T. Cornpone, a man who knew no fear."
Senator Phogbound:Pot-bellied Jack S. Phogbound was satirist Al Capp's skewed archetype of a filibustering southern politician. Senator Phogbound was a corrupt, conspiratorial blowhard, who often wore a coonskin cap and carried a ramrod rifle to show his constituents he remained a trustworthy good ol' boy. Phogbound seemed to spend a disproportionate amount of his time campaigning or passing through Dogpatch, which made sense from a plot standpoint, but where, it can be assumed, no one ever voted.

Cappisms | Li'l Abner | Daisy Mae | Mammy Yokum | Pappy Yokum | Fearless Fosdick | Shmoo |Dogpatch | Sadie Hawkin's Day | Kickapoo Joy Juice | Other Characters |

Copyright © 2000 Capp EnterCopyright © 2000 Capp Enterprises, Inc rights reserved.

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