Al CappOccupation / Title:
09/28/1909Date of death:
During and after World War II, Capp worked tirelessly going to hospitals to entertain patients, often accompanied by his friend Milton Caniff. Capp especially wanted to cheer up recent amputees, and explain that the loss of a limb did not mean an end to a happy, productive life. Capp was also involved with the Sister Kenny Foundation, which did charity volunteer work for crippled children.
LI’L ABNER lasted 43 years, and along the way was turned into a radio serial (1939-40), a Broadway musical (1956), two feature films (1940 and 1959), three TV pilots, and its own theme park, Dogpatch USA in northwest Arkansas, which operated from 1968 to 1993. Perhaps the strip’s most lasting influence on American culture was the creation of “Sadie Hawkins Day.” The event became an unofficial holiday, and begat thousands of real-life chases on college and high school campuses. In 1952, 40,000 Sadie Hawkins Day events were documented.
JOE PALOOKA creator Ham Fisher and Al Capp waged a famous feud for years. It finally came to a head when Fisher “doctored” photostats of LI’L ABNER in order to make its panels appear pornographic. Fisher promptly accused Capp of indecency, and attempted to have him expelled from the National Cartoonists Society. An ensuing lawsuit revealed Fisher’s duplicity, and culminated in Fisher’s expulsion from the NCS instead. (Fisher subsequently committed suicide in 1955.) Capp is often associated with two other giants of the medium, Milton Caniff (TERRY AND THE PIRATES, STEVE CANYON) and Walt Kelly (POGO).
The three men were close personal friends and professional associates throughout their adult lives, and often referenced each other in their strips. Once, Capp and his brother Elliot ducked out of a dull party at Capp’s home – leaving Walt Kelly alone to fend for himself entertaining a group of Argentine envoys who didn’t speak English. Kelly retaliated by giving away Capp’s baby grand piano! (According to Capp, Kelly’s perfectly logical reason was, “because you can’t play the piano, anyway!”)
Honors and awards
NCS Reuben Award 1947 (Cartoonist Of The Year) NCS Elzie Segar Award – 1979 (posthumous) US Postage Stamp – 1995
(All by Al Capp unless otherwise noted)
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE SHMOO (1948) Simon & Schuster
THE WORLD OF LI’L ABNER (1953) Farrar, Straus & Young
EIGHT HUMORISTS by George Mikes (1954) Allan Wingate, London
AL CAPP’S FEARLESS FOSDICK: HIS LIFE AND DEATHS (1956) Simon & Schuster
AL CAPP’S BALD IGGLE: THE LIFE IT RUINS MAY BE YOUR OWN (1956) Simon &
THE RETURN OF THE SHMOO (1959) Simon & Schuster
FROM DOGPATCH TO SLOBBOVIA (1964) Beacon Press, Boston
LI’L ABNER: A STUDY IN AMERICAN SATIRE by Arthur Asa Berger, Ph. D.
Univ. Press of MS
THE HARDHAT’S BEDTIME STORY BOOK (1971) Harper & Row
THE BEST OF LI’L ABNER (1978) Holt, Rinehart & Winston
ABBIE AN’ SLATS by Raeburn Van Buren – 2 Volumes (1983) Ken Pierce, Inc
LI’L ABNER: Reuben Award Winner Series – Book 1 (1985) Blackthorne
LI’L ABNER DAILIES – 27 Volumes (1988 – 1997) Kitchen Sink Press
FEARLESS FOSDICK (1990) Kitchen Sink Press
MY WELL-BALANCED LIFE ON A WOODEN LEG (1991) John Daniel & Co.
FEARLESS FOSDICK: THE HOLE STORY (1992) Kitchen Sink Press
AL CAPP REMEMBERED by Elliot Caplin (1994) Bowling Green Univ. Popular
AMERICA’S GREAT COMIC STRIP ARTISTS by Richard Marschall (1997)
THE ENIGMA OF AL CAPP by Alexander Theroux (1999) Fantagraphics
GLAMOUR INTERNATIONAL #26 The Good Girl Art of Bob Lubbers (2001)
THE SHORT LIFE AND HAPPY TIMES OF THE SHMOO (2002) Overlook (Previous
reprinted in one volume)
AL CAPP’S LI’L ABNER: THE FRAZETTA YEARS – 4 Volumes (2003 – 2004) Dark
AL CAPP’S SHMOO: THE COMPLETE COMIC BOOKS Ed. by Denis Kitchen
(2008) Dark Horse