Archive for the ‘Al Capp’ Category

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Exhibit: A CAPPital Offense- Fearless Fosdick and the Poisoned Bean

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

"They always want me to say who is the best writer in America today, and I can’t think of any name but Al Capp… One of the symptoms or diagnostics of literature should be that it is read, that it amuses, moves, instructs, changes and criticizes people. And who in the world does that more than Capp? I think Capp may very possibly be the best writer in the world today." -John Steinbeck, 1953

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

PLAYBOY: John Steinbeck once described you as "possibly the best writer in the world today". What’s your reaction to that?

CAPP: I revere John Steinbeck far too deeply to question his literary judgment!" –Playboy Interview, 1965

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

"Not many people know that I worked with Al Capp for a year at Terry-Toons on a cartoon adaptation of Fearless Fosdick. Capp is one of the great unsung heroes of comics. I’ve never heard anyone mention this, but Capp is 100% responsible for inspiring Harvey Kurtzman to create Mad magazine.

Just look at Fearless Fosdick- a brilliant parody of Dick Tracy with all those bullet holes and stuff. Then look at Mad’s "Teddy and the Pirates", "Superduperman" or even "Little Annie Fanny". Forget about it. Slam dunk. Not taking anything away from Kurtzman who was brilliant himself, but Capp was the source for that whole sense of satire in comics. Kurtzman carried that forward and passed it down to a whole new crop of cartoonists, myself included.

Capp was a genius. You wanna argue about it? I’ll fight ya, and I’ll win." -Ralph Bakshi, 2008

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

Li’l Abner’s "ideel"- Fearless Fosdick- first made his bullet-riddled debut in 1942. As everyone knows, Capp’s famous strip-within-a-strip began as a direct parody of Chester Gould’s classic newspaper comic, Dick Tracy. But like all of Capp’s creations, it soon developed into a multi-leveled satire of contemporary American society at large.

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless FosdickFearless Fosdick provided a running commentary on, among other things, the lowly lives of policemen, the capriciousness of the general public, and the thankless role of society’s "heroes". With Capp, as with Chaplin, there’s always a social subtext to the fun, which in my opinion, separates the men from the boys in comedy. These themes are very much in evidence in our first Fosdick story pick, "The Poisoned Bean Case"…

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

"The Poisoned Bean Case" is, simply put, one of Capp’s masterpieces. It seems to be a special favorite with fans too, both for its astronomical body count and its sheer outrageousness. Believe it or not, this blood-drenched parody ran in family newspapers in the fifties, in Eisenhower’s America, on Sundays, no less!

In the following brilliantly demented pages, no one is spared Capp’s merciless needle. From the venality of the justice system to the crookedness of the media; from the corruption of big business to the fickleness and stupidity of a complacent populace. The diabolical plot, which concerns product tampering, presages the 1982 Tylenol case by some 30 years.

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

As a cautionary note to readers encountering this story for the first time: you are hereby warned. It’s impossible not to get swept up in the maelstrom of fury that’s about to be unleashed. "The Poisoned Bean Case" doesn’t so much unfold, as simply detonate! For comics fans who like their irony dark, raw and relentless- we proudly present Al Capp at or near the peak of his powers…

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

Fearless Fosdick in…

THE POISONED BEAN CASE

Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
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Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
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Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick

TO BE CONTINUED…<

Let me know what you think of this article in the comments.

-Mike Fontanelli, 2008

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

Many thanks to Mike for this wonderful series of articles.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Al CappAl Capp

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit by Mike Fontanelli profiling the career of Al Capp.

Newspaper ComicsNewspaper Comics
This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Newspaper Comics.

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Exhibit: CAPPs Off- Li’l Abner Without Apologies

Al Capp Li'l Abner

Al Capp Li'l Abner

Al Capp Li'l Abner

Some comic artists are appreciated because of their antiquated charm, the musty perfume they carry from another age. But Capp strikes us more and more as timeless, priceless and ageless. -Richard Marschall, NEMO Magazine, April 1986

Today, we’re happy to be able to introduce a series of posts on one of the greatest cartoonists ever to grace the funny papers with his presence… Al Capp. Mike Fontanelli has been a fan of Li’l Abner since he was very small. He’s grown up to be a fine cartoonist and an authority on Capp’s life and work. He’s digging into his personal collection of "Cappiana" to illustrate these posts. Thanks, Mike!

Al Capp Li'l AbnerAl Capp Li'l Abner

CAPPS OFF!

Li’l Abner Without Apologies

Al Capp was an individual of no small complexity, and his intricate personality could be off-putting to say the least- or even downright contradictory. Two books on the artist published recently, The Enigma Of Al Capp (by Alexander Theroux) and Capp’s autobiographic book, My Well-Balanced Life On A Wooden Leg tell polar opposite stories.

Al Capp Li'l Abner

Capp’s star seems to have fallen recently. Contemporary critics seem inclined to recall only his controversial later years, which were marked by divisive anger and a bitterness of the kind to which satirists seem particularly susceptible. Unfortunately, this oversimplification of Capp’s complicated persona has overshadowed his creation, invalidating his real legacy. The body of work Capp left behind tells another story, one that’s been neglected- or worse, suppressed- in recent years. Those who are aware of Capp’s true importance to the history of cartooning can’t help but feel a critical reassessment is long overdue.

Al Capp Li'l Abner

Revisiting the pages of Li’l Abner today, modern readers will be aghast at the still astonishing plotlines, highly original concepts, and vivid, hilariously ludicrous characterizations. As you’ll see in the examples we’ll be presenting over the next couple of months, Li’l Abner went where no other comic strip has ever dared to go before or since.

Al Capp Li'l Abner

By any modern standard, Li’l Abner must be reckoned an American masterpiece of cartoon satire. The best of Capp’s great body of work could arguably hold its own against any classic work of satire, from Candide to Gulliver’s Travels, from The Pirates Of Penzance to CATCH-22. While no less an authority than John Steinbeck once recommended Capp for the Nobel Prize in literature, (and he duly deserved a Pulitzer Prize before Gary Trudeau was even born) Capp’s rightful place as a modern American equal to Jonathan Swift has still to be recognized.

Al Capp Li'l Abner
Al Capp Li'l Abner

"With Li’l Abner," writes Richard Marschall, "Capp was calling society absurd, not just silly; human nature not simply misguided, but irredeemably and irreducibly corrupt. Unlike any other strip, and indeed unlike many other pieces of literature, Li’l Abner was more than a satire of the human condition. It was a commentary on human nature itself."

Al Capp Li'l Abner

While Al Capp presented himself to the world "warts and all", there’s been an effort of late to portray only the warts. We at Animation Resources are grateful for this opportunity to present the rest of the story.

To start out, here is one of the finest stories in the history of the strip, "Loverboynik, or Ketch A Critic By The Toe". It’s a timely spoof of two diametrically opposed pillars of mid-20th century manhood: Charles Atlas and Liberace. According to Capp, Liberace was “cut to the quick” when this story first appeared in 1956, and even threatened legal action.

Al Capp Li'l Abner

This superb example of Capp’s masterfully controlled plotting technique, breathlessly combines humor and suspense into a seamless whole. The tension doesn’t let up until the hilarious and characteristically bizarre resolution. It also showcases some of the most memorably harrowing aspects of the strip (gulp!) Sadie Hawkins Day, (gasp!) Nightmare Alice, and (shudder!) The Scraggs…

Al Capp Li'l AbnerAl Capp Li'l Abner
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TO BE CONTINUED…

Mike Fontanelli, 2008

Let Mike know in the comments what you think of his article!

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Al CappAl Capp

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit by Mike Fontanelli profiling the career of Al Capp.

Newspaper ComicsNewspaper Comics
This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Newspaper Comics.

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Cartooning: Byrnes’ Complete Guide To Cartooning Part One

Cartoonists People On Paper

Footage of Milton Caniff, Hal Foster, Bud Fisher, Chic Young, Al Capp and other cartoonists at work in their studios…

"Passing Parade: People On Paper" (MGM/1945)

(Quicktime 7 / 24 megs)

REG’LAR FELLERS, LI’L ABNER, FLASH GORDON, TERRY & THE PIRATES, GAGS & GALS, STEVE CANYON… Meet The Men Behind The Comics

ByrnesByrnesToday, we began digitizing an important book… Gene Byrnes’ Complete Guide To Cartooning 1950. Marc Crisafulli and David King generously lent us a copy of this amazing collection of capsule features on all of the major cartoonists of the early 50s for digitization. It’s said that Ralph Bakshi learned to cartoon from this book.

In the coming days, I will be posting more from this book, along with a little biographical info on the featured artists. Today, the cartoonists profiled are all newspaper comic strip creators… Gene Byrnes, Jefferson Machamer, Alex Raymond, Louis Eisele, Charles Voight, Al Capp and Milton Caniff.

REG’LAR FELLERS
By Gene Byrnes

Gene Byrnes intended a career in sports, but after being laid up from a leg injury in 1911, he took to copying cartoons by Tad Dorgan and decided to take a correspondence course in cartooning. He began his career as a professional cartoonist with the help of Winsor McCay, who got him a job with the New York Telegram as a sports cartoonist around 1915. In 1917, he created his most famous strip, Reg’lar Fellers. which ran for over thirty years. He wrote several influential books on cartooning and illustration in the 40s and early 50s. He passed away in 1974.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

RIP KIRBY
By Alex Raymond

Alex Raymond is best known for creating the comic strip, Flash Gordon in 1933. He was responsible for several other important strips as well, as creator or ghost artist, including Rip Kirby, Jungle Jim, Tim Tyler’s Luck and Tillie the Toiler. His strip, Secret Agent X9 was created in collaboration with Dasheill Hammett. He died in a car accident in 1956.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

JEFFERSON MACHAMER

Thomas Jefferson Machamer began as a staff artist on the Kansas City Star in the early 1920s, and soon moved to New York, where he secured work with the New York Tribune. He made his name with his cartoons of pretty girls in Judge magazine in the late 1920s. In 1932, his strip, Gags & Gals debuted in the New York Mirror. He continued to be active in both newspaper cartoons and magazine illustration throughout the 40s and 50s, and passed away in 1960.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

LOUIS EISELE

I don’t have any information on Louis Eislele. If anyone out there knows his biographical details, please post them to the comments below.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

CHARLES VOIGHT

Charles Voight was known as a “girl specialist” with illustrations and comics in the New York World and Life magazine in the early decades of the 20th century. His strips included Petey Dink and Betty. He passed away in 1947.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

ON THE WRITING OF CONTINUITY
By Al Capp

At the age of nine, Al Capp lost a leg in a streetcar accident. He became the youngest syndicated cartoonist in the country at age 19 with his strip, Colonel Gilfeather. He ghosted the strip Joe Palooka for Ham Fischer for a while, before striking out on his own with Li’l Abner in 1934. The strip was among the most popular of all time, entering the popular culture with Capp’s creations like "Sadie Hawkins Day", "Kickapoo Joy Juice" and "The Shmoo". Capp’s strip inspired a Broadway musical and feature film and ran until 1977. Capp died two years later.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

DETOUR GUIDE FOR AN ARMCHAIR MARCO POLO
By Milton Caniff

Milton Caniff was born in Ohio in 1907. He took a job as a staff artist with the Associated Press in 1932, and soon inherited Al Capp’s strip Colonel Gilfeather when Capp left the syndicate. In 1934, Caniff created the comic strip he is best known for, Terry and the Pirates. The series was hugely popular throughout the war years, but Caniff didn’t own the copyright- it belonged to The Chicago Tribune/New York Daily News. He left the comic behind to create a new one, Steve Canyon, which spawned a short-lived television series and ran until Caniff’s death in 1988.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

STUDYING THE COMICS PAGES

In this section, there are three articles on how to get fresh ideas, Byrnes goes through the newspaper analyzing the appeal of various comic strips, and Chic Young and Hal Foster are featured.

HOW TO GET IDEAS
By Dana Coty

I don’t have much information on Dana Coty (Dec. 19, 1901 – March 19, 1962) aside from the fact that he worked at Disney in the mid-30s, and was a story man at Famous Studios.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

J. N. Darling (Ding)
on EDITORIAL IDEAS

Ding DarlingDing Darling"Ding" Darling was a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist for the Sioux City Journal, The Des Moines Register, the New York Herald Tribune and the New York Globe. His editorial cartoons dealing with conservation causes were a staple of the opinion sections of many papers for decades. He passed away in 1962.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

IDEAS FOR ADVERTISING CARTOONS
By Sam Cobean

Sam CobeanSam CobeanSam Cobean was an inbetweener on Snow White, barely surviving on $16 a week, when he joined the strikers fighting for the creation of the Screen Cartoonists Guild. After returning to work when the contract was settled, Sam realized that Disney was not the place for him and took a job as a copy boy at the Washington Post. There, he developed an interest in political cartoons. During the war, he worked in a unit producing training cartoons and pamphlets along with cartoonist Charles Addams. Addams introduced him to the editor of the New Yorker, and Cobean’s cartoons appeared there for many years afterwards. In 1950, he created a book of cartoons, titled "Cobean’s Naked Eye" which was a bestseller. He died in a car accident in 1951.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

STUDIES OF COMIC STRIPS

In this section, Gene Byrnes analyzes the style and appeal of various contemporary newspaper comics. The most interesting thing about the strips he features is the high level of draftsmanship, and the diverse variety of styles and approaches to the medium. Newpaper comics were once considered the pinnacle of cartooning… but today, they have plunged to its nadir. Comparing Prince Valiant to Drabble or Bringing Up Father to Cathy is a depressing task. It’s shameful that so great an artform has been allowed to deteriorate so far. I hope there are aspiring cartoonists out there who are willing to take up the difficult task of restoring the comics page to its rightful place in American culture again. This overview is a good place to start investigating the forgotten art of newspaper cartooning.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

SUNDAY PAGES
Featuring Chic Young & Hal Foster

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

Chic YoungChic YoungChic Young was born in 1901 and began his career as a newspaper cartoonist in 1923. His first strip for King Features was Dumb Dora and in 1930, he created the strip, Blondie, one of the longest running newspaper comics of all time. He drew it until he passed away in 1973, and his son, Dean continues to write it to this day. Blondie was hugely successful and spawned film and TV adaptations.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

Prince Valiant

Hal FosterHal FosterHal Foster was raised in the wilds of Halifax, Nova Scotia where he was an avid boater and outdoorsman. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade and began a course of self education studying sketching and anatomy. He set art aside to become a hunting guide and gold prospector, but at age 28, he decided to devote his life to a career in art. He received classical training at the Chicago Art Institute, the National Academy of Design and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. In 1927, he was contracted to do a comic strip adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes. 1n 1937, Foster introduced an original property, Prince Valiant, the most successful adventure strip of all time. Foster produced the strip for over 40 years, passing away in 1982.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

Other artists featured in this section are Jimmy Hatlo, Otto Soglow, George McManus, Chester Gould and Frank King… all worthy of spending a few minutes Googling and reading up on.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

The posts I present here at Animation Resources aren’t intended to be the last word on any subject, particularly one as large and multifaceted as the history of cartooning. My hope is that you use these posts as a springboard for your own investigation. Take the names and examples I present here and start searching the web for more… scour bookstores and flea markets… and expand your frame of reference beyond just what is presented here. I wish I had a source of "hot tips" like this when I was first starting out. Take advantage of this great resource we’re building.

Many thanks to Marc Crisafulli and David King for sharing this great book with us.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Newspaper ComicsNewspaper Comics
This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Newspaper Comics.