Archive for the ‘Al Capp’ Category

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

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.

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Friday, December 1st, 2017

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.

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Sunday, October 30th, 2016

Exhibit: ReCAPP- A Bio Of The Creator Of Li’l Abner

Al Capp Li'l Abner

Al Capp Li'l AbnerAl Capp Li'l Abner

Al Capp Li'l AbnerAl Capp Li'l AbnerAlfred Gerald Caplin (aka Al Capp) was born September 28, 1909 in New Haven, CT. He was best known as the creator of the classic comic strip Li’l Abner. At the age of 9, he jumped off the back of an ice wagon directly into the path of an oncoming streetcar. As a result of the accident, he had to have his leg amputated below the hip. This childhood tragedy likely helped shape Capp’s cynical worldview, which, funny as it was, was certainly darker and more sardonic than that of the average newspaper cartoonist. Capp wore a prosthetic leg.  Rather than hide the fact, he openly joked about it all his life.

Al Capp Li'l Abner

Al Capp Li'l AbnerAl Capp Li'l AbnerCapp began his career in comics as an assistant to Joe Palooka cartoonist Ham Fisher. The relationship soon soured, and Capp launched his own strip, Li’l Abner in August, 1934. What began as a simple hillbilly burlesque soon evolved into a masterpiece of satirical fiction, renowned for its vivid characters and top notch draftsmanship. The outlandish storylines and biting social commentary make Li’l Abner unique among newspaper comics of the day.

The strip featured the adventures of Abner Yokum, a loutish, stupid, but good-natured hayseed who lived in Dogpatch, KY with his scrawny but superhuman Mammy, and shiftless, childlike Pappy. Abner was always in the marital crosshairs of Daisy Mae Scragg, his sexy, well-endowed but virtuous (to a point)  girlfriend. In 1952, Daisy Mae achieved her goal and the couple was married in the strip with great fanfare. This event was considered newsworthy enough to be featured on the cover of Life magazine.

Al Capp Li'l AbnerAl Capp Li'l AbnerCapp peopled his comic strip with an assortment of wonderful personalities, including Marryin’ Sam, Joe Btfsplk, Lena the Hyena, Hairless Joe, Lonesome Polecat, Evil-Eye Fleegle, General Bullmoose, and a host of others. Most notably, certainly from a G.I. standpoint, were the beautiful, full-figured women like Wolf Gal, Stupefyin’ Jones and Moonbeam McSwine- all of whom found their way onto the painted noses of fighter planes during WWII. Perhaps Capp’s most popular creations were the Shmoos, gourd-shaped creatures whose incredible usefulness and generous nature made them a threat to civilization as we know it.

Al Capp Li'l AbnerAl Capp Li'l AbnerThroughout his life, Capp volunteered his time to hospitals, entertaining patients, especially to fellow amputees. He set an example for them, proving that the loss of a limb did not mean that one couldn’t live a full and rewarding life.  He was also involved with the Sister Kenny Foundation, which did charity volunteer work for crippled children.

At its peak, Li’l Abner appeared in more than 900 newspapers, with an estimated daily readership of 80 million Americans. Around the country, colleges and communities staged "Sadie Hawkins Day" events. A Broadway play based on Li’l Abner opened in 1956, and was an instant success, and remains a favorite for local productions.  It was made into a motion picture in 1959.  In 1968 a theme-park called Dogpatch USA opened in Jasper, Arkansas based on Capp’s work and with his support.

Al Capp Li'l Abner

Along with a team of assistants, Capp kept the adventures of the denizens of Dogpatch in the papers through the 1970s. The fantasy artist, Frank Frazetta penciled the Sunday page continuities from 1954 to 1962, when a salary dispute ended their professional relationship. Capp still wrote the stories, thumbnailed the layouts and inked the faces and hands himself.

Al Capp Li'l Abner

Al Capp Li'l AbnerAl Capp Li'l AbnerCapp revelled in taking jabs at hypocrites of all persuasions. In the mid-1960s, he turned his attention to liberal counterculture figures. He toured college campuses as a speaker, taking confrontational stands on current events. After witnessing student riots in his own neighborhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts (near Harvard) he took on anti-war protesters and demonstrators with a vengeance. In 1971, Capp was charged with "attempted adultery" by a female student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The fallout cost him circulation, with hundreds of papers dropping his strip. Capp removed himself from public speaking and continued to produce Li’l Abner until failing health forced him to retire in 1977. He died two years later of emphysema, on November 5th, 1979.

Al Capp Li'l Abner

In 1946, Capp created an autobiographical comic book, Al Capp By Li’l Abner, which was distributed by the Red Cross to encourage thousands of amputee veterans returning from WWII…

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

Let me know what you think of this article in the comments.
-Mike Fontanelli, 2008

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.

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