Li'l Abner

For other uses, see Li'l Abner (disambiguation).
Li'l Abner

"It's Jack Jawbreaker!" Li'l Abner visits the corrupt Squeezeblood comic strip syndicate in a classic Sunday continuity from October 12, 1947.
Author(s) Al Capp
Current status / schedule Concluded
Launch date August 13, 1934
End date November 13, 1977
Syndicate(s) United Feature Syndicate
Publisher(s) Simon & Schuster, HRW, Kitchen Sink Press, Dark Horse, IDW Publishing
Genre(s) Humor, satire, politics

Li'l Abner is a satirical American comic strip that appeared in many newspapers in the United States, Canada and Europe, featuring a fictional clan of hillbillies in the impoverished mountain village of Dogpatch, USA. Written and drawn by Al Capp (1909–1979), the strip ran for 43 years, from August 13, 1934 through November 13, 1977.[1] It was distributed by United Feature Syndicate. Comic strips typically dealt with northern urban experiences before Capp introduced Li'l Abner, the first strip based in the South. Although Capp was from Connecticut, he spent 43 years writing about a fictional southern town. The comic strip had 60 million readers in over 900 American newspapers and 100 foreign papers in 28 countries. Author M. Thomas Inge says Capp "had a profound influence on the way the world viewed the American South."[2]


Main characters

Li'l Abner Yokum: Abner was 6' 3" and perpetually 19 "y'ars" old. A naïve, simpleminded, gullible and sweet-natured hillbilly, he lived in a ramshackle log cabin with his pint-sized parents. Capp derived the family name "Yokum" as a combination of yokel and hokum. In Capp's satirical and often complex plots, Abner was a country bumpkin Candide — a paragon of innocence in a sardonically dark and cynical world.[3] Abner typically had no visible means of support, but sometimes earned his livelihood as a "crescent cutter" for the Little Wonder privy company, later changed to "mattress tester" for the Stunned Ox mattress company. During World War II, Abner was "drafted" into becoming the mascot emblem of the Patrol Boat Squadron 29. In one Post World War II storyline Abner became a US Air Force bodyguard of Steve Cantor (a parody of Steve Canyon) against the evil bald female spy Jewell Brynner (a parody of actor Yul Brynner)[4] Abner's primary goal in life was evading the marital designs of Daisy Mae Scragg, the virtuous, voluptuous, barefoot Dogpatch damsel and scion of the Yokums' blood feud enemies — the Scraggs, her bloodthirsty, semi-evolved kinfolk. For 18 years, Abner slipped out of Daisy Mae's marital crosshairs time and time again. When Capp finally gave in to reader pressure and allowed the couple to tie the knot, it was a major media event. It even made the cover of Life magazine on March 31, 1952 — illustrating an article by Capp entitled "It's Hideously True!! The Creator of Li'l Abner Tells Why His Hero Is (SOB!) Wed!!"

Daisy Mae Yokum (née Scragg): Beautiful Daisy Mae was hopelessly in love with Dogpatch's most prominent resident throughout the entire 43-year run of Al Capp's comic strip. During most of the epic, the impossibly dense Abner exhibited little romantic interest in her voluptuous charms (much of it visible daily thanks to her famous polka-dot peasant blouse and cropped skirt).[5] In 1952, Abner reluctantly proposed to Daisy to emulate the engagement of his comic strip "ideel," Fearless Fosdick. Fosdick's own wedding to longtime fiancée Prudence Pimpleton turned out to be a dream — but Abner and Daisy's ceremony, performed by Marryin' Sam, was permanent. Abner and Daisy Mae's nuptials were a major source of media attention, landing them on the aforementioned cover of Life magazine's March 31, 1952, issue.[6] Once married, Abner became relatively domesticated. Like Mammy Yokum and the other "wimmenfolk" in Dogpatch, Daisy Mae did all the work, domestic and otherwise — while the useless menfolk generally did nothing whatsoever.

Mammy Yokum: Born Pansy Hunks, Mammy was the scrawny, highly principled "sassiety" leader and bare knuckle "champeen" of the town of Dogpatch. She married the inconsequential Pappy Yokum in 1902; they produced two strapping sons twice their own size. Mammy dominated the Yokum clan through the force of her personality, and dominated everyone else with her fearsome right uppercut (sometimes known as her "Goodnight, Irene" punch), which helped her uphold law, order and decency.[7] She is consistently the toughest character throughout Li'l Abner. A superhuman dynamo, Mammy did all the household chores — and provided her charges with no fewer than eight meals a day of "po'k chops" and "tarnips," (as well as local Dogpatch delicacies like "candied catfish eyeballs" and "trashbean soup"). Her authority was unquestioned, and her characteristic phrase, "Ah has spoken!," signaled the end of all further discussion. Her most familiar phrase, however, is "Good is better than evil becuz it's nicer!" (Upon his retirement in 1977, Capp declared Mammy to be his personal favorite of all his characters.)

Pappy Yokum: Born Lucifer Ornamental Yokum, pint-sized Pappy had the misfortune of being the patriarch in a family that didn't have one. Pappy was so lazy and ineffectual, he didn't even bathe himself. Mammy was regularly seen scrubbing Pappy in an outdoor oak tub ("Once a month, rain or shine"). Ironing Pappy's trousers fell under her wifely duties as well, although she didn't bother with preliminaries — like waiting for Pappy to remove them first. While Mammy was the unofficial mayor of Dogpatch and could read, Pappy remained illiterate.[8] Pappy is dull-witted and gullible (in one storyline after he is conned by Marry'n Sam into buying Vanishing cream because he thinks it makes him invisible he picks a fight with his nemesis Earthquake McGoon), but not completely without guile. He had an unfortunate predilection for snitching "presarved tarnips" and smoking corn silk behind the woodshed — much to his chagrin when Mammy caught him.

Honest Abe Yokum: Li'l Abner and Daisy Mae's little boy was born in 1953 "after a pregnancy that ambled on so long that readers began sending me medical books," wrote Capp. Initially known as "Mysterious Yokum" (there was even an Ideal doll marketed under this name) due to a debate regarding his gender (he was stuck in a pants-shaped stovepipe for the first six weeks), he was renamed "Honest Abe" (after President Abraham Lincoln) to thwart his early tendency to steal.[9] His first words were "po'k chop," and that remained his favorite food. Though his uncle Tiny was perpetually frozen at 15½ "y'ars" old, Honest Abe gradually grew from infant to grade school age, and became a dead ringer for Washable Jones — the star of Capp's early "topper" strip. He would eventually acquire a couple of supporting character friends for his own semi-regularly featured adventures in the strip. In one storyline he lives up to his nickname when during a nationwide search for George Washington missing socks {the finder gets to shake the President of the United States hand} after dishonestly producing a fraudulent pair he confess to the truth at the last second.

Tiny Yokum: "Tiny" was a misnomer; Li'l Abner's kid brother remained perpetually innocent and 15½ "y'ars" old — despite the fact that he was an imposing, 7-foot (2.1 m) tall behemoth. Tiny was unknown to the strip until September 1954, when a relative who had been raising him reminded Mammy that she'd given birth to a second "chile" while visiting her 15 years earlier. (The relative explained that she would have dropped him off sooner, but waited until she happened to be in the neighborhood.) Capp introduced Tiny to fill the bachelor role played reliably for nearly two decades by Li'l Abner himself, until his fateful 1952 marriage threw the carefully orchestrated dynamic of the strip out of whack for a period.[10] Pursued by local lovelies Hopeful Mudd and Boyless Bailey, Tiny was even dumber and more awkward than Abner, if that can be imagined. Tiny initially sported a bulbous nose like both of his parents, but eventually, (through a plot contrivance) he was given a nose job, and his shaggy blond hair was buzz cut to make him more appealing.

Salomey: The Yokums' beloved pet. Cute, lovable and intelligent (arguably smarter than Abner, Tiny or Pappy), she was accepted as part of the family ("the youngest," as Mammy invariably introduces her). She is 100% "Hammus Alabammus" — an adorable species of pig, and the last female known in existence. A plump, juicy Hammus Alabammus is the rarest and most vital ingredient of "ecstasy sauce," an indescribably delicious gourmet delicacy. Consequently, Salomey is frequently targeted by unscrupulous sportsmen, hog breeders and gourmands (like J.R. Fangsley and Bounder J. Roundheels), as well as unsavory boars with improper intentions (such as Boar Scarloff and Porknoy). Her moniker was a pun on both salami and Salome.

Supporting characters and villains

Parody characters include Hop-Eye De Sailor, a parody of Popeye the Sailor, Little Orphan Andy (Little Orphan Annie); Bagwood Bumphead (Dagwood Bumstead), Rip Derby (Rip Kirby), Manrank the Musician (Mandrake the Magician), Little Danny Rooney (Little Annie Rooney), and Goon Mullins (Moon Mullins).

Fearless Fosdick

Main article: Fearless Fosdick

Li'l Abner also featured a comic strip-within-the-strip: Fearless Fosdick was a parody of Chester Gould's plainclothes detective, Dick Tracy. It first appeared in 1942, and proved so popular that it ran intermittently in Li'l Abner over the next 35 years. Gould was also personally parodied in the series as cartoonist Lester Gooch — the diminutive, much-harassed and occasionally deranged "creator" of Fearless Fosdick. The style of the Fosdick sequences closely mimicked Tracy, including the urban setting, the outrageous villains, the galloping mortality rate, the crosshatched shadows, the lettering style — even Gould's familiar signature was parodied in Fearless Fosdick. Fosdick battled a succession of archenemies with absurdly unlikely names like Rattop, Anyface, Bombface, Boldfinger, the Atom Bum, the Chippendale Chair, and Sidney the Crooked Parrot, as well as his own criminal mastermind father, "Fearful" Fosdick (aka "The Original"). The razor-jawed title character (Li'l Abner's "ideel") was perpetually ventilated by flying bullets until he resembled a slice of Swiss cheese.[25] The impervious Fosdick considered the gaping, smoking holes "mere scratches," however, and always reported back in one piece to his corrupt superior The Chief for duty the next day.

Besides being fearless, Fosdick was "pure, underpaid and purposeful," according to his creator. He also had notoriously bad aim — often leaving a trail of collateral damage (in the form of bullet-riddled pedestrians) in his wake. "When Fosdick is after a lawbreaker, there is no escape for the miscreant," Capp wrote in 1956. "There is, however, a fighting chance to escape for hundreds of innocent bystanders who happen to be in the neighborhood — but only a fighting chance. Fosdick's duty, as he sees it, is not so much to maintain safety as to destroy crime, and it's too much to ask any law-enforcement officer to do both, I suppose." Fosdick lived in squalor at the dilapidated boarding house run by his mercenary landlady, Mrs. Flintnose. He never married his own long-suffering fiancée Prudence (ugh!) Pimpleton (they've been engaged for 17 years), but Fosdick was directly responsible for the unwitting marriage of his biggest fan, Li'l Abner to Daisy Mae in 1952. The bumbling detective became the star of his own NBC-TV puppet show that same year. Fosdick also achieved considerable exposure as the long-running advertising spokesman for Wildroot Cream-Oil, a popular men's hair product of the postwar period.

Setting and fictitious locales

Although ostensibly set in the Kentucky mountains, situations often took the characters to different destinations — including New York City, Washington, D.C., Hollywood, the South American Amazon, tropical islands, the Moon, Mars, etc.— as well as some purely fanciful worlds of Capp's imagination:


Exceeding every burlesque stereotype of Appalachia, the impoverished backwater of Dogpatch consisted mostly of hopelessly ramshackle log cabins, "tarnip" fields, pine trees and "hawg" wallows. Most Dogpatchers were shiftless and ignorant; the remainder were scoundrels and thieves. The menfolk were too lazy to work, yet Dogpatch gals were desperate enough to chase them (see Sadie Hawkins Day). Those who farmed their turnip fields watched "turnip termites" swarm by the billions every year, locust-like, to devour Dogpatch's only crop (along with their homes, their livestock and all their clothing).

The local geography was fluid and vividly complex; Capp continually changed it to suit either his whims or the current storyline. Natural landmarks included (at various times) Teeterin' Rock, Onneccessary Mountain, Bottomless Canyon, and Kissin' Rock (handy to Suicide Cliff). Local attractions that reappeared in the strip included the West Po'k Chop Railroad; the "Skonk Works", a dilapidated factory located on the remote outskirts of Dogpatch; and the General Jubilation T. Cornpone memorial statue.

In one storyline Dogpatch's "Cannonball Express" train, after 1,563 tries, finally delivers its "cargo" to Dogpatch citizens - on Oct 12, 1946! Receiving a 13-year stack of newspapers, Li'l Abner's family realizes that the Great Depression is on and that banks should close; they race to take their money out of the bank - before realizing they have no money in the bank! Other news is the inauguration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as President on March 4, 1933 (although Mammy Yokam thinks the President is Teddy Roosevelt) and a picture of Germany's "new leader" Adolf Hitler who claims to love peace while reviewing 20,000 new planes (April 21, 1933); Mammy doesn't trust Hitler but Li'l Abner and Pappy think Hitler is a fine feller - since Senator Fogbound (Phogbound) says so!

In the midst of the Great Depression, the hardscrabble residents of lowly Dogpatch allowed suffering Americans to laugh at yokels even worse off than themselves.[26] 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." Early in the continuity Capp a few times referred to Dogpatch being in Kentucky, but he was careful afterwards to keep its location generic, probably to avoid cancellations from offended Kentucky newspapers. From then on, he referred to it as Dogpatch, USA, and did not give any specific location as to exactly where it was supposed to be located. Humorously enough, many states tried to claim ownership to the little town (Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, etc.), yet Capp would not budge. He left it at Dogpatch USA so there would be no headaches and problems. Like the Coconino County depicted in George Herriman's Krazy Kat and the Okefenokee Swamp of Walt Kelly's Pogo, Dogpatch's distinctive cartoon landscape became as identified with the strip as any of its characters. Later, Capp licensed and was part-owner of an 800-acre (3.2 km2) $35 million theme park called Dogpatch USA near Harrison, Arkansas.

Lower Slobbovia

As utterly wretched as existence was in Dogpatch, there was one place even worse. Frigid, faraway Lower Slobbovia was fashioned as a pointedly political satire of backward nations and foreign diplomacy, and remains a contemporary reference.[27] Its hapless residents were perpetually waist-deep in several feet of snow, and icicles hung from almost every frostbitten nose.[28] The favorite dish of the starving natives was raw polar bear (and vice versa). Lower Slobbovians spoke with burlesque pidgin-Russian accents; the miserable frozen wasteland of Capp's invention abounded in incongruous Yiddish humor.

Lower Slobbovia and Dogpatch are both comic examples of modern dystopian satire. Conceptually based on Siberia, or perhaps specifically on Birobidzhan, Capp's icy hellhole made its first appearance in Li'l Abner in April 1946. Ruled by Good King Nogoodnik (sometimes known as King Stubbornovsky the Last), the Slobbovian politicians were even more corrupt than their Dogpatch counterparts. Their monetary unit was the "rasbucknik," of which one was worth nothing and a large quantity was worth a lot less, due to the trouble of carrying them around. The local children were read harrowing tales from "Ice-sop's Fables," which were parodies of classic Aesop Fables, but with a darkly sardonic bent (and titles like "Coldilocks and the Three Bares"). Slobbovia even had its own (absurd) national anthem, which went like this:

We are citizens of Slobbovia
(Oh, Sob! That this should be happening to us!)
We are giving you back to the Indians
(But they are refusing, of cuss!)
PTUI on you, Slobbovia!
We are hating your icebound coast
Of all the countries in the world

Other fictional locales

Other fictional locales includedSkonk Hollow, El Passionato, Kigmyland, the Republic of Crumbumbo, Lo Kunning, Faminostan, Planets Pincus Number 2 and 7, Pineapple Junction and, most notably, the Valley of the Shmoon.

Shmoos and other mythic creatures

Main article: Shmoo

Shmoos, introduced in 1948, were fabulous creatures that bred exponentially, consumed nothing, and eagerly provided everything that humankind could wish for. Besides producing both milk (bottled, grade A) and eggs (neatly packaged), they tasted like pork when roasted, chicken when fried, and steak when broiled. Ironically, the shmoo's generous nature and incredible usefulness made it a threat to capitalism, to western society and perhaps to civilization itself.[29] Li'l Abner featured a whole menagerie of allegorical animals over the years — each one was designed to satirically showcase another disturbing aspect of human nature. They included:

Dialogue and catchphrases

Al Capp, a native northeasterner, wrote all the final dialogue in Li'l Abner using his approximation of a mock-southern dialect (including phonetic sounds, eye dialect, nonstop "creative" spelling and deliberate malapropisms). He constantly interspersed boldface type, and included prompt words in parentheses (chuckle!, sob!, gasp!, shudder!, smack!, drool!, cackle!, snort!, gulp!, blush!, ugh!, etc.) as asides, to bolster the effect of the printed speech balloons. Almost every line was followed by two exclamation marks for added emphasis.

Outside Dogpatch, characters used a variety of stock Vaudevillian dialects. Mobsters and criminal-types invariably spoke slangy Brooklynese, and residents of Lower Slobbovia spoke pidgin-Russian, with a smattering of Yinglish. Comic dialects were also devised for offbeat British characters — like H'Inspector Blugstone of Scotland Yard (who had a Cockney accent) and Sir Cecil Cesspool (whose speech was a clipped, uppercrust King's English). Various Asian, Latin, Native American and European characters spoke in a wide range of specific, broadly caricatured dialects as well. Capp has credited his inspiration for vividly stylized language to early literary influences like Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and Damon Runyon, as well as Old-time radio and the Burlesque stage.

Comics historian Don Markstein commented that Capp's "use of language was both unique and universally appealing; and his clean, bold cartooning style provided a perfect vehicle for his creations."[32]

The following is a partial list of characteristic expressions that reappeared often in Li'l Abner:

Toppers and alternate strips

Licensing, advertising and promotion

Al Capp was a master of the arts of marketing and promotion. Publicity campaigns were devised to boost circulation and increase public visibility of Li'l Abner, often coordinating with national magazines, radio and television. In 1946 Capp persuaded six of the most popular radio personalities (Frank Sinatra, Kate Smith, Danny Kaye, Bob Hope, Fred Waring and Smilin' Jack Smith) to broadcast a song he'd written for Daisy Mae: (Li'l Abner) Don't Marry That Girl!! [33] Other promotional tie-ins included the Lena the Hyena Contest (1946), the Name the Shmoo Contest (1949), the Nancy O. Contest (1951), the Roger the Lodger Contest (1964) and many others.

Capp also excelled at product endorsement, and Li'l Abner characters were often featured in mid-century American advertising campaigns. Dogpatch characters pitched consumer products as varied as Grape-Nuts cereal, Kraft caramels, Ivory soap, Oxydol, Duz and Dreft detergents, Fruit of the Loom, Orange Crush, Nestlé's cocoa, Cheney neckties, Pedigree pencils, Strunk chainsaws, U.S. Royal tires, Head & Shoulders shampoo and General Electric light bulbs. There were even Dogpatch-themed family restaurants called "Li'l Abner's" in Louisville, Kentucky, Morton Grove, Illinois and Seattle, Washington.

Capp himself appeared in numerous print ads. A lifelong chain-smoker, he happily plugged Chesterfield cigarettes; he appeared in Schaeffer fountain pen ads with his friends Milton Caniff and Walt Kelly; pitched the Famous Artists School (in which he had a financial interest) along with Caniff, Rube Goldberg, Virgil Partch, Willard Mullin and Whitney Darrow, Jr; and, though a professed teetotaler, he personally endorsed Rheingold Beer, among other products.

Awards and recognition

Li'l Abner was a comic strip with fire in its belly and a brain in its head.
John Updike, from My Well-Balanced Life on a Wooden Leg (1991)

Fans of the strip ranged from novelist John Steinbeck, who called Capp "very possibly the best writer in the world today" in 1953, and even earnestly recommended him for the Nobel Prize in literature — to media critic and theorist Marshall McLuhan, who considered Capp "the only robust satirical force in American life." John Updike, calling Li'l Abner a "hillbilly Candide," added that the strip's "richness of social and philosophical commentary approached the Voltairean."[37] Capp has been compared, at various times, to Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jonathan Swift, Lawrence Sterne, and Rabelais.[38] Journalism Quarterly and Time have both called him "the Mark Twain of cartoonists." Charlie Chaplin, William F. Buckley, Al Hirschfeld, Harpo Marx, Russ Meyer, John Kenneth Galbraith, Ralph Bakshi, Shel Silverstein, Hugh Downs, Gene Shalit, Frank Cho, Daniel Clowes[39] and (reportedly) even Queen Elizabeth have confessed to being fans of Li'l Abner.

In his seminal book Understanding Media, Marshall McLuhan considered Li'l Abner's Dogpatch "a paradigm of the human situation." Comparing Capp to other contemporary humorists, McLuhan once wrote: "Arno, Nash, and Thurber are brittle, wistful little précieux beside Capp!" In his essay "The Decline of the Comics," (Canadian Forum, January 1954) literary critic Hugh MacLean classified American comic strips into four types: daily gag, adventure, soap opera, and "an almost lost comic ideal: the disinterested comment on life's pattern and meaning." In the fourth type, according to MacLean, there were only two: Pogo and Li'l Abner. In 2002 the Chicago Tribune, in a review of The Short Life and Happy Times of the Shmoo, noted: "The wry, ornery, brilliantly perceptive satirist will go down as one of the Great American Humorists." In America's Great Comic Strip Artists (1997), comics historian Richard Marschall analyzed the overtly misanthropic subtext of Li'l Abner:

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.

Li'l Abner was also the subject of the first book-length, scholarly assessment of a comic strip ever published. Li'l Abner: A Study in American Satire by Arthur Asa Berger (Twayne, 1969) contained serious analyses of Capp's narrative technique, his use of dialogue, self-caricature and grotesquerie, the strip's overall place in American satire, and the significance of social criticism and the graphic image. "One of the few strips ever taken seriously by students of American culture," wrote Professor Berger, "Li'l Abner is worth studying...because of Capp's imagination and artistry, and because of the strip's very obvious social relevance." It was reprinted by the University Press of Mississippi in 1994.

Al Capp's life and career are the subjects of a new life-sized mural commemorating his 100th birthday, displayed in downtown Amesbury, Massachusetts.[40][41] According to the Boston Globe (as reported on May 18, 2010), the town has renamed its amphitheater in the artist's honor, and is looking to develop an Al Capp Museum. Capp is also the subject of an upcoming PBS American Masters documentary produced by his granddaughter, independent filmmaker Caitlin Manning.

Influence and legacy

Sadie Hawkins Day

An American folk event, Sadie Hawkins Day is a pseudo-holiday entirely created within the strip. It made its debut in Li'l Abner on November 15, 1937. Capp originally created it as a comic plot device, but in 1939, only two years after its inauguration, a double-page spread in Life proclaimed, "On Sadie Hawkins Day Girls Chase Boys in 201 Colleges." By the early 1940s the comic strip event had swept the nation's imagination and acquired a life of its own. By 1952, the event was reportedly celebrated at 40,000 known venues. It became a woman-empowering rite at high schools and college campuses, long before the modern feminist movement gained prominence.

Outside the comic strip, the practical basis of a Sadie Hawkins dance is simply one of gender role-reversal. Women and girls take the initiative in inviting the man or boy of their choice out on a date — almost unheard of before 1937 — typically to a dance attended by other bachelors and their assertive dates. When Capp created the event, it wasn't his intention to have it occur annually on a specific date, because it inhibited his freewheeling plotting. However, due to its enormous popularity and the numerous fan letters he received, Capp made it a tradition in the strip every November, lasting four decades. In many localities the tradition continues.

Additions to the language

Sadie Hawkins Day and Sadie Hawkins dance are two of several terms attributed to Al Capp that have entered the English language. Others include double whammy, skunk works and Lower Slobbovia. The term shmoo has also entered the lexicon — used in defining highly technical concepts in no fewer than four separate fields of science.[43]

Capp has also been credited with popularizing many terms, such as "natcherly," schmooze, druthers, and nogoodnik, neatnik, etc. (In his book The American Language, H.L. Mencken credits the postwar mania for adding "-nik" to the ends of adjectives to create nouns as beginning — not with beatnik or Sputnik, but earlier — in the pages of Li'l Abner.)

Franchise ownership and creators' rights

In the late 1940s, newspaper syndicates typically owned the copyrights, trademarks and licensing rights to comic strips. "Capp was an aggressive and fearless businessman," according to publisher Denis Kitchen. "Nearly all comic strips, even today, are owned and controlled by syndicates, not the strips' creators. And virtually all cartoonists remain content with their diluted share of any merchandising revenue their syndicates arrange. When the starving and broke Capp first sold Li'l Abner in 1934, he gladly accepted the syndicate's standard onerous contract. But in 1947 Capp sued United Feature Syndicate for $14 million, publicly embarrassed UFS in Li'l Abner, and wrested ownership and control of his creation the following year."

In October 1947, Li'l Abner met Rockwell P. Squeezeblood, head of the abusive and corrupt Squeezeblood Syndicate, a thinly veiled dig at UFS. The resulting sequence, "Jack Jawbreaker Fights Crime!!," was a devastating satire of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's notorious exploitation by DC Comics over Superman (see above excerpt). It was later reprinted in The World of Li'l Abner (1953).

Integration of women in the NCS

Al Capp was an outspoken pioneer in favor of diversifying the National Cartoonists Society by admitting women cartoonists. The NCS had originally disallowed female members into its ranks. In 1949, when the all-male club refused membership to Hilda Terry, creator of the comic strip Teena, Capp temporarily resigned in protest. "Capp had always advocated a more activist agenda for the Society, and he had begun in December 1949 to make his case in the Newsletter as well as at the meetings," wrote comics historian R. C. Harvey.[44] According to Tom Roberts, author of Alex Raymond: His Life and Art (2007), Capp authored a stirring monologue that was instrumental in changing the restrictive rules the following year. Hilda Terry was the first woman cartoonist to break the gender barrier when the NCS finally permitted female members in 1950.

Social commentary in comic strips

Through Li'l Abner, the American comic strip achieved unprecedented relevance in the postwar years, attracting new readers who were more intellectual, more informed on current events, and less likely to read the comics (according to Coulton Waugh, author of The Comics, 1947). "When Li'l Abner made its debut in 1934, the vast majority of comic strips were designed chiefly to amuse or thrill their readers. Capp turned that world upside-down by routinely injecting politics and social commentary into Li'l Abner," wrote comics historian Rick Marschall in America's Great Comic Strip Artists (1989). With adult readers far outnumbering juveniles, Li'l Abner forever cleared away the concept that humor strips were solely the domain of adolescents and children. Li'l Abner provided a whole new template for contemporary satire and personal expression in comics, paving the way for Pogo, Feiffer, Doonesbury and MAD.


Fearless Fosdick and other Li'l Abner comic strip parodies, such as "Jack Jawbreaker!" (1947) and "Little Fanny Gooney" (1952), were almost certainly an inspiration to Harvey Kurtzman when he created his irreverent Mad, which began in 1952 as a comic book that specifically parodied other comics in the same subversive manner. By the time EC Comics published Mad #1, Capp had been doing Fearless Fosdick for nearly a decade. Similarities between Li'l Abner and the early Mad include the incongruous use of mock-Yiddish slang terms, the nose-thumbing disdain for pop culture icons, the rampant black humor, the dearth of sentiment and the broad visual styling. Even the trademark comic "signs" that clutter the backgrounds of Will Elder's panels had a precedent in Li'l Abner, in the residence of Dogpatch entrepreneur Available Jones, though they're also reminiscent of Bill Holman's Smokey Stover. Tellingly, Kurtzman resisted doing feature parodies of either Li'l Abner or Dick Tracy in the comic book Mad, despite their prominence.

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 at ASIFA-Hollywood, April 2008

Parodies and imitations

Al Capp once told one of his assistants that he knew Li'l Abner had finally "arrived" when it was first pirated as a pornographic Tijuana bible parody in the mid-1930s.[45] Li'l Abner was also parodied in 1954 (as "Li'l Melvin" by "Ol' Hatt") in the pages of EC Comics' humor comic, Panic, edited by Al Feldstein.[46] Kurtzman eventually did spoof Li'l Abner (as "Li'l Ab'r") in 1957, in his short-lived humor magazine, Trump. Both the Trump and Panic parodies were drawn by EC legend, Will Elder. In 1947, Will Eisner's The Spirit satirized the comic strip business in general, as a denizen of Central City tries to murder cartoonist "Al Slapp," creator of "Li'l Adam." Capp was also caricatured as an ill-mannered, boozy cartoonist (Capp was a teetotaler in real life) named "Hal Rapp" in the comic strip Mary Worth by Allen Saunders and Ken Ernst. Supposedly done in retaliation for Capp's "Mary Worm" parody in Li'l Abner (1956), a media-fed "feud" commenced briefly between the rival strips. It all turned out to be a collaborative hoax, however — cooked up by Capp and his longtime pal Saunders as an elaborate publicity stunt.

Li'l Abner's success also sparked a handful of comic strip imitators. Jasper Jooks by Jess "Baldy" Benton (1948–'49), Ozark Ike (1945–'53) and Cotton Woods (1955–'58), both by Ray Gotto, were clearly inspired by Capp's strip. Boody Rogers' Babe was a peculiar series of comic books about a beautiful hillbilly girl who lived with her kin in the Ozarks — with many similarities to Li'l Abner. A derivative hillbilly feature called Looie Lazybones, an out-and-out imitation (drawn by a young Frank Frazetta) ran in several issues of Standard's Thrilling Comics in the late 1940s. Charlton published the short-lived Hillbilly Comics by Art Gates in 1955, featuring "Gumbo Galahad," who was a dead ringer for Li'l Abner, as was Pokey Oakey by Don Dean, which ran in MLJ's Top-Notch Laugh and Pep Comics. Later, many fans and critics saw Paul Henning's popular TV sitcom, The Beverly Hillbillies (1962–'71) as owing much of its inspiration to Li'l Abner, prompting Alvin Toffler to ask Capp about the similarities in a 1965 Playboy interview.

Popularity and production

"But, cuss it, Ah is still alive!!" Li'l Abner, Daisy Mae, Mammy, Salomey and Pappy survive another narrow scrape in this strip excerpt from March 29, 1947.

Li'l Abner made its debut on August 13, 1934 in eight North American newspapers, including the New York Mirror. Initially owned and syndicated through United Feature (now known as United Media), a division of the E.W. Scripps Company, it was an immediate success. According to publisher Denis Kitchen, Capp's "hapless Dogpatchers hit a nerve in Depression-era America. Within three years Abner's circulation climbed to 253 newspapers, reaching over 15,000,000 readers. Before long he was in hundreds more, with a total readership exceeding 60,000,000."[47] At its peak, the strip was read daily by 70 million Americans (when the U.S. population was only 180 million), with a circulation of more than 900 newspapers in North America and Europe.

During the extended peak of the strip, the workload grew to include advertising, merchandising, promotional work, comic book adaptations, public service material and other specialty work — in addition to the regular six dailies and one Sunday strip per week. Capp had a platoon of assistants in later years, who worked under his direct supervision. They included Andy Amato, Harvey Curtis, Walter Johnson and, notably, a young Frank Frazetta, who penciled the Sunday continuity from studio roughs from 1954 to the end of 1961 — before his fame as a fantasy artist.

Sensitive to his own experience working on Joe Palooka, Capp frequently drew attention to his assistants in interviews and publicity pieces. A 1950 cover story in Time even included photos of two of his employees, whose roles in the production were detailed by Capp. Ironically, this highly irregular policy has led to the misconception that his strip was "ghosted" by other hands. The production of Li'l Abner has been well documented, however. In point of fact, Capp maintained creative control over every stage of production for virtually the entire run of the strip. Capp himself originated the stories, wrote the dialogue, designed the major characters, rough penciled the preliminary staging and action of each panel, oversaw the finished pencils, and drew and inked the faces and hands of the characters. "He had the touch," Frazetta said of Capp in 2008. "He knew how to take an otherwise ordinary drawing and really make it pop. I'll never knock his talent."[48]

Many have commented on the shift in Capp's political viewpoint, from as liberal as Pogo in his early years to as conservative as Little Orphan Annie when he reached middle age. At one extreme, he displayed consistently devastating humor, while at the other, his mean-spiritedness came to the fore — but which was which seems to depend on the commentator's own point of view. From beginning to end, Capp was acid-tongued toward the targets of his wit, intolerant of hypocrisy, and always wickedly funny. After about 40 years, however, Capp's interest in Abner waned, and this showed in the strip itself...
Don Markstein's Toonopedia

Li'l Abner lasted until November 13, 1977, when Capp retired with an apology to his fans for the recently declining quality of the strip, which he said had been the best he could manage due to advancing illness. "If you have any sense of humor about your strip — and I had a sense of humor about mine — you knew that for three or four years Abner was wrong. Oh hell, it's like a fighter retiring. I stayed on longer than I should have," he admitted.[49] "When he retired Li'l Abner, newspapers ran expansive articles and television commentators talked about the passing of an era. People magazine ran a substantial feature, and even the comics-free New York Times devoted nearly a full page to the event," according to publisher Denis Kitchen. Capp, a lifelong chain smoker, died from emphysema two years later at age 70, at his home in South Hampton, New Hampshire on November 5, 1979.

In 1988 and 1989 many newspapers ran reruns of Li'l Abner episodes, mostly from the 1940s run, distributed by Newspaper Enterprise Association and Capp Enterprises. Following the 1989 revival of the Pogo comic strip, a revival of Li'l Abner was also planned in 1990. Drawn by cartoonist Steve Stiles,[50] the new Abner was approved by Capp's widow and brother, Elliott Caplin, but Al Capp's daughter, Julie Capp, objected at the last minute and permission was withdrawn.

Li'l Abner in other media

Radio and recordings

With John Hodiak in the title role, the Li'l Abner radio serial ran weekdays on NBC from Chicago, from November 20, 1939 to December 6, 1940. Rounding out the cast were soap opera star Laurette Fillbrandt as Daisy Mae, Hazel Dopheide as Mammy Yokum, and Clarence Hartzell (who was also a prominent actor on Vic and Sade) as Pappy. Durwood Kirby was the announcer. The radio show was not written by Al Capp — but by Charles Gussman. However, Gussman consulted closely with Capp on the storylines. (A familiar radio personality, Capp was frequently heard on the NBC broadcast series, Monitor. He also briefly filled-in for radio journalist Drew Pearson, participated in a March 2, 1948 America's Town Meeting of the Air debate on ABC, and hosted his own syndicated, 500-station radio show.)

Selections from the Li'l Abner musical score have been recorded by everyone from Percy Faith and Mario Lanza to André Previn and Shelly Manne. Over the years, Li'l Abner characters have inspired diverse compositions in pop, jazz, country and even rock 'n' roll:

Sheet music

Comic books and reprints

No comprehensive reprint of the series had been attempted until Kitchen Sink Press began publishing the Li'l Abner Dailies in hardcover and paperback, one year per volume, in 1988. The demise of KSP in 1999 stopped the reprint series at Volume 27 (1961). More recently, Dark Horse Comics reprinted the limited series Al Capp's Li'l Abner: The Frazetta Years, in four full-color volumes covering the Sunday pages from 1954 to 1961. They also released an archive hardcover reprint of the complete Shmoo Comics in 2009, followed by a second Shmoo volume of compete newspaper strips in 2011.

At the San Diego Comic Con in July 2009, IDW announced the upcoming publication of Al Capp's Li'l Abner: The Complete Dailies and Color Sundays: Vol. 1 (1934–1936). The comprehensive series, a reprinting of the complete 43-year history of Li'l Abner [52] spanning a projected 20 volumes, began on April 7, 2010.

Public service works

Capp provided specialty artwork for civic groups, government agencies and charitable or non-profit organizations, spanning several decades.[53] The following titles are all single-issue, educational comic books and pamphlets produced for various public services:

In addition, Dogpatch characters were used in national campaigns for the U.S. Treasury, the Cancer Foundation, the March of Dimes, the National Heart Fund, the Sister Kenny Foundation, the Boy Scouts of America, Community Chest, the National Reading Council, Minnesota Tuberculosis and Health Association, Christmas Seals, the National Amputation Foundation and Disabled American Veterans,[55] among others.

Animation and puppetry

Beginning in 1944, Li'l Abner was adapted into a series of color theatrical cartoons for Columbia Pictures, directed by Sid Marcus, Bob Wickersham and Howard Swift. Al Capp was reportedly not pleased with the results, and the series was discontinued after five shorts.

Evil-Eye Fleegle and his "whammy" make an animated cameo appearance in the U.S. Armed Forces Special Weapons Project training film, Self Preservation in an Atomic Attack (1950). Lena the Hyena makes a brief animated appearance in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).

In 1952, Fearless Fosdick proved popular enough to be incorporated into a short-lived TV series. The ambitious puppet show was created and directed by puppeteer Mary Chase, written by Everett Crosby and voiced by John Griggs, Gilbert Mack and Jean Carson. Fearless Fosdick premiered on Sunday afternoons on NBC; 13 episodes featuring the Mary Chase marionettes were produced.[56] The storylines and villains were mostly separate from the comic strip and unique to the show. Among the original TV characters were "Mr. Ditto," "Harris Tweed" (a disembodied suit of clothes), "Swenn Golly" (a Svengali-like mesmerist), counterfeiters "Max Millions" and "Minton Mooney," "Frank N. Stein," "Batula," "Match Head" (a pyromaniac), "Sen-Sen O'Toole," "Shmoozer" and "Herman the Ape Man."

Shmoos were originally meant to be included in the 1956 Broadway Li'l Abner musical, employing stage puppetry. The idea was reportedly abandoned in the development stage by the producers, however, for reasons of practicality. After Capp's death, the Shmoo was used in two Hanna-Barbera produced Saturday morning cartoon series for TV. First in the 1979 The New Shmoo (later incorporated into Fred and Barney Meet the Shmoo), and again from 1980 to 1981 in the Flintstone Comedy Show, in the Bedrock Cops segments.

Stage, film and television

The first Li'l Abner movie was made at RKO Radio Pictures in 1940, starring Jeff York (credited as Granville Owen), Martha O'Driscoll, Mona Ray and Johnnie Morris. Although it lacks the political satire and Broadway polish of the 1959 version, this film gives a fairly accurate portrayal of the various Dogpatch characters up until that time.[57] Of particular note is the appearance of Buster Keaton as Lonesome Polecat, and a title song with lyrics by Milton Berle. Other familiar silent comedy veterans in the cast include Bud Jamison, Lucien Littlefield, Johnny Arthur, Mickey Daniels, and ex-Keystone Cops Chester Conklin, Edgar Kennedy and Al St. John. The story concerns Daisy Mae's efforts to catch Li'l Abner on Sadie Hawkins Day. Since this movie predates their comic strip marriage, Abner makes a last-minute escape (natcherly!)

A much more successful musical comedy adaptation of the strip, also entitled Li'l Abner, opened on Broadway at the St. James Theater on November 15, 1956 and had a long run of 693 performances,[58] followed by a nationwide tour. Among the actors originally considered for the title role were Dick Shawn and Andy Griffith. The stage musical, with music and lyrics by Gene de Paul and Johnny Mercer, was adapted into a Technicolor motion picture at Paramount in 1959 by producer Norman Panama and director Melvin Frank, with an original score by Nelson Riddle.[59][60] Starring Peter Palmer, Leslie Parrish, Julie Newmar, Stella Stevens, Stubby Kaye, Billie Hayes, Howard St. John, Joe E. Marks, Carmen Alvarez, William Lanteau and Bern Hoffman, with cameos by Jerry Lewis, Robert Strauss, Ted Thurston, Alan Carney, Valerie Harper and Donna Douglas. Three members of the original Broadway cast did not appear in the film version: Charlotte Rae (who was replaced by Billie Hayes early in the stage production), Edie Adams (who was pregnant during the filming) and Tina Louise. The musical has since become a perennial favorite of high school and amateur productions, due to its popular appeal and modest production requirements.

Li'l Abner never sold as a TV series despite several attempts (including an unsold pilot that aired once on NBC on September 5, 1967),[61] but Al Capp was a familiar face on television for twenty years. No other cartoonist to date has come close to Capp's televised exposure. Capp appeared as a regular on The Author Meets the Critics. He was also a periodic panelist on ABC and NBC's Who Said That? Capp has appeared as himself on The Ed Sullivan Show, Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows, The Today Show, The Red Skelton Show, The Merv Griffin Show, The Mike Douglas Show, and on This Is Your Life on February 12, 1961 with host Ralph Edwards and honoree Peter Palmer. He hosted at least five television programs between 1952 and 1972 — three different talk shows called The Al Capp Show (twice), Al Capp, Al Capp's America (a live "chalk talk," with Capp providing a barbed commentary while sketching cartoons), and a game show called Anyone Can Win. In addition, Capp was a frequent celebrity guest. His appearances on NBC's The Tonight Show spanned three emcees; Steve Allen, Jack Paar and Johnny Carson.


A 1971 musical special on ABC: the modern world comes to Dogpatch.

Comic strip adaptations



Beyond the comic strip


  1. Looking Back at the Class of ’34, Hogan's Alley #1, 1994
  2. M. Thomas Inge, "Li'l Abner, Snuffy, Pogo, and Friends: The South in the American Comic Strip," Southern Quarterly (2011) 48#2 pp 6–74
  3. Li'l Abner "biography" at
  4. Parody of Steve Canyon! Sept 15, 1957
  5. Daisy Mae "biography" at
  6. "Big Deals: Comics’ Highest-Profile Moments," Hogan's Alley #7, 1999
  7. Mammy Yokum "biography" at
  8. Pappy Yokum "biography" at
  9. Honest Abe "biography" at
  10. Tiny Yokum "biography" at
  11. Marryin' Sam "biography" at
  12. "Speaking of Pictures," Life, 12 June 1944
  13. Kickapoo Joy Juice page at
  14. Sioux City Soos at
  15. Joe Btfsplk "biography" at
  16. Stupefyin' Jones "biography" at
  17. General Bullmoose "biography" at
  18. Earthquake McGoon "biography" at
  19. Evil-Eye Fleegle "biography" at
  20. "The Comic Page Is the Last Refuge of Classic Art," NEMO #18, April 1986, pg. 16
  21. Go Comics
  22. Sadie Hawkins "biography" at
  23. Fearless Fosdick "biography" at
  24. Dogpatch page at
  25. Baker, Russell (1996-01-13). "Hillary in Lower Slobbovia — ''NY Times'' Jan. 13, 1996". Retrieved 2009-08-29.
  26. Lower Slobbovia page at
  27. The Shmoo "biography" at
  28. Bad Shmoos from the Scoop Archive — 8/24/2002
  29. "The Comics on the Couch" by Gerald Clarke, Time Dec. 13, 1971
  30. 1 2 Li'l Abner at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on October 26, 2015.
  31. Anything Can Happen in a Comic Strip: Centennial Reflections on an American Art Form by M. Thomas Inge (1995) Univ. Press of Mississippi, pg. 21
  32. "Gallery of vintage ads featuring Li'l Abner as spokesman". Retrieved 2009-08-29.
  33. Newsweek September 5, 1949 and Editor & Publisher July 16, 1949
  34. "Official website of Kickapoo Joy Juice". Retrieved 2009-08-29.
  35. Exile in Dogpatch: The Curious Neglect of Cartoonist Al Capp, City Journal, Spring 2010
  36. Brown, Rodger, "Dogpatch USA: The Road to Hokum" article, Southern Changes: The Journal of the Southern Regional Council, Vol. 15, No. 3, 1993, pp. 18–26
  37. Spotlight on Daniel Clowes, CBR 18 October 2010
  38. Town to Honor Famous Cartoonist Who Lived, Worked in Amesbury Newburyport Daily News April 20, 2010
  39. Amesbury Gives Li'l Abner His Due Boston Globe May 15, 2010
  40. "Al Capp's biography card from the National Cartoonists Society". Retrieved 2009-08-29.
  41. The Hooded Utilitarian: Comics’ contributions to colloquial English, 18 December 2010
  42. "Tales of the Founding of the National Cartoonists Society Part III" from Meanwhile...: A Biography of Milton Caniff by R.C. Harvey, Fantagraphics (2007)
  43. "''Those Dirty Little Comics'' by Art Spiegelman, ''Salon'' August 19, 1997". Retrieved 2009-08-29.
  44. "Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine: 464: "Li'l Melvin"". 2009-02-02. Retrieved 2009-08-29.
  45. Denis Kitchen Publishing Co LLC. "Al Capp biography by Denis Kitchen". Retrieved 2009-08-29.
  46. Mason, Edward (ed.), Telling Stories: The Comic Art of Frank Frazetta (Underwood Books, 2008) pp. 14–17.
  47. Monday, Nov. 19, 1979 (1979-11-19). "Mr. Dogpatch— 1979 ''Time'' obituary". Retrieved 2009-08-29.
  48. Passing Through Dogpatch: Al Capp's Li'l Abner by Steve Stiles
  49. Al Capp's Li'l Abner comics
  50. IDW Library of American Comics
  51. "Presarvin' Freedom: Al Capp, Treasury Man," Hogan's Alley Online Magazine, 9 May 2012
  52. Love, David A. "Egyptians draw inspiration from Civil Rights Movement comic book." The Grio (February 2, 2011).
  53. "Al Capp Replies to Critic of Newspaper Comic Strips;" The News and Courier, 11 May 1950
  54. Fearless Fosdick (TV show) at IMDB
  55. "Li'l Abner Lost In Hollywood by Michael H. Price". 2007-11-11. Retrieved 2009-08-29.
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  57. "Li'l Abner in Hollywood". Retrieved 2009-08-29.
  58. DVD Verdict review 4/25/2005: Li'l Abner
  59. "blog entry by Mark Evanier". Retrieved 2009-08-29.
  60. Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency (Anchor Books, 2002) by James Bamford.
  61. "Pier 70". Retrieved 2009-08-29.
  62. Monday, Sep. 29, 1947 (1947-09-29). "Tain't Funny — ''Time''". Retrieved 2009-08-29.
  63. Steen, Mike. Hollywood Speaks: An Oral History. Putnam, 1974.
  64. Friday, Jan. 20, 1967 (1967-01-20). ""Which One Is the Phoanie?" ''Time'' Jan. 20, 1967". Retrieved 2009-08-29.
  65. Roche, Lisa Riley (May 16, 2016). "Gov. Gary Herbert says 'tone' of fundraising will change amid criticism". Deseret News. Retrieved 17 May 2016.

Further reading

Since his death in 1979, Al Capp and his work have been the subject of more than 40 books, including three biographies. Underground cartoonist and Li'l Abner expert Denis Kitchen has published, co-published, edited, or otherwise served as consultant on nearly all of them. Kitchen is currently compiling a monograph on the life and career of Al Capp.

  • Capp, Al, Li'l Abner in New York (1936) Whitman Publishing
  • Capp, Al, Li'l Abner Among the Millionaires (1939) Whitman Publishing
  • Capp, Al, Li'l Abner and Sadie Hawkins Day (1940) Saalfield Publishing
  • Capp, Al, Li'l Abner and the Ratfields (1940) Saalfield Publishing
  • Sheridan, Martin, Comics and Their Creators (1942) R.T. Hale & Co. (1977) Hyperion Press
  • Waugh, Coulton, The Comics (1947) Macmillan Publishers
  • Capp, Al, Newsweek Magazine (November 24, 1947) "Li'l Abner's Mad Capp"
  • Capp, Al, Saturday Review of Literature (March 20, 1948) "The Case for the Comics"
  • Capp, Al, The Life and Times of the Shmoo (1948) Simon & Schuster
  • Capp, Al, The Nation (March 21, 1949) "There Is a Real Shmoo"
  • Capp, Al, Cosmopolitan Magazine (June 1949) "I Don't Like Shmoos"
  • Capp, Al, Atlantic Monthly (April 1950) "I Remember Monster"
  • Capp, Al, Time Magazine (November 6, 1950) "Die Monstersinger"
  • Capp, Al, Life Magazine (March 31, 1952) "It's Hideously True!!..."
  • Capp, Al, Real Magazine (December 1952) "The REAL Powers in America"
  • Capp, Al, The World of Li'l Abner (1953) Farrar, Straus & Young
  • Leifer, Fred, The Li'l Abner Official Square Dance Handbook (1953) A.S. Barnes
  • Mikes, George, Eight Humorists (1954) Allen Wingate (1977) Arden Library
  • Lehrer, Tom, The Tom Lehrer Song Book, introduction by Al Capp (1954) Crown Publishers
  • Capp, Al, Al Capp's Fearless Fosdick: His Life and Deaths (1956) Simon & Schuster
  • Capp, Al, Al Capp's Bald Iggle: The Life it Ruins May Be Your Own (1956) Simon & Schuster
  • Capp, Al, et al. Famous Artists Cartoon Course — 3 volumes (1956) Famous Artists School
  • Capp, Al, Life Magazine (January 14, 1957) "The Dogpatch Saga: Al Capp's Own Story"
  • Brodbeck, Arthur J, et al. "How to Read Li'l Abner Intelligently" from Mass Culture: Popular Arts in America, pp. 218–224 (1957) Free Press
  • Capp, Al, The Return of the Shmoo (1959) Simon & Schuster
  • Hart, Johnny, Back to B.C., introduction by Al Capp (1961) Fawcett Publications
  • Lazarus, Mell, Miss Peach, introduction by Al Capp (1962) Pyramid Books
  • Gross, Milt, He Done Her Wrong, introduction by Al Capp (1963 Ed.) Dell Books
  • White, David Manning, and Robert H. Abel, eds. The Funnies: An American Idiom (1963) Free Press
  • White, David Manning, ed. From Dogpatch to Slobbovia: The (Gasp!) World of Li'l Abner (1964) Beacon Press
  • Capp, Al, Life International Magazine (June 14, 1965) "My Life as an Immortal Myth"
  • Toffler, Alvin, Playboy Magazine (December 1965) interview with Al Capp, pp. 89–100
  • Moger, Art, et al. Chutzpah Is, introduction by Al Capp (1966) Colony Publishers
  • Berger, Arthur Asa, Li'l Abner: A Study in American Satire (1969) Twayne Publishers (1994) Univ. Press of Mississippi ISBN 0-87805-713-7
  • Sugar, Andy, Saga Magazine (December 1969) "On the Campus Firing Line with Al Capp"
  • Gray, Harold, Arf! The Life and Hard Times of Little Orphan Annie, introduction by Al Capp (1970) Arlington House
  • Moger, Art, Some of My Best Friends are People, introduction by Al Capp (1970) Directors Press
  • Capp, Al, The Hardhat's Bedtime Story Book (1971) Harper & Row ISBN 0-06-061311-4
  • Robinson, Jerry, The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art (1974) G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • Horn, Maurice, The World Encyclopedia of Comics (1976) Chelsea House (1982) Avon
  • Blackbeard, Bill, ed. The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics (1977) Smithsonian Inst. Press/Harry Abrams
  • Marschall, Rick, Cartoonist PROfiles #37 (March 1978) interview with Al Capp
  • Capp, Al, The Best of Li'l Abner (1978) Holt, Rinehart & Winston ISBN 0-03-045516-2
  • Lardner, Ring, You Know Me Al: The Comic Strip Adventures of Jack Keefe, introduction by Al Capp (1979) Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
  • Van Buren, Raeburn, Abbie an' Slats — 2 volumes (1983) Ken Pierce Books
  • Capp, Al, Li'l Abner: Reuben Award Winner Series Book 1 (1985) Blackthorne
  • Marschall, Rick, Nemo, the Classic Comics Library #18, pp. 3–32 (April 1986)
  • Capp, Al, Li'l Abner Dailies — 27 volumes (1988–1999) Kitchen Sink Press
  • Marschall, Rick, America's Great Comic Strip Artists (1989) Abbeville Press
  • Capp, Al, Fearless Fosdick (1990) Kitchen Sink ISBN 0-87816-108-2
  • Capp, Al, My Well-Balanced Life on a Wooden Leg (1991) John Daniel & Co. ISBN 0-936784-93-8
  • Capp, Al, Fearless Fosdick: The Hole Story (1992) Kitchen Sink ISBN 0-87816-164-3
  • Goldstein, Kalman, "Al Capp and Walt Kelly: Pioneers of Political and Social Satire in the Comics" from Journal of Popular Culture; Vol. 25, Issue 4 (Spring 1992)
  • Caplin, Elliot, Al Capp Remembered (1994) Bowling Green State University ISBN 0-87972-630-X
  • Theroux, Alexander, The Enigma of Al Capp (1999) Fantagraphics Books ISBN 1-56097-340-4
  • Lubbers, Bob, Glamour International #26: The Good Girl Art of Bob Lubbers (May 2001)
  • Capp, Al, The Short Life and Happy Times of the Shmoo (2002) Overlook Press ISBN 1-58567-462-1
  • Capp, Al, Al Capp's Li'l Abner: The Frazetta Years — 4 volumes (2003–2004) Dark Horse Comics
  • Al Capp Studios, Al Capp's Complete Shmoo: The Comic Books (2008) Dark Horse ISBN 1-59307-901-X
  • Capp, Al, Li'l Abner: The Complete Dailies and Color Sundays Vol. 1: 1934–1936 (2010) IDW Publishing ISBN 1-60010-611-0
  • Capp, Al, Li'l Abner: The Complete Dailies and Color Sundays Vol. 2: 1937–1938 (2010) IDW ISBN 1-60010-745-1
  • Capp, Al, Li'l Abner: The Complete Dailies and Color Sundays Vol. 3: 1939–1940 (2011) IDW ISBN 1-60010-937-3
  • Capp, Al, Al Capp's Complete Shmoo Vol. 2: The Newspaper Strips (2011) Dark Horse ISBN 1-59582-720-X
  • Capp, Al, Li'l Abner: The Complete Dailies and Color Sundays Vol. 4: 1941–1942 (2012) IDW ISBN 1-61377-123-1
  • Inge, M. Thomas, "Li'l Abner, Snuffy and Friends" from Comics and the U.S. South, pp. 3–27 (2012) Univ. Press of Mississippi ISBN 1-617030-18-X
  • Capp, Al, Li'l Abner: The Complete Dailies and Color Sundays Vol. 5: 1943–1944 (2012) IDW ISBN 1-61377-514-8
  • Kitchen, Denis, and Michael Schumacher, Al Capp: A Life to the Contrary (2013) Bloomsbury Publishing ISBN 1-60819-623-2
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