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Al Capp's Li’l Abner

July 30, 2010

Al Capp (1909-1979) created Li’l Abner for United Feature as a daily comic strip in 1934 and as a Sunday page in 1935. Capp was an early assistant to artist Ham Fisher on the Joe Palooka comic strip where he “ghosted” a hillbilly sequence in 1933 before leaving, leading to a life-long feud with Fisher. Along with the handsome hillbilly from Dogpatch has come a string of unforgettable characters including Daisy Mae, Mammy and Pappy Yokum, Marryin’ Sam, Sadie Hawkins, Sir Cecil and Lady Cesspool, Hairless Joe, Lonesome Polecat, Fearless Fosdick, the bountiful Shmoos, the Kigmys, Kickapoo Joy Juice, and many others. Comic books appeared from the 1930s into the 1950s. A Li’l Abner radio show on NBC in 1939-1940 featured John Hodiak as Abner. Granville Owen played Abner and Buster Keaton played Lonesome Polecat in a 1940 feature film, and a brief run of five animated shorts was released in 1944-1945. A musical comedy ran on Broadway for almost 700 performances in 1956-1957, and a Paramount film was released in 1959. Notable art assistants on the strip included Frank Frazetta from 1954 to 1959 and Craig Flessel in the early 1960s. The marriage of Daisy Mae and Abner in 1952 made front page news, including the cover of Life. A theme park, Dogpatch USA, operated in Arkansas from 1967 to 1993.

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