Al Capp: Comic Genius with a Dark Side

Today’s birthday? Al Capp’s.

You may have heard of him perhaps.

He drew Li’l Abner who lived at his Pap’s

With Daisy Mae Scragg, his marital match,

And Sadie Hawkins who was looking for a catch,

And the dark -clouded Btfsplk in Li’l Dogpatch.

“Although the dark side wasn’t their primary focus—Schumacher and Kitchen were adamant about capturing Capp’s true genius as a writer, artist, and self-promoter—with this wellspring of material it was hard to avoid reporting his highs and lows. ‘I was amused by the stories of his youth,’Schumacher says, ‘and genuinely touched by some of his acts of kindness, which seemed so strange, coming from someone as cranky as Capp.’ Yet he adds he was ‘shocked by some of the depravity, and by some of the sheer mean spiritedness of the man.’

Capp’s actions were often a study in contrasts. He, for example, was an unabashed womanizer and eventually a sexual predator, but he resigned from the National Cartoonist Society when male colleagues wouldn’t admit a female member. And while he had a lifelong intolerance for racism, there were virtually no black characters during the four-decade run of ‘Li’l Abner. ‘Readers prone to dislike Capp’s politics[he became a radical conservative in his twilight years] might be surprised to learn that he once took a flamboyantly gay man to a White House banquet,’ Kitchen says. ‘He was generally self-aggrandizing and a penny pincher, yet he very quietly gave money to widows of slain policemen and even to struggling students.’ [from a review of Michael Schumacher and Denis Kitchen’s book “Al Capp: A Life to the Contrary” by Steve Heller on]





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  • I was going to mention Joe Btfsplk's dark side.

    In actuality, someplace like Dogpatch wouldn't have Black characters; they never were of the hills, anyway. That would have made about as much sense as when Alley Oop, of about the same generation of comics, did periodically wear a business suit and it was said he was a time traveler.

    For comics of that time, I could never figure out why Dondi had completely black eyes and Little Orphan Annie had completely blanked out ones.

  • In reply to jack:

    The comic characters march to a different toon.

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