YOKUM was the title character in the long-running (1934-1977)
syndicated newspaper strip by cartoonist Al
Capp. Hardly "li'l," Abner was a hulking, naive
man-child, and the frequent foil for Capp's satiric stories about
American life and politics. This simple-minded citizen of humble
was a paragon of virtue in a dark and cynical world. Abner often
found himself far from home, whether in the company of unscrupulous
Bullmoose, in hapless snowbound Lower
Slobbovia, or wherever Capp's whimsical and often complex
plots led our heroic hillbilly.
Li'l Abner was the unlikely son of tiny
(Pansy) and Pappy
(Lucifer) Yokum. Mammy was the industrious "sassiety
leader" of backward Dogpatch who instilled honesty and All-American
ideals in Abner. Pappy, in contrast, was an illiterate and hopeless
parasite. From the inception of the strip, Abner was vigorously
pursued by Daisy
Mae Scraggs, a beautiful Dogpatch damsel hopelessly in
love with the bumbling, unappreciative and seldom amorous bachelor.
Abner spent nearly two decades outracing Daisy in the annual
Hawkins Day race. But the couple finally married in 1952,
a fictional event that captured national attention and was a
cover story for Life magazine. Their only child, Honest
Abe Yokum, was born in 1953.
Li'l Abner generally had no visible means
of support but he sometimes earned his living as a mattress
tester. When not involved in worldwide escapades, he was
engrossed by his favorite "comical strip," Fearless
Fosdick (his "ideel"), a unique strip-within-a-strip
masterfully orchestrated by Capp. Abner interacted with many
marvelous and fantastic characters over the years, creating language
and situations which have become permanent parts of the American
* * *
Beautiful DAISY MAE (Scraggs) was
hopelessly in love with Dogpatch's most prominent bachelor Li'l
Abner through the entire 43 year run of Al Capp's comic
strip. During most of the epic Abner took Daisy for granted.
He exhibited little romantic interest in her voluptuous charms
(much of it visible daily thanks to her trademark polka-dot peasant
blouse). In 1952 Abner reluctantly proposed to Daisy Mae to emulate
the wedding of his comic strip ideel, Fearless
Fosdick. Fosdick's own wedding to longtime fiancé
Prudence Pimpleton turned out to be fake, but Abner
and Daisy's ceremony, performed by Marryin'
Sam, was "real." Once married, Abner
became relatively domesticated and the two produced their only
Abe Yokum, in 1953. Like Abner's Mammy
Yokum and other wimmenfolk in Dogpatch,
Daisy Mae did all the work, domestic and otherwise, while the
menfolk generally did nothing whatsoever. Despite this near slavish
role, Daisy Mae seldom complained, one of her countless virtues.
Her blood family, The Scraggs, on the other hand, was
as evil and bloodthirsty as could be imagined. Wild plot twists
often took Daisy Mae to exotic locales and she was frequently
wooed by rich and handsome men, but she always returned ---virtue
intact--- to Dogpatch and her true, if worthless and undeserving,
* * *
born Pansy Hunks, was the pint-sized, highly principled,
corncob pipe-smoking leader of both the Yokum clan and the town
She married Lucifer Ornamental Yokum (Pappy
Yokum) in 1902. They produced two strapping sons twice their
own size: Li'l
Abner, the long-running strip's namesake, and Tiny,
who was rediscovered in 1954, 15 and a half "yars"
after his birth. Mammy's lethal right undercut, sometimes called
the "good night Irene punch" helped her uphold law,
order and decency. She was consistently the toughest character
and the one most imbued with integrity throughout "Li'l
Abner." Her most famous mantra was "good is better
than evil because it's nicer." On his retirement creator
Capp proclaimed Mammy to be his own favorite character.
* * *
Pint-size Lucifer "PAPPY"
YOKUM had the misfortune of being the patriarch in a family
completely dominated by his better half, Pansy
"Mammy" Yokum. On the other hand, Pappy didn't
seem to complain. He had a free ride for many years. Mammy did
all the household chores and provided her family with no less
than eight meals a day. Ostensibly a turnip farmer, Pappy was
rarely seen working. In fact, he was so lazy, he didn't even
bathe himself. Mammy was regularly seen lathering and
scrubbing Pappy in an outdoor oak tub next to the modest Yokum
log cabin. Clipping Pappy's toe nails fell under her wifely duties
as well. While Mammy was the unofficial mayor of Dogpatch
and could read, Pappy was illiterate. Mammy was smart (by Dogpatch
standards). Pappy was dull-witted and gullible. Though their
unlikely offspring Li'l
Abner was at least twice his father's (and mother's) size,
the generally obtuse Abner obviously inherited a good many of
his father's lesser genes.
* * *
The "ideel" of Li'l
Abner, Detective FEARLESS FOSDICK was Al
Capp's long-running parody of Chester Gould's famous
detective strip "Dick Tracy." Debuting in 1942,
Fearless Fosdick became so useful to Capp and so popular in his
own right, that the unique strip-within-a- strip became a regular
feature in "Li'l Abner" for thirty-five years. Dick
Tracy fought horrible villains and, while sometimes wounded,
always emerged the classic comic strip hero. In contrast, Fosdick
was a farcical and guileless hack and was never simply wounded.
Perpetually riddled by flying bullets, An enduring Fosdick trademark
was the "Swiss cheese"look, with bullet holes revealing
his truly two-dimensional comic strip body. Though extremely
gullible and incompetent, Fosdick was unfailingly loyal to his
department, even though absurdly underpaid ($22.50 per week).
He remained reverent of authority even though his chief was a
transparently corrupt scoundrel. He never married his own longtime
fiancé Prudence Pimpleton, but Fosdick was directly
responsible for the unwitting marriage of his biggest fan, Li'l
Abner to Daisy
Mae in an historic 1952 dailies episode.
In 1952 the bumbling detective became the
star of his own Fearless Fosdick TV show. Fearless
Fosdick was an ambitious puppet show created and directed
by Mary Chase. Al Capp dismissed his brother Jerry
Caplin as Fearless Fosdick's original producer, replacing
him with Louis G. Cowan (later responsible for Captain
Kangaroo, The $64,000 Question and, from 1958-59
President of CBS-TV). Thirteen Fosdick episodes
aired from June 1 to September 2, 1952. It began as a Sunday
afternoon show and moved to Sunday evenings. The show made the
cover of TV Guide, but as the time switches suggest, the
network couldn't make up its mind whether the audience was juvenile
or adult. Some of the episodes, surprisingly for 1951-52, were
filmed in color and many employed innovation marionette
techniques. For example, the eyes of guest star Evil Eye
Fleegle were back lit with flashing light bulbs when
he emitted a terrible "whammy." There are currently
efforts underway to release these exceedingly rare Fosdick
episodes on a set of DVDs. Stay tuned.
Beside regular appearances in the ongoing
"Li'l Abner" strip and his own TV show, Fearless Fosdick
achieved considerable exposure as the long-running "spokesman"
for a popular men's hair product, Wildroot Cream Oil.
Fosdick was typically pitted against the villain Anyface. Fosdick
would advise the bad hair culprit, "Get Wildroot Cream Oil,
Charlie!" The villain would typically reply, "But my
name is Harold [or some such]." The ubiquitous comic strip
format ads ran in national magazines for many years and Fosdick's
image on tin signs and posters was likewise prominent in barbershops
* * *
The SHMOO first appeared in "Li'l
Abner" in August 1948. They were a seeming miracle. The
lovable creature laid eggs, gave milk and died of sheer ecstasy
when looked at with hunger. The Shmoo loved to be eaten by humans
and tasted like any food desired. Anything that delighted people
delighted a Shmoo. Fry a Shmoo and it came out chicken. Broil
it and it came out steak. Shmoo eyes made terrific suspender
buttons. The hide of the Shmoo if cut thin made fine leather
and if cut thick made the best lumber. Even the Shmoo's whiskers
made splendid toothpicks. The Shmoo satisfied all the world's
wants. You could never run out of Shmoon (plural of Shmoo)
because they multiplied at such an incredible rate. The Shmoo
believed that the only way to happiness was to bring happiness
to others. Li'l
Abner discovered Shmoos when he ventured into the forbidden
Valley of the Shmoon, against the frantic protestations
of Ol' Man Mose. "Shmoos," Mose warned, "is
the greatest menace to hoomanity th' world has evah known."
"Thass becuz they is so bad, huh?" asked Li'l
Abner. "No, stupid," answered Mose, hurling one of
life's profoundest paradoxes at Li'l Abner. "It's because
they're so good!"
Ironically, the lovable and selfless Shmoos
ultimately brought misery to humankind because people with a
limitless supply of self-sacrificing Shmoos stopped working and
society began to break down. Seen at first as a boon to humankind,
they were ultimately hunted down and exterminated by the U.S.
government to preserve the status quo. (Thought extinct after
the 1948 adventure, one Shmoo always seemed to escape to Dogpatch's
Valley of the Shmoon to form a new colony and the basis for
a later plot revival by creator Al
Capp). There was even a green-colored evil version of the
Shmoo called a Nogoodnik.
Licensed Shmoo merchandise was a huge phenomenon in the late '40s and early
'50s, spawning a wide variety of plush and plastic dolls, toys,
drinking glasses, wallpaper, belts, books, jewelry, balloons,
pendulum clocks, ashtrays, porcelain room deodorizers, canisters,
salt & pepper shakers, dairy products, banks, games, masks,
puzzles, comic books, baby rattles, 45 and 78 rpm records, ear
muffs and more. Shmoos adorned Grape Nuts cereal boxes. There
was even a Shmoo fishing lure! These are all highly collectible
items today. For more details see Shmoo
Facts Sheet. See also Postcard No. 87 and Postcard
No. 179 for a sense of the merchandise. The full 1948 Shmoo
origin story, a preface on Shmoo merchandise and science fiction
author Harlan Ellison's take on the phenomenon is in Li'l
Abner Volume 14 (available on this web store in hard and
softcover editions). A new Shmoo book is available from Overlook
Press and a limited edition statue is available from Dark Horse
* * *
As utterly wretched as existence was in
there was one place even worse: faraway LOWER SLOBBOVIA.
The hapless residents of frigid Lower Slobbovia were perpetually
covered with several feet of snow. Icicles hung from almost every
nose. Polar bears and wolves stalked the homeless, which meant
nearly everyone. There was no visible civilization, no money,
no hope. The Slobbovian politicians were even more corrupt than
their Dogpatch counterparts. Conditions couldn't be worse. Lower
Slobbovians spoke with Russian accents and astute readers knew
that Capp's fictional hellhole was a thinly disguised Siberia.
* * *
In an era well before "political correctness"
entered the vocabulary, DOGPATCH exceeded every stereotype
of Appalachia. The hillbillies in Li'l
Abner's home town were poorer than poor. The houses were
hopelessly ramshackle. Most Dogpatchers were dumber than dumb.
The remainder were scoundrels and thieves. Most of the menfolk
were too lazy to work, yet Dogpatch women were desperate enough
to chase them (see Sadie
Hawkins Day). One, Moonbeam McSwine, preferred to
live with hogs. Those who farmed their "tarnip" crop
watched turnip termites descend every year, locust-like, to devour
the crop. In the midst of the Great Depression, the hardscrabble
residents of lowly Dogpatch allowed suffering Americans to laugh
at yokels even worse off than they were. 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. To old friends, the denizens of Dogpatch will
be old friends. To strangers, however, they will probably be
strangers." Very early in the continuity Capp once referred
to Dogpatch being in Kentucky, but he was careful afterwards
to keep its location generic, probably to avoid cancellations
from offended subscribing newspapers in Kentucky. Later Capp
licensed and was part-owner of an 800-acre $35 million theme
park called "Dogpatch USA" near Harrison,
* * *
SADIE HAWKINS DAY,
an American folk event, made its debut in Al
Capp's "Li'l Abner" strip November 15, 1937. Sadie
Hawkins was "the homeliest gal in the hills" who
grew tired of waiting for the fellows to come a courtin'. Her
father, Hekzebiah Hawkins, a prominent resident of Dogpatch,
was even more worried about Sadie living at home for the
rest of his life, so he decreed the first annual Sadie Hawkins
Day, a foot race in which all the unmarried women pursued
the town's bachelors, with matrimony the consequence. By the
late 1930's the comic strip event had swept the nation's imagination
and acquired a life of its own. Life magazine reported
that over 200 colleges were holding Sadie Hawkins Day
events in 1939, only two years after its inception. 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 Sadie Hawkins Day is
that women and girls take the initiative in inviting the man
or boy of their choice out on a date, typically to a dance attended
by other bachelors and their aggressive dates. When Al Capp created
the event, it was not his intention to have the event occur annually
on a specific date because it inhibited his freewheeling
plotting. However, due to its enormous popularity and the numerous
fan letters Capp received, the event became an annual event in
the strip, always occurring during the month of November,
lasting four decades. In many localities the tradition continues.
* * *
KICKAPOO JOY JUICE
is a liquor of such stupefying potency that even the hardiest
citizens of Dogpatch,
after a first burning sip, rise into the air, stiff as frozen
codfish. Concocted in a large wooden vat by the inseparable cave-dwelling
buddies Lonesome Polecat and Hairless Joe, the
ingredients are both mysterious and all-encompassing. When the
brew needs a little more body, the pair throws one in. An officially
licensed KJJ is still produced by Monarch Beverage of Atlanta,
* * *
is very simply the world's biggest jinx. He walks around with
a perpetually dark rain cloud a foot over his head. Once he appears
on any scene, dreadfully bad luck befalls anyone in his vicinity.
Though well-meaning and gentle, his reputation inevitably precedes
him, so Joe is a very lonely and feared little man. He is also
a character with an apparently unpronounceable name, but creator
Capp pronounced Btfsplk with a "raspberries" sound,
also known as a "Bronx cheer."
* * *
is Li'l Abner's younger brother who remains frozen at "15
1/2 yars old." He was unknown to the strip until September
1954 when a Yokum relative who had been raising Tiny rather implausibly
Yokum that she had given birth to a second son years earlier.
Hardly "tiny," he is an imposing seven foot tall behemoth.
Capp obviously introduced Tiny Yokum into the strip as a
plot device to fill the bachelor role played reliably for nearly
two decades by Li'l
Abner himself until his fateful 1952 marriage to Daisy
Mae threw the carefully orchestrated tension out of whack.
* * *
HONEST ABE YOKUM
Abner and Daisy
Mae's little boy. An only child, he was born in 1953 after
the celebrated marriage of his Dogpatch
parents. Initially named Mysterious Yokum (there was even
a doll marketed quickly under this name) he was renamed Honest
Abe (after President Lincoln) to thwart his early tendency to
steal. His memorable first words were "po'k chop" and
that remained his favorite food. Though his uncle, Tiny
Yokum, was perpetually frozen at 15 1/2 yars old in the strip,
Honest Abe gradually grew from an infant to grade school age.
* * *
had a unique and terrifying skill. When he concentrated, destructive
rays emitted from his eyeballs. An ordinary "whammy"
could knock a grown man senseless. A "double whammy"
could fell a skyscraper, leaving Evil-Eye exhausted. His
dreaded "quadruple whammy" could melt a battleship
but almost kill Fleegle himself. Unlike most regular characters
in the strip, Evil-Eye Fleegle was not a native of Dogpatch.
He was in fact from Brooklyn NY. In a memorable guest appearance
on the Fearless
Fosdick TV Show in 1952, Evil Eye's Brooklyn accent
is unmistakable. There were even licensed plastic replicas of
Evil Eye's face produced in the 1950s, to be worn like lapel
pins. Battery operated, the wearer could pull a string and direct
a small light bulb "whammy" at whomever he chose.
* * *
is one of the few gainfully employed men in Dogpatch.
A preacher who specializes in $2 weddings (but anything is negotiable)
he cleans up only once a year--- during the annual Sadie
Hawkins Day Race, when slow-footed bachelors are dragged
kicking and screaming to the alter by their respective brides-to-be.
Generally, the only other time Marryin' Sam gets a gig is when
a bachelor accidentally violates (or is tricked into violating)
"th' code o' th' hills," whereby any man who merely
kisses an unmarried woman automatically has to marry her. Marryin'
Sam was prominently featured on the cover of Life magazine
in 1952 when he presided over the unexpected wedding of Li'l
Abner and Daisy
Mae. In the 1956 Broadway musical and 1959 Li'l Abner
film adaptation the rotund Marryin' Sam was perfectly played
by 5' 7" 250 pound actor Stubby Kaye.
* * *
was created by Al
Capp in June 1953 as the epitome of a ruthless capitalist.
Bullmoose's motto "What's good for General Bullmoose is
good for everybody!" was adapted by Capp from a statement
made by Charles E. Wilson, the former head of General
Motors, when it was America's largest corporation. He later served
as Secretary of Defense under President Dwight Eisenhower. In
1952 Wilson told a Senate subcommittee, "What is good for
the country is good for General Motors, and what's good for General
Motors is good for the country." Li'l
Abner became embroiled in many implausible but hilarious
adventures with the cold-hearted Bullmoose over the years. Ironically,
the liberal-minded Capp who derided powerful capitalists in the
'50s evolved into a conservative who defended and befriended
the powerful from the mid '60s onward.
* * *
The bearded and barrel-chested EARTHQUAKE
McGOON billed himself as "the world's dirtiest wrassler."
He first appeared in "Li'l Abner" as a traveling exhibition
wrestler in the late '30s and became increasingly prominent when
early television gave exposure to gimmicky wrestlers such as
Gorgeous George and greatly enhanced the popularity of professional
wrestling. McGoon is one of the very few secondary characters
to make an appearance in both the 1940 Li'l Abner movie
and the 1950's Broadway musical. In the latter (minus the beard)
he comes close to marrying Daisy
* * *
Statuesque actress Julie Newmar
became famous overnight for playing the small role of STUPEFYIN'
JONES in the 1956 Li'l Abner Broadway musical ---
without speaking or singing a single line! Stupefyin' (Newmar)
is so drop-dead gorgeous in the play that men who see her literally
freeze in their tracks. Actress Edie Adams played the
Mae in the musical and shared a dressing room at the St.
James Theater with Newmar. On the subject of Newmar's overpowering
sex appeal Adams famously remarked, "I'm no lesbian, but
Julie's so hot I'd fuck her!"
* * *
JUBILATION T. CORNPONE. A town as remote and forlorn as Dogpatch
is bound to be hard up for heroes. Thus it comes as no surprise
that its most famous son, memorialized by a town statue, is civil
war General Jubilation T. Cornpone, best known for "Cornpone's
Retreat," "Cornpone's Disaster" and "Cornpone's
Rout." Within the "Li'l Abner" comic strip Cornpone
and his statue are relatively minor elements. What the hapless
general is really best known for is being the namesake
of the most rousing and memorable song in the popular Li'l
Abner musical. The first verse goes like this:
"When we fought the Yankees and annihilation
was near, who was there to lead the charge that took us safe
to the rear? Why it was Jubilation T. Cornpone, old toot-your-own-horn
pone. Jubilation T. Cornpone, a man who knew no fear."
* * *
With his pot-belly and penchant for political
pork, SENATOR JACK S. PHOGBOUND is satirist Al
Capp's skewed archetype of a filibustering southern politician.
Senator Phogbound is corrupt, a conspiratorial blowhard, often
wears a coonskin cap to impress his constituents, and sometimes
carries a ramrod rifle to show he remains a trustworthy good
ol' boy. In one funny sequence Phogbound can't campaign in Dogpatch
so he sends staffers with an old gas bag that resembles him.
When he isn't on junkets to the Riviera, ol' Jack S. (Jackass,
get it?) does seem to spend a disproportionate amount of his
time campaigning in or passing through Dogpatch,
which makes sense from a plot standpoint, but where, it can also
be surmised, no one ever votes.
Al Capp's Bio