Dennis Kitchen, Kitchen Sink Press, KSP

 Al Capp's Characters Info

 Bios of Al Capp's famous Dogpatch Characters Li'l Abner, Daisy Mae, The Shmoo, The Yokums, Fearless Fosdick, etc. Visit the specific links below or scroll down to read them all.

 Li'l Abner

 Al Capp

 Daisy Mae

 Pappy Yokum

 The Shmoo

 Mammy Yokum

 Joe BTFSPLK

 Fearless Fosdick

 Sadie Hawkins

 Honest Abe Yokum

 Evil-Eye Fleegle

 Stupefyin' Jones

 General Bullmoose

 Marryin' Sam

 Earthquake McGoon

 Dogpatch

Senator Jack S. Phogbound

Tiny Yokum

 Jubilation T. Cornpone

 Kick A Poo Joy Juice

 Lower Slobbovia

LI'L ABNER 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 Dogpatch was a paragon of virtue in a dark and cynical world. Abner often found himself far from home, whether in the company of unscrupulous industrialist General 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 Mammy (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 Sadie 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 lexicon.

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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 child, Honest 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, love.

* * *

MAMMY YOKUM, born Pansy Hunks, was the pint-sized, highly principled, corncob pipe-smoking leader of both the Yokum clan and the town of Dogpatch. 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 Al 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.

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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 across America.

* * *

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 Comics.

* * *

As utterly wretched as existence was in Dogpatch, 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, Arkansas.

* * *

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, Inc.

* * *

JOE BTFSPLK 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 Al Capp pronounced Btfsplk with a "raspberries" sound, also known as a "Bronx cheer."

* * *

TINY YOKUM 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 "reminded" Mammy Yokum that she had given birth to a second son years earlier. Hardly "tiny," he is an imposing seven foot tall behemoth. Al 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 is Li'l 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.

* * *

EVIL-EYE FLEEGLE 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.

* * *

MARRYIN' SAM 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.

* * *

GENERAL BULLMOOSE 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 Mae.

* * *

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 demure Daisy 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

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