On this day in 1934, the comic strip 'Li'l Abner, created by cartoonist Al Capp (1909-1979), made its debut.
What started as a strip carried by eight newspapers blossomed into the most popular comic strip of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. The popular strip inspired films, a musical, and animated cartoons.
"The public is like a piano. You just have to know what keys to poke," Capp once said.
Born Alfred Gerald Caplin in New Haven, Connecticut, Capp turned to cartooning after losing his left leg in a trolley accident at age nine. Capp worked on Colonel Gilfeather and Joe Palooka before coming up with the hillbilly gang from Dogpatch, Kentucky.
Inspired by the style of illustrators Phil May and Aubrey Beardsley, the light-hearted adventures of 'Li'l Abner Yokum and his buxom girlfriend Daisy Mae celebrated the Appalachian stereotypes and became an immediate hit.
"Anyone who can walk to the welfare office can walk to work," said the outspoken Capp who used his experience to counsel amputees from World War II. "Abstract Art: A product of the untalented, sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered," the cartoonist said.
Two years before his death, Capp retired the 'Li'l Abner strip. For his keen satirical vision, the cartoonist was compared to Mark Twain and Voltaire.
Novelist John Steinbeck once wrote, "I think that Capp may possibly be the best writer in the world today."
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