Archive for the ‘Al Capp’ Category

The Last of Joanie

Saturday, May 17th, 2008

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Hello again, here are the final episodes of the “Joanie Phoanie” storyline in L’il Abner. This week’s  episodes are from 2/6/67 to the following Monday, 2/13/67. Honest Abe really deserves his spanking this time! You will note that the Post-Dispatch censored the dialog on 2/9, and Joanie’s dialog balloon on 2/11 is completely blank! A few of Joan’s contemporaries sneak into the strip, Bob Dylan on 2/8, Abbie Hoffman on 2/11 and could the man with the dark beard in the first panel of 2/13 be Allen Ginsberg? Next week I will start reprinting an Abner story from 1973.

Also this week we have Marvelous Mike from 6/25/57 to 6/30. Cliff Crump as usual don’t get no respect! Mike bakes great biscuits and all Mr. Kimball does is yell at Cliff about them. I would call this story “The Baby Baker”.  The next two pages of “A Sample Assignment” from Felix #4 by Jim Tyer brings up the post-ier. Note Tyer’s patented sweat drops on pg. 2, in the close-up of nervous Felix. It’s hotter n’ blazes in Glendale this weekend, I’m staying inside and blogging. Remember if you have any comments write to me at molasses@earthlink.net. I will assume that your letters are for publication unless you tell me the remarks are private. Bill Warren was a little upset over Mike Fontanelli’s comments on his comments. He thought that Mike got a little too personal. I erred in reprinting Bill’s letter verbatim, he thought his remarks were private. My apologies to Mr. Warren. See you next time.

Cappe Diem

Monday, May 12th, 2008

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Hi Folks, here are the next episodes of Joanie Phoanie, 1/30 67-2/4/67, with 2/3 missing. Either my Dad didn’t bring home the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that night, or the Post dropped Abner that day. Of the two newspapers in St. Louis, The Globe-Democrat and the Post-Dispatch, the Post was the most liberal. When Capp started satirizing the Left, the Post responded by censoring L’il Abner on some days, and dropping the strip for a day or sometimes weeks, if they didn’t like a particular story line. Look at the strip for 2/1 above, in which Joanie and her manager discuss Honest Abe, there is missing dialog in the balloons. Wait until you see what the Post did to some of the strips I will run next week!

We have a comment from Thad Komorowski, cartoon scholar and web master:

I’ve loved seeing the Joanie Phoanie Abner strips on your blog!  It’s not a very good continuity though.  The problems are that it’s just not funny (like the strip once was on a regular basis) and Capp draws a good-looking woman (Baez) as a hideous crone.  You just know Capp was getting unhealthily bitter if he passes up the opportunity to draw a hot woman.

I pointed out earlier that Capp’s caricature of Joan Baez looked a lot like Nightmare Alice! He didn’t want to make Joanie an attractive woman, because Capp usually made the outsides of his characters reflect their insides. He had a low opinion of Joanie’s character, therefore he couldn’t make her look “hot”. Of course I loved Daisy Mae as a kid, but for some reason I thought Moonbeam McSwine was the most alluring woman in Dogpatch, even though she never bathes! I think I liked her clothes with all the missing parts and popped stitches, very stimulating to the imagination! My friend Larry Loc sent some interesting  Capp anecdotes from cartoonist Tex Blaisdell to me from over at his blog: www.agni-animation.com/blog/ . Go over there and read them, and tell him I sent you!

Also this week we have MARVELOUS MIKE from 6/18 to 6/23/1956, in which he shows his prowess as a biscuit baker, and Jim Tyer’s Felix the Cat in “A Sample Assignment”, the first two pages of the story from Felix #4. I love those scrappy housewives in the last panel on the second page!

Believe it or not, my next short cartoon, “There Must Be Some Other Cat” is making progress! Greg Ford, Igor, Kim Miskoe and all the artists are doing some beautiful work. I have seen quite a few sample cels and I made a small animation correction to Sc. 24. I hope I will have a complete pencil test by the end of this month! I will keep you POST-ed! My wife and I are going to take a trip to Catalina Island next month to paint with our Thursday group once again, we are really looking forward to painting the old Casino, boats, gulls and tourists stuffing their faces! Remember, send any comments to my email address: molasses@earthlink.net. See you next week.

Soothing Postum

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

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Howdy everyone! The Abner Phoanies continue with episodes from 1-23-67 to 1-28-67. Joanie is so lazy she lets Daisy Mae run for her in the Sadie Hawkins day race! In the interests of continued debate, here is Mike Fontanelli’s (Cartoonist, Al Capp Collector) rebuttal to Bill Warren’s (Film Critic, Author) screed about Al Capp’s politics and zeitgeist:

You recently posted a response to the Capp material from someone named Bill Warren, “Internet Film Reviewer” – who “reviews” the Joanie Phoanie continuity – even though it had barely begun – with words like “contempt-laden”, “repellent”, “smug”, and (very classy for a film critic) “crap”. (I wonder what Mr Warren’s reaction would be to National Lampoon’s notorious parody of Joan Baez: “Pull The Trigger, N—–“, from RADIO DINNER.)

With breathtaking insight, Mr Warren points out that Abner is only “stupid because he’s a hillbilly”, and General Bullmoose, although a financial tyrant, is “not stupid”. (Are we asked to believe that Capp intended Bullmoose as a positive portrayal? Then I can’t for the life of me figure out – why is Bullmoose always the villain?) There was always an “elitism” in LI’L ABNER, according to this genius, and he points out that comic strip parodies are really due to the cartoonist being “envious”. Chester Gould evidently was “jealous” of PEANUTS when he did SAWDUST, Mr Warren helpfully suggests. By Mr Warren’s reasoning, Walt Kelly was jealous of Harold Gray when he did LULU ARFIN’ NANNY, and Harvey Kurtzman was apparently jealous of SUPERMAN, ARCHIE, and – just about everything else!

“I don’t recall seeing any traces of that kind of stuff in Schulz’s work,” sniffs Bill Warren, who doesn’t understand satire or parody nearly as well as he understands science fiction. May we infer that Snoopy’s infatuation with “The Six Bunny-Wunnies” series of kiddie books was due to Schulz’s jealousy of Margaret Wise Brown?  Or do different rules apply when Mr Warren is speaking of a comic strip that he actually understands?The real “elitism” at play is in Mr Warren’s camp.  Unlike Gary Trudeau, Capp slammed the left AND the right – but only the left responded with thin-skinned, humorless moral outrage and offended indignation.

Lighten up, Bill – it’s only a comic strip!

That’s Mike’s reaction, maybe Bill will respond, but I don’t think he will. It’s MY opinion that the Joanie Phoanie sequence is about as far right as Capp got in the strip. I’ve been reading a lot of the 1970s Abners lately, and the political part of the strip is very subtle, Capp usually saves his harshest barbs for “welfare cheaters” and “lazy” people. The citizens of Dogpatch may be dumb, but they never shirk hard work when absolutely necessary.  I think Al had more affection for the town of Dogpatch and it’s “culture”, than it’s individual citizens, like Abner, Daisy Mae, Earthquake McGoon. Mammy is the only really admirable character in Dogpatch, and she stayed that way until the end of the strip.  Speaking of General Bullmoose, as Mike just did, I am hoping to reprint a very funny Abner story from 1973 with the General as a comic book collector! Remember if you have any comments, just send them to me at molasses@earthlink.net.

Also this week we have MARVELOUS MIKE from 6-11-56 to 6-16-56, Mike gets his father off the hook for the bank robbery, and tries to help Mom with her biscuits.

To round off the menu, we have Jim Tyer’s Felix in “Tale of A Fish”, the next two pages. Until next week, try a relaxing cup of Instant Postum, relax and don’t post so much!

Joanie Pt. 3

Monday, April 28th, 2008

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Hi readers! I know that I have more than one reader since I started posting the “Joanie Phoanie” sequence from L’IL ABNER. This week we have Jan. 16-Jan. 21 1967–Joanie runs in the Sadie Hawkin’s Day race. Mike Fontanelli, Cartoonist, Humorist and Al Capp collector, sent me a few quotations from Joan Baez’s biography about her reactions to Al’s unflattering caricature of her: (Joan Baez speaking)

“…I quit reading what the papers said about me because either they portrayed me as more self-sacrificing than I was, or they didn’t like me and said, in a variety of ways, that I was a fake. Al Capp, creator of the LI’L ABNER comic strip, launched the most imaginative of the negative attacks, introducing a character into his strip called Joanie Phoanie. She was a slovenly, two-faced show-biz slut, a thinly disguised Commie, who traveled around in a limousine singing “songs of protest against poverty and hunger for $10,000.00 a concert.” She put out albums like “If It Sounds Phoanie, It’s Joanie”, which included “Lay Those Weapons Down, McNamara,” “Throw Another Draft Card on the Fire!” and “Let’s Conga with the Viet Cong.” Looking back at both the strip and the situation, I have to laugh. At the time, I couldn’t. Mr. Capp was slandering my name, my causes, my music, and of course, my persona. I got huffy, and huff turned to rage. I never sued Al Capp. I asked for a retraction but did not get one. Al Capp publicly denied to all who asked that Joan Baez was Joanie Phoanie. Many years later, I would read: “The truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies you could invent,” but at the time my righteous indignation came from feeling guilty about having money, even if I was giving most of it away. In my heart of hearts, I thought I should not have anything. And that’s where he stung me. Was Al Capp right? The puritan in me said that unless I learned to live free of possessions, like Gandhi, I was less than perfect. Gandhi’s aim was to be detached from all desire. I tried to be detached, but did not succeed. I was attached to my house, my boyfriends, my ever-changing wardrobe, and my demons. Mr. Capp confused me considerably. I’m sorry he’s not alive to read this. It would make him chuckle.”

JOAN BAEZ

“And A Voice To Sing With” – 1989

Here’s how TIME reported the dust-up between Capp and Baez:

WHICH ONE IS THE PHOANIE?

Joanie Phoanie is a sight. She has a roller coaster of a nose, unraveled hair, and sandal straps that look as if they’re devouring her legs. She douses herself with deodorant, wolfs down caviar in front of famished children. She sings of brotherhood to incite student riots. When one song triggers only three uprisings, she composes another she is sure will be a blockbuster: “A Molotov cocktail or two/ Will blow up the boys in blue.” Could it be Joan Baez? Joan Baez thinks so. In fact, she’s so sure Al Capp’s cartoon character is a take-off on her that she has demanded an apology and the immediate execution of the comic strip abomination. “Either out of ignorance or malice,” she wailed, “he has made being for peace equal to being for Communism, the Viet Cong and narcotics.” Just as captiously, the cartoonist growled that Joanie wasn’t Joan. “She should remember that protest singers don’t own protest. When she protests about others’ rights to protest, she is killing the whole racket.” She also protested all the talk in the strip about the amount of money a folk singer earns. “Capp must be jealous,” she sniffed. He may have reason. Now on a tour of Japan, Protester Joan is making $8,500 per appearance.

– TIME Magazine Jan. 20, 1967

In point of fact, Joan Baez DID attempt to sue Capp but was unsuccessful – as several different sources confirm, including Denis Kitchen: “The Joanie Phoanie character as written by Capp, sang protest songs and incited riots for huge profits. Joan Baez demanded a public apology which never came. In fact, Capp never acknowledged that the Joanie Phoanie character was a reference to Baez at all. Baez was so convinced the reference was about her that she filed a court case. The judge ruled that free speech works both ways and refused to tell Al Capp to stop.”

Here’s Mike Fontanelli on L’IL ABNER and how the strip influenced his work as a cartoonist:

I admit I am an unabashed fan, so maybe I’m not so impartial a judge.  The guy’s ideas just kill me, especially the classic forties and fifties stuff.  I remember reading him in the sixties and seventies (I was born in ‘61, so the strip was well past its prime by the time I’d gotten to it) and laughing until tears rolled down my cheeks.  Decline or not, it was still the funniest, ballzy-est strip on the comics page.  He and Walt Kelly were my heroes – they still are, actually.  (I’m a cartoonist because of POGO and ABNER, basically – I’d probably be working in a bookstore if it weren’t for that stuff.  And MAD, and Looney Tunes.)
Thank you for reproducing the famous (some would say infamous) Joanie Phoanie strips, which I’ve always heard about but never had the opportunity to read before.  (I’ve gotta laugh at “Molotov Cocktails For Two” and “Let’s Conga With The Viet Cong”!  Sure it’s mean – and over the top, I guess.  But it’s also, after all, just Capp being Capp.)

I’m sorry that ASIFA is stuck with scanning ABNER continuities that are already available elsewhere, but we don’t currently have the resources or the access to anything better.  (Coming up, however, is a hilarious continuity called CHICKENSOUPERMAN!, a spoof of TV superheroes and their sponsors that, as far as I know, has never been republished since it originally ran in 1966.)
Our real intent was to introduce Capp to a new generation, one that’s grown up with the likes of FOXTROT and DRABBLE, and so has no idea that newspaper comics were once intelligent, dynamic, beautifully drawn and well worth reading.  (After Capp, we hope to do comprehensive tributes to Willard Mullin and Walt Kelly.)  
It’s very gratifying to receive letters from teenagers and twenty-somethings who were bowled over by the Loverboynik strips.  (Wait’ll they see Fearless Fosdick, I keep telling them…)  
   
The Capp retrospective will stretch out to around a dozen posts, because the material is so great, and because, frankly, his reputation could use some rescuing.  
(I’d like to Google search Al Capp someday and find references to his work for a change, instead of his cantankerous cameo in IMAGINE and his sexcapades with coeds.  I’d also like to see Denis Kitchen resume his pet project one day: the republication of the complete LI’L ABNER.)
  
After all, we can’t let the kids go on believing that CATHY and SALLY FORTH are all there is, can we? 

(Mark here:) Make sure that all you Al Capp fans check out ASIFA’s Animation History website at www.animationarchive.org for more classic Capp strips. Here is another person’s reation to the “Joanie Phoanie” reprints, Bill Warren, Internet Film Reviewer and author of the book, “Keep Watching The Skies!”:   “Al Capp, like Charlton Heston, was one of those implacable guys who planted a flag right HERE and defended that position as the best possible place to be–while unaware they’re sliding steadily to the right.  That Joanie Phoanie stuff is really repellent; not only does it falsify the hell out of Baez, but it’s mean, contempt-laded writing.  Capp was always very smug as a writer, but he had flexibility early on.  He utterly ossified by the time of the Joanie Phoanie crap.  Al Capp jumps the shark, big time.     Did you ever see that video of him smirking at John Lennon and Yoko Ono when they were doing their protest from a bed? (Recently posted on Cartoon Brew-MK) Capp obviously thinks he’s winning everything, but he’s just a mean old bastard who doesn’t know he sounds like a preening bully.     I always liked Li’l Abner, but I also was wary of it.  Even though Abner is always a decent guy, he’s also always a stupid guy, and stupid because he’s a hillbilly.  General Bullmoose is a financial tyrant, but he’s not stupid.  There was a certain elitism in the strip, all the time.     Interesting that he became so envious of Charles Schulz, since in the past, Ham Fisher had become so envious of Capp.  I was puzzled that Chester Gould also evidently became jealous of Schulz, with his “Sawdust” strip-within-the-strip.  I don’t recall seeing any traces of that kind of stuff in Schulz’s work.(Mark again:)

Please excuse all the type face size variance, I don’t know how to make all the fonts uniform. I’m very happy that the Joanie strips attracted such good comments! Thank you, Mike and Bill for taking the time to make this post one of my better ones. I think it’s a good contrast between the opinions of a cartoonist who appreciates Capp for his art, and a film reviewer and scholar who sees Capp predominately as a satirist who fell apart by the late 1960s. Remember, you may comment on anything you see here by writing to molasses@earthlink.net.

The other strips this week are MARVELOUS MIKE from 6-2-56 to 6-9-56, sorry that 6-7 is among the missing. Little Mike is going to make his adopted father look like a hero very soon. I also have the first two pages of the Felix story, “Tale of a Fish” from Felix the Cat #4, by the madcap cartoonist, Jim Tyer. I know he drew these stories, but I’m not sure about the writing. Maybe Gaylord Dubois was doing the scripting, does anyone know?

    

Joanie Pt. Two

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

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Hello again dear reader(s)! Here are the next six strips in the “Joanie Phoanie” sequence from “L’il Abner”, Jan. 9-1967 to Jan. 14th. Here Capp implies that Joan Baez is not only a protest singer who cares only for money, but she throws herself at any appetizing man who crosses her path, in this case, Abner. I like the sly way that Al uses Little Orphan Annie as a supporting player in some of these dailies. I’ve been reading a bunch of “L’il Abner”s I saved from the early 1970s, and a lot of the Sunday pages feature the Dogpatch kids: Honest Abe, “Rotton Ralphie” and the bunch. Capp was openly jealous of Charles Schulz’s success, and it seems he toyed with the idea of turning “L’il Abner” into a kid strip for awhile, Dogpatch style. If you go over to ASIFA’s animation history website at www.animationarchive.org , they are doing their own tribute to Al Capp this week. Very nice scans of earlier Abner material from the collection of Mike Fontanelli, but Dennis Kitchen has already reprinted the strips from 1956 that they are running. As far as I know, these “Joanie Phoanie” strips have NEVER been reprinted, so let me know what you think.

“Marvelous Mike” this week continues the bank robbery story. I think some aspects of this story ring true to this day, when sometimes to be ACCUSED of a crime is the same thing as being a CRIMINAL. We’ll see how poor Cliff gets out of the line-up next week.

To round out the reprints this week, we have the last two pages of Jim Tyer’s “The Vicious Cycle” from FELIX THE CAT #4.  We will present the start of the next story from that issue, “Tale Of A Fish”, in a week. Remember, to comment on anything you see here, write to me at molasses@earthlink.net. I will reprint any comments that my readers would enjoy seeing.