Tuesday, June 15, 2010

OT: Al Capp notes - what do they all mean?

Don K has sent me some handwritten notes by Al Capp, but I can't help him figuring out what the topic is. Capp's strip was Li'l Abner, which as he aged, was ghosted by people like Frank Frazetta. Capp also moved across the political spectrum from high liberal to arch conservative.

Don writes, "I will be much interested in what you make of all this... maybe it will make more sense to you (or to somebody)."

If anyone has any idea what Capp's writing about, please post in the comments.


mike fontanelli said...

As I understand it, and according to Frazetta expert David Winiewicz (quoted extensively in LI'L ABNER DAILIES 1954/Vol. 20 KSP), Capp used assistants, not "ghosts". The terms are not synonymous or interchangeable. Frazetta never wrote or creatively controlled Li'l Abner, and never claimed to. That seems to be a myth.

"Ghosting" is when a creator hands over the creative reins of a strip to another artist, and plays golf. That doesn't seem to be what happened with Abner. Capp still wrote the stories and the dialogue, designed the characters, laid it out (i.e; roughed out the panel-to-panel action) and inked the faces and hands of the characters.

In any case, Capp never seems to have surrendered creative control of Li'l Abner, as he did with Abbie an' Slats. Abner is still one of the most personal strips ever created. ("Ghosted" strips tend to be a lot more generic, like Mutt and Jeff, Joe Palooka or Blondie.)

Frazetta was one of a battery of Capp assistants. Specifically, he tight-penciled the Sunday pages over pre-existing layouts, and occasionally did inking and promotional duties on the extensive, Abner-related licensing, advertising and public service giveaway comics, like Cream of Wheat ads, greeting cards and The Creatures of Drop-Outer Space,(1965).

There's a reason why all this is important. Quite a few myths have sprung up about Capp over the decades, seemingly by people who dislike his latter-day politics. Only recently have informed fans begun to address them, and correct some of them.



mike fontanelli said...

BTW, I have no idea what these notes mean.

Ask Dennis Kitchen. He seems to be the best authority on all things Cappian.

Comics Witness said...

The one note in particular referring to the college students telling the president how to fight in Viet Nam (sic) makes me wonder if these are not notes for a strip so much as notes for an interview or a possible speech.

A couple of places that I've seen discuss Capp's disdain for "the counter-culture" of the 1960s mentions that he spoke at college campuses and got into verbal sparring matches with audience members. He also spoke negatively about know-it-all college students in interviews. Just a thought.