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Li'l Abner: The Frazetta Years, Vol. 1: 1954-1955 Hardcover – July 1, 2003
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There is great drawing to be seen here by the stable of cartoonists employed in Li'l Abner, there is persistently good writing which must surely have cut close to the wind in 50's America. This is pre-PC and the way Capp seemed to look at the world and the roles and weaknesses of men and women is funny to look back on. At the same time the comedy stands up in it's own right. I particularly enjoyed the Lower Slobbovia scenes. There is often a frenetic pace to all these comics, with Capp seemingly uninterested in continuity concerns.
These works do not seem to be taken from original art (perhaps it can't be located (easily anyway)). They are scanned from newspapers with mastheads still intact. This is interesting to a degree but the limitations of the sources mean the colour leaves a lot to be desired. One of Lonesome Polecat and Hairless Joe's dinosaurs is a different colour each week it appears. A character may have different coloured hair or clothes. Skin tone also vary greatly.
These quibbles are major but the quality of the cartooning and writing is such that it can be overlooked. The 4th volume has some isolated pages which are well coloured and that makes you wish that it was all at that higher standard. Perhaps it would be better in black and white as the dailies look great.
Time to get the dailies back out too. Get on it Fantagraphics!
The stories are absolutely all-time world-class, the drawings are superb and Lil Abner is one of the most memorable comic strips the form has ever produced. There is also a nice explanation of Al Capp's relationship to Frazetta, and an interesting B/W reproduction of Frazetta's artwork for a parody of the motorcycle flick, "The Wild Ones", which drew complaints that it was not consistent with the look of the strip (they were right; the book states that afterward Frazetta did not ink his own drawings).
I laughed out loud at almost every story. They are real gems.
I've recently been reading some of the classic satire of Voltaire (Candide) and Rabelais (Gargantua and Pantagruel) and this seems to fit right in with that style. I guess I have a warped sense of humor. I wish today's comics were this good.
I enjoyed the artwork and appreciated the explanations at the end of the book highlighting some of the items that someone born after that era may have missed. I highly recommend this book. I will probably order more volumes.
Al Capp was at a creative peak in the 1950's, the heyday of his uber cool American satiric masterpiece: LI'L ABNER, and these classic Sunday page sequences don't disappoint. For many people, this was their first exposure to Frank Frazetta's work, and he managed to capture Capp's idiosyncratic style with the greatest of ease, adding many brilliant, characteristic nuances of his own along the way. With the demise of the late, lamented Kitchen Sink Press a few years back, I despaired of ever seeing this classic material back in print again - but here it is! It's impossible for gen X-ers weaned on tripe like Dilbert and Foxtrot to even begin to imagine what a rich source of art and humor the American comic strip used to be in the 30's, 40's and 50's.
For anyone interested in re-visiting a Golden Age of this uniquely American art form, you couldn't ask for a better place to start than Li'l Abner.