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The Short Life and Happy Times of the Shmoo Hardcover – September 11, 2002

4.9 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Those who remember the Shmoo as the star of a short-lived 1970s animated TV series may not know its origin in two of the most acerbic and hilarious sequences ever to have appeared in an American comic strip, both of which are reprinted here in their slightly redundant entirety. As Capp presented Shmoos in a four-month run of Li'l Abner in 1948, they're the ultimate symbol of consumerism: blobby little creatures that provide entertainment and companionship, lay eggs (in cartons), give "milk, butter, an' all types o' cheese both domestic and imported," and die on the spot of sheer happiness if you look at them hungrily. Indeed, with Shmoos around and they reproduce rapidly there's scarcely a need for anyone to work or go shopping, ever again. Naturally, American business concerns aren't having it, and send out a "Shmooicide squad" to exterminate the adorable little economic threats. Capp returned to the Shmoos in 1959; by then, his jokes had become even broader, and his artwork was no longer the miracle of physical comedy it had once been, but his routine about the U.S. government presenting Shmoo-slaughter as necessary patriotism has, if anything, become more bitterly convincing with time. Li'l Abner is notoriously difficult to excerpt, and both sequences here end rather abruptly. Still, the central joke that created a Shmoo fervor the first time around that capitalism and utopianism aren't actually compatible comes across loud and clear.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

First released in 1948, this title contains all the strips from Capp's famous Li'l Abner comics dealing with the bulb-bodied character called the Shmoo. Seems silly now, but the public went bonkers for the Shmoo, and Shmoo-related paraphernalia generated a small fortune in sales. This nostalgic look back at the phenomenon includes a new introduction by Harlan Ellison.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Books (September 11, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585672165
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585672165
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 7.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #396,517 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book presents the two major Shmoo stories (from 1948 and 1959) from Al Capp's mega-classic comic strip "Li'l Abner", in slightly abridged form. In fact, it combines the contents of two earlier books ("The Life And Times Of The Shmoo" and "The Return Of The Shmoo") which were published in paperback in those years.
Needless to say, Al Capp's brilliance shines through in every panel of these stories from the peak of his remarkable career, and the Shmoos remain the most lovable of his many memorable creations (which also included Fearless Fosdick, Sadie Hawkins Day, Lower Slobbovia, the Scraggs, Bet-a-Million Bashby, the Kigmies, Wolf Gal, and Evil-Eye Fleegle, whose double-whammy entered the language).
This material is found in its complete context in volumes 14 and 25 of Kitchen Sink Press' complete reprinting of "Li'l Abner", which made it to volume 27. In fact, the jacket art and Harlan Ellison's introduction are cribbed from volume 14. Size and clarity of reproduction are about the same in either. This book will be a must for completists (like me), a pleasant rediscovery for the nostalgist, and an absolute joy for the uninitiated.
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Format: Hardcover
I've been aware of Li'l Abner since I was a kid. One of the things that I used to share with my father was a love for the citizens of Dogpatch and how their little backwoods town became a microcosm of our big ol' USA.
Al Capp was a genius satirist and the SHMOO was his greatest creation. A rapidly procreating creature who gave you all of life's staples: eggs, milk, (even a birthday cake for an unsuspecting policeman!)... and if you looked at the shmoo hungrily, the little creature dropped dead with sheer delight. Broiled they taste like chicken, baked like fish and the finest steak when cooked over an open flame. Why, their little eyes even made the finest suspender buttons!
The only problem is, that when you have everything that you want, you don't have to work anymore. And this throws the powers-that-be (government, big business) into a righteous tizzy. So the Big Boys decide to wipe out the Shmoo and go on a mission to brainwash the citizens against the lovable little creatures.
So, asks Li'l Abner, "Do we have to hate the Shmoo 'cause they bad?"
"NO, we gotta hate the Shmoo 'cause they too GOOD!"
I loved this book. Buy it. You won't be sorry!
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Format: Hardcover
When I was 5 I would love to have my father read Pogo, Dagwood and Blondie, and Li'l Abner to me from the daily and Sunday newspapers. When I was 7 years old, I loved reading them by myself and about this time, 1958, the Shmoo became a major theme in the Li'l Abner series. I could not wait for the paper to arrive so I could read the latest adventures of these Shmmos that were so accommodating to meet almost all human needs. Yet even then, at age 7, I began to "get" the message behind the series. This is wonderful social commentary on the limits of capitalism and the limits government will go to ensure that capitalism remains our economic model. However for captitalism to work, there has to be need or the threat of need which creates demand which stimulates supply, and I am sure you know the rest of this formula. If the basic needs of labor are met, they won't work, and thus the costs of labor goes up and the profits go down. Al Capp was brilliant to bring this message into America's homes soon after the McCarthy Anti-American hearings in Washington. Capp, like the Shmoo, is subversive in such a clever endearing entertaining way that when I saw this book I had to re-read the scripts to see what I may have remembered from so many years ago.

The book contains the original Shmoo characters and script from 1948-49 and the return of the Shmoo in 1958. If I was ever to teach High School Seniors in an Economics class, I would have them read this book along with their text, maybe not to strengthen the neurons but to lighten them.

Capp's other Dogpatch hillbilly characters and story lines are also delightful. Li'l Abner, Daisy Mae, Ma and Pa Yokum, and Sadie Hawkings are all here!
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Format: Hardcover
Here collected in one volume are the amazing Li'l Abner strips that featured the shmoo. Most people today still know "the shmoo", but few probably know the origins and original purpose of this whiskered globule. In 1948 and 1959 Al Capp used the eager to please and adorable character to make poingant points about the American landscape. For those who don't know, the shmoos were self-maintaining providers of all of humanity's essentials. Ask a shmoo for milk, milk appears. Ask for a pineapple, and presto. What's better, shmoos don't need to eat and they reproduce so fast rabbits hang their heads in shame. They also taste great and when gazed upon with hunger they fall over dead with happiness. Ready to eat, as if they wanted it that way. When shmoos appear in Dogpatch (the setting of Li'l Abner) people realize that all of their troubles are over. With all of their needs met, the crooked grocer can no longer take them for all they have ("Fo' a whole week ah left yo t'sell our below-standard groceries an' condemned meat - an thar's not a cent in th' till..." - the accent reflects the language of the strip), and business starts to fail horribly. Multinational corporations soon feel the sting. Of course this has ramifications for everyone, especially the shmoos. An amazing satire on American society follows, one that still resonates some fifty years later. Along the way the origin of Sadie Hawkins day also pops out of seemingly nowhere. The strips are still hilarious and pointed half a century after their penning. Harlan Ellison's frenetic introduction elucidates some of the nuances of the strip and the hubbub that was the shmoo in 1948. He literally compares the popularity and fuss made by the shmoo in mainstream American culture to Beatlemania. The quality of these strips doesn't dispute his claim. They're hard to put down once looked upon, and they probably won't date anytime soon. A good introduction to Li'l Abner and a piece of American pop culture.
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