Read Al Capp by Denis Kitchen Michael Schumacher Online


More than thirty years have passed since Al Capp's death, and he may no longer be a household name. But at the height of his career, his groundbreaking comic strip, Li'l Abner, reached ninety million readers. The strip ran for forty-three years, spawned two movies and a Broadway musical, and originated such expressions as "hogwash" and "double-whammy." Capp himself was a fMore than thirty years have passed since Al Capp's death, and he may no longer be a household name. But at the height of his career, his groundbreaking comic strip, Li'l Abner, reached ninety million readers. The strip ran for forty-three years, spawned two movies and a Broadway musical, and originated such expressions as "hogwash" and "double-whammy." Capp himself was a familiar personality on TV and radio; as a satirist, he was frequently compared to Mark Twain. Though Li'l Abner brought millions joy, the man behind the strip was a complicated and often unpleasant person. A childhood accident cost him a leg-leading him to art as a means of distinguishing himself. His apprenticeship with Ham Fisher, creator of Joe Palooka, started a twenty-year feud that ended in Fisher's suicide. Capp enjoyed outsized publicity for a cartoonist, but his status abetted sexual misconduct and protected him from the severest repercussions. Late in life, his politics became extremely conservative; he counted Richard Nixon as a friend, and his gift for satire was redirected at targets like John Lennon, Joan Baez, and anti-war protesters on campuses across the country. With unprecedented access to Capp's archives and a wealth of new material, Michael Schumacher and Denis Kitchen have written a probing biography. Capp's story is one of incredible highs and lows, of popularity and villainy, of success and failure-told here with authority and heart....

Title : Al Capp
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 19467367
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 320 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Al Capp Reviews

  • Scott Gilbert
    2019-02-28 00:53

    Just finished Al Capp: a Life to the Contrary, the recent biography. A very rewarding drawing together of many half-heard fragments and factoids that had come to me previously regarding the Little Abner creator. Co-written by comix publisher and cartoonist Denis Kitchen, the book particularly succeeds in satisfying a comic artist's curiosity about Capp's entry into the industry and his practical experiences day-to-day as a novice. The business details of Capp's feud with Ham Fisher and his marketing successes with Lil' Abner are also nicely illuminated. The book does not hesitate to also delve into Capp's personal life, which was often less than savory, while delicately maintaining a cool balance from declaring the man a complete degenerate. As a man, Capp was a serial rapist, at best, so the authors' task in that regard, couldn't have been easy. And while the book does reveal Capp's dark side, it certainly still humanizes him by clearly delineating the tragedies and poignant moments that punctuated his personal history. The prose style is a bit muddled, and the presentation of events is often less than clear in the book, but overall the book fulfills expectations for the biography of one of cartooning's greatest stars handily.

  • Chazzbot
    2019-02-23 16:38

    Despite his extraordinary skills as a cartoonist, Al Capp was an equally extraordinary asshole, as this biography establishes in some detail. A sexual predator, right-wing demagogue, and short-tempered man, Capp nonetheless is responsible for one of the most successful comic strips in history. "Li'l Abner" in its heyday attracted millions of readers, spawned a boatload of merchandise, and was adapted for both Broadway and Hollywood. This biography follows Capp from the days of a youthful street accident that resulted in the removal of his leg, to his struggles as an assistant cartoonist, to the founder of a multimedia franchise of unprecedented success. The authors maintain a curiously neutral tone, even as they document the latter stages of Capp's troubled life, in which he was accused repeatedly of molesting and otherwise harassing young women, mostly on college campuses. The biographer follows a classic "rise and fall" arc, and one is left wondering how one with such gifts could end up at retirement a hateful, bitter man. Those readers more interested in the seamier details of Capp's life have to wait until the final chapters of the book. The larger portion of the book does a fine job of chronicling the details of a working cartoonist's life and the outstanding success "Li'l Abner" achieved. The comic strip in its current state is a sad shadow of its former self, when tens of millions of readers could be expected to not only pick up a daily newspaper, but follow the exploits of various characters in daily serials. For readers unaware of the rich history of comic strips, this biography provides some idea of how they were made. Writing nearly 30 years after the death of their subject, the authors face an uphill task in documenting Capp's life. Though there are many unverifiable aspects to Capp's life story, the authors provide documentation and multiple viewpoints (when possible) to counter Capp's tendency to exaggerate aspects of his biography. This is likely to be the most comprehensive biography of Capp that will (or can) be written, and by that measure alone, this is a worthwhile book.Goldie Hawn and Harlan Ellison, among others, make cameos in the story of Capp's life, and the book is generously illustrated. I did not feel the authors' attempt at a sentimental conclusion worked well, and, when the Bill Cosby-like predatory nature of Capp's personality is made clear, I wondered why the authors did not adopt a more directly critical tone. But these are minor flaws for a work of true value to anyone interested in how comic strips influenced popular culture, and how one man made a very good living at producing them, even if his personal qualities were contemptible.

  • Jkhickel
    2019-03-08 16:45

    I'm in my 60's, and old enough to remember when newspaper comic strips were as popular and vital to the culture as video games and social media are today. There was genuine wit and insight in some of the more sophisticated strips, such as Pogo, Gasoline Alley and the Katzenjammer Kids. And near the top of the list was Li'l Abner, a backwoods cartoon family that became a publishing, movie, Broadway, and all around media sensation.As the author of Li'l Abner, Al Capp also became a media sensation himself. As this biography demonstrates, Al Capp was a complex, almost Nixonian character, and his fame and fortune weren't an accident. He was not only a highly talented writer and artist, but a relentless self-promoter. I remember seeing him repeatedly on almost every television talk show of the 1960's and 1970's. According to this biography, he was a loyal friend and employer, but also a vicious enemy, who actually seemed to revel in the premature death of a competing cartoonist who he believed treated him unfairly. He was an uncompromising supporter of the Vietnam War, not a popular stand in that era, but also spent a lot of his own time and money comforting wounded soldiers and hospital patients -- particularly those who had lost a leg, as he did in a childhood accident. And, as most people my age remember, he was brought down in the end by allegations of sexual harassment by a number of women, and was convicted in one case, which started the decline of both his comic strip's and his own popularity. Frankly, I've always wondered whether these sexual harassment charges were trumped up by a then-liberal media angry at his conservative Vietnam War stand, but this biography makes clear that (a) Capp was a disloyal and philandering husband, (b) who made many women uncomfortable with his advances, (c) in an era when legal protections against sexual harassment were in their early primitive stages, and (d) Capp was at the height of his power and felt he could do no wrong.I got this book on a Saturday morning and finished it on Sunday. Couldn't put it down. If you have any interest in the history of comic strips in America, or the psychology of achieving and then losing success, or just fondly remember Li'l Abner and Daisy Mae, this is one of the best books you could choose.

  • Michael
    2019-03-09 21:33

    via NYPL - Schumacher and Kitchen present a very informative and complex portrait of the contentious cartoonist.

  • Rich
    2019-02-23 20:35

    The most colorful Jews of the early 20th century were boxers, gangsters, and comic strip and comic book artists. Al Capp could well be the most colorful of the colorful: artist, social commentator, entrepreneur, radio personality, in all ways larger than life, and best known for his comic strip "Li'l Abner." His overbearing and often-surly disposition was due at least in part to the early loss of his left leg in an accident. Never content to settle for less than being the center of attention, his darkest side came out late in life when he was revealed as a serial womanizer and would-be seducer/rapist — sometimes succeeding at the latter — and when he devolved into a mean-spirited, liberal-turned-conservative tub of vitriol. Yet through it all he remained married to the same woman, was generous with his money to his family and charities, and was eulogized with admiration and respect for his accomplishments as the author of "Li'l Abner."Such is the story told in the well-researched book by Schumacher and Kitchen. I was too young to appreciate the comic strip in its heyday, though I can remember the bold drawings far more than I remember the other strips on the page. Likewise, I missed knowing Al Capp as a public figure. Al Capp: A Life to the Contrary dishes up a well-rounded portrait of someone who would have been, if not a pleasure to know, certainly an extraordinary person to encounter. Illustrated throughout, with an additional gallery of plates at the end.

  • John Kroll
    2019-03-07 22:02

    Well-written and organized. The authors put up a noble fight with their main obstacles: The length of time since Capp died, and the lack of reliable accounts of much of his life. But, in the end, those two things defeat them. Capp was a cheat and a bully his entire life, their evidence shows, but they pull their punches. It seems clear he was a serial sexual abuser, and likely rapist, but they keep that unmentioned until the proof became public late in his life. They allude to repeated cheating on his wife, but keep most of the facts unmentioned. Near the end, they reveal that he was taking a disturbing cocktail of powerful psychopharmaceuticals, including antipsychotics. But the only analysis of this they offer is a brief passage from his cousin, Dr. Oliver Sacks, who talks about the possible effects. More interesting would have been research into the conditions that would have led a doctor to prescribe such medications.The authors deserve full credit for presenting as much detail as they did, allowing the readers to infer what a disgusting individual Capp was. But they left me angry that they so often gave feeble excuses -- sometimes his, sometimes their own -- for his psychological torture of everyone around him. This is one biography that needed a strong auctorial voice of disapproval.

  • Tony
    2019-03-16 23:33

    AL CAPP: A Life to the Contrary. (2013). Michael Schumacher & Denis Kitchen. *****This is an excellent biography of Capp that manages to highlight both his accomplishments and his faults. During the many times I watched him on the Jack Paar or the Johnny Carson show, I immediately recognized that he was a curmudgeon, but one with an analytical sense of values. His amazing success with his creation of “L’il Abner” and the various spin-offs ultimately made him a very rich man. He managed to address the many ills he saw in America through his characters who lived in Dogpatch. His work inspired a great number of idioms that are still used today in our everyday speech: “going bananas,” “double whammy,” and “as any fool can plainly see,” along with innumerable others. The satires he managed to introduce in his strips were targeted against most of our cultural icons, at least those as he perceived as phonies. That he was hard to get along with was undeniable, and this work examines those weak spots, too. Bottom line, however, he managed to leave his footprint on our American imagination, and forced us to take a closer look at ourselves and what we said we believed. Highly recommended.

  • Andrew Brozyna
    2019-02-21 19:54

    I wasn't a fan of Li’l Abner when I bought this book, although I was dimly aware of the comic. I read that the strip’s creator, Al Capp, was a savvy business man. I’m a freelance illustrator, so I thought I might pick up some tips from Capp’s immensely successful career. (I'm also keen on mid-century American culture.)Learning about Capp’ rise in the comics world was certainly interesting, but his personal life was absolutely fascinating:As a kid he lost a leg in trolley accident. He hitchhiked across the country. He had a dramatic feud with his former employer. He had illicit love affairs with a Hollywood singer and women across the country. In the 1950s he publicly defended comics from attacks by conservatives who saw them as the cause of juvenile delinquency. In the 1960s and 70s his political views shifted to the Right, he became riends with President Nixon, and he was a vocal critic of the anti-war movement. He made millions with merchandizing, and he opened a theme park based on his comic. At the end of his life he was done in by sex scandals and emphysema.The author does a good job of presenting Al Capp’s blustery personality and dramatic career.

  • Jb
    2019-02-24 17:50

    Sometimes it’s difficult to pin down true stories about celebrities. Jackie Gleason comes to mind. Stories change and icons often exaggerate their life experiences with each telling. Particularly in his earlier life Al Capp was no exception and authors here do a first-rate job trying to piece together truth and facts. But what a complicated character Al! Many reproachful words describe him -- brash, overbearing, loudmouth, egotistical, vindictive, testy, vitriolic, ludicrous, womanizer, venomous, curmudgeon, pitiful – all of which seem odd given that Capp was a humor cartoonist. Yet one cannot minimize is talent. His Li’l Abner hillbilly comic strip was indeed satirically funny and for a time was among the top five daily newspaper strips. He added words such as “hogwash” “going bananas” “double whammy“ to our cultural vernacular. Sadie Hawkins Day, once a staple on college campuses, is still observed. When I chose it I expected a fun read. It’s not that. Engaging, yes, but not ha-ha.

  • Ernest Spoon
    2019-02-21 17:56

    I grew up with Li'l Abner. Of course it was in the late 50s, the 60s, well after the strips heyday of popularity and creativity in the 1940s and early 50s. I also remember the man Al Capp from his final days as a raging reactionary, never knowing that he had been a liberal.Overall, this biography is an homage to one of the seminal comic strip artists and creators of the Twentieth Century, so it may be a little too fawning toward its subject. The early Capp seems like a genial, if womanizing sexist, kind of a guy friend to all except Ham Fisher, creator of the comic strip Joe Palooka. Capp's vindictiveness toward Fisher, for whom he had worked for early in his career, foreshadows his later slide into reactionary politics and sexual improprieties that marked his downfall. All biographies end on somber notes, but Capp's end is especially poignant in that the collapse of his popularity as a public figure was self-inflicted.

  • Straker
    2019-02-21 18:47

    Interesting though problematic bio of the cartoonist. The authors lean far too heavily on Capp's own unpublished writings - which even they admit are unreliable - when discussing his early life. Information about Capp's wealth and income is sketchy after the launch of "L'il Abner" and it sometimes seems that Capp is credited for artwork on the strip that may well have been the work of assistants. Capp is frequently described as a "biting satirist" but there are too few examples included from the strip to even begin to justify that assertion. Finally, the authors tread lightly around Capp's sexual escapades; it's as if they knew they had to include them but didn't really want to dig too deeply. Worth a read if you can get it cheap (I paid $2) as it'll probably be the only full-length Capp biography ever written.

  • Mark Bruce
    2019-02-28 20:36

    So Al Capp started the whole satire of public life in the comic strips, if you were to believe the author. Ignoring the original comic, The Yellow Kid, which was nothing but satire. Sigh.Still, this is as good a bio as Capp is ever to get. It's remarkable to read about how the world lionized and enriched the cartoonists of his era. Sadly, much of Capp's rough and labored humor does not travel well beyond his era.And there's that whole rape thing--in hugs old age Capp began to sexually assault young women during his college campus tours, which, frankly, is a horrifying revelation that completely destroys any sympathy you have for his struggles.This is a well written bio, though I think the author is too forgiving of that dark stain in Capp's old age (but to his credit, he does not minimize it).

  • Dave
    2019-02-21 16:46

    Al Capp's life from childhood when he lost a leg to a trolley car accident through the end of his days is told in a very well researched book and I learned many things about Capp that I wasn't aware of. He actually coined the "Sadie Hawkins" term, created the Schmoo, and always drew and inked the heads of the characters in the Lil Abner strip to name a few. One of my favorite parts of the book relates the story of how Capp had a contest for fans to draw and submit the ugliest woman they could come up with. The winner is now a rather famous cartoonist in the comic world and I have to admit the drawing is quite scary.All of Capp's life is presented and not all of it good. He had many ups and downs in his life and this book presents it all.

  • William Goodson
    2019-03-03 19:54

    This book is written especially for persons who enjoyed L'i Abner and remember Dogpatch fondly. It is well written, with lots of interesting anecdotes that provide great insights into the life of Caplin. But you really need to want to know about a womanizing, self-promoting, amputee - who, long before Doonsbury, Peanuts or any of the other scions of comic wisdom - wrote one of the most insightful, no-holds-bared, irreverent cartoon strips of all time. If, like me, you liked L'l Abner, you will like this book. Writing style A-, content A for me, but not for everyone.

  • David Rickert
    2019-03-19 20:47

    This is the first biography of Al Capp, the creator of Li'l Abner, which may be the greatest comic strip of all time. At least it was until the sixties, a time when Capp lost his way and became an angry curmudgeon, a sexual predator and rapist, all while his strip dwindled into irrelevance. I would have like to have read more about the strip, especially towards the end, and Capp's working methods. Despite that, a fine biography.

  • Mike Gabor
    2019-02-22 23:02

    A warts and all book about the creator of Lil' Abner. The author tells us of Capp's early childhood accident in which he lost a leg. His novel way of going to art school even though he couldn't afford the tuition. His cross country hitchiking where he got the inspration for Lil' Abner. His feud with Ham Fisher, the creator of Joe Palooka. His serial womanizing and later in life his very conservative political outlook. All in all a very good book about a great cartoonist.

  • Keith
    2019-02-24 21:01

    OK biography of Al Capp. Most interesting at the beginning. His downhill course at the end of his life was pretty depressing though. I've always liked his comic strips, but I did not realize he was not a very nice guy sometimes. One thing I did not know was that he only had one leg, and he did some charity work. Decent biography because it shows both sides of him.

  • Raymond
    2019-02-19 23:45

    Excellent read. The narrative flows well and paints a vivid picture of the ol' polecat. The authors focus on Capp's formative years and salad days and then speed forward to his age of degenerative decline. The only thing I would like to see added is a short epilogue on Capp's surviving family and more details on the life and death of the theme park.

  • Ben
    2019-03-08 16:55

    Al Capp is a fascinating figure for sure, but Kitchen and Schumacher give us an unfocused account of his life and times. Little is revealed about key elements of his life and the subject can shift without warning. However, it is a biography willing to honestly examine a life and speak I'll of the dead. For that alone, it's an achievement.

  • Steve Peifer
    2019-03-02 22:41

    I think they never made the case of why Capp was 1. Important and 2. Funny. Since they presumed you knew, only true fans might get this book. By the end of this book, there won't be a true fan left; he was a pretty reprehensible guy.

  • Joe Faust
    2019-03-15 21:40

    A ways and all bio of a man who was a major creative force of his time, an even bigger salesman and promoter, and of course, a complete jerk. The book kind of hurried through the end of Capp's life once the juicy stuff had been told.

  • Patrick Macke
    2019-03-05 22:56

    capp's a hard man to like, but he earns a level of respect, yet what I like most about the book is not capp, but the historical influence and back stories of the actual comics (Lil Abner and beyond); the best part of the paper to this day

  • Virginia Nichols
    2019-02-25 23:49

    I found it fascinating. I thought he was a superb, witty and original cartoonist who was very with the times. It turns out that he was a deeply repugnant man. The details of his often shocking actions and interactions kept me racing through this book.

  • BertWilliams
    2019-02-25 16:59

    The writing is sometimes sharp but the details are lacking.The chapters end abruptly, usually in the middle of an interesting issue (the failure of the large budget movie, the Ono/Lennon feud) without resolution

  • Dkolacinski
    2019-03-20 21:38

    Dogpatch creator, misantrope, only a single leg to stand on. Interesting biography of the cartoonist who was a really unpleasant person. Empire builder who could also self-promote and benefit financially. The cartoons are a great legacy for a really disagreeable man.

  • Jeanne Thornton
    2019-03-01 21:52

    If Li'l Abner happened to be one of the like defining influences of your childhood, this book is pretty depressing all around