Thursday, August 18, 2011

Book Review: Li'l Abner: The Frazetta Years Volume 4 (1960-1961)

Li'l Abner: The Frazetta Years Volume 4 (1960-1961) by Al Capp

3.5/5 Stars

It must be a real rarity in the field of newspaper comic strips for a cartoonist's assistant eventually to go on to become a famous illustrator in his own right, but such is the case with Frank Frazetta, who spent eight years penciling Sunday pages for Al Capp's Li'l Abner. For a cartoonist with Capp's talent to be able to find someone who could produce with such facility drawings so close to his own unique style is simply extraordinary. Frazetta is quite gifted in his own right, we now know, but at the time in the late 1950's and early 1960's, the largely unknown Frazetta was able for the most part to repress his own artistic sensibilities and mimic those of the great Al Capp. The collaboration ends at the close of 1961, with this being the fourth and final volume of Frazetta's Li'l Abner Sunday comics.

There are a few good reasons, I believe, to go back and read forgotten comic strips that are almost 50 years old, reasons that are apparently lost on my nearest and dearest, who eyed me with some concern and incomprehension as I diligently went through this book. The sad truth is that newspaper comics have been in decline for a long time, and there isn't anything being produced today of this caliber--not even close. Al Capp's satiric plots are somewhat dated, yes, but still readable and often enjoyable. It's a shame, but the best days of the newpaper comic strip are far behind us. Fortunately, a lot of the better work is being preserved for future readers in books such as this one.

You can also read my brief book review of Al Capp's Shmoo:  The Complete Comic Books here.


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