The LOAC Road to 200: The LOAC Wheel of Fortune is Stupefyin’!

We’re Cadillacin’ toward our 200th release, and we thank you for riding along with us! It’s time once again to spin the LOAC Wheel of Fortune to see which past release gets spotlighted for the month of April.

Before we continue our focus on the year 2014, begun last month, a tip of the Dick Tracy fedora to those readers (you know who you are) who corrected us after last month’s “LOAC Wheel” feature appeared. In March we truthfully mentioned that 2014 was our busiest year ever. We went on to point out that we released twenty-three books that year.

“Nay, nay,” said those Ol’ Eagle Eyes who visit this space, “your list is one short! Wonder Woman also appeared in 2014, and it’s not on the list you presented!” What can I say? They were right, and we had fat-fingered the year-of-release for Princess Diana as 2015, not 2014. Here’s a corrected list of our 2014 releases:

And given we had a dozen one-shots, Volume 1, and Volume 2s in our March LOAC Wheel spin, adding WW to the remainder gives us another dozen titles to include in this April spin. It’d be easy to say that was all part of our master plan (“Yeah — yeah! That’s the ticket!”), but the fact is, we just plain goofed, and we’re indebted to those who pointed it out and let us set the record straight.

Here, then, is the list of titles that we’ve loaded into the LOAC Wheel of Fortune for April:

And here they are, locked into the paddock and ready for the starter’s gun that signals me to give the LOAC Wheel a spin …

… And when the spinning stopped, the LOAC Wheel landed on:

A juicy selection, indeed! Abner Volume 7 represents arguably the peak of Al Capp’s hilarious hillbilly satire. As you can tell by our cover, this book contains the debut of that marketing sensation, The Shmoo!

A precursor to the “tribbles” Star Trek would unleash on the pop culture world twenty years later, The Shmoos form the basis of Capp’s cautionary tale about too much of anything — even a good thing — being bad. That message was overwhelmed by the roly-poly cuteness of Shmoos, which absolutely captivated the nation. To get a hint of that popularity, you can get a list of Shmoo facts from Capp biographer and erstwhile Li’l Abner publisher Denis Kitchen here. And Dean’s cover design, featuring the unusual little critters, is one we think Capp would have given a thumbs-up.

The Shmoos alone would be enough to recommend Li’l Abner Volume 7, but there are so many other delights contained between these covers. My particular favorite is the year-end-1947 Sadie Hawkins Race. How Capp produced such amazingly frenetic, inventive, and just plain funny Sadie Hawkins stories year-in and year-out astounds me; I find it one of the greatest achievements in comics history. This installment puts Li’l Abner squarely in the path of that Viking Amazon, Tenderleif Ericson; the October 30th daily gives you the whole set-up in two simple panels:

For most cartoonists, this would be the end of it — not Capp. He further complicates matters for his put-upon hero (and his heart-stricken lady-love, Daisy Mae) with the introduction of … well, take a look at the December 4th daily and see for yourself:

Abner has just run afoul of Stupefyin’ Jones, the gal with a figure so amazing any man who sees her is “stupefied” and rooted to the spot, unable to move. Stupefyin’ was part of the plotline for the Li’l Abner Broadway musical, where she was admirably brought to life by the beautiful Julie Newmar (perhaps best known in pop culture circles as the first actress to portray Catwoman, in the 1960s Batman TV series):

Perhaps this little summary of Li’l Abner Volume 7 shows why 1947-48 were fabulous years for Al Capp and his Dogpatch cast of characters, and why 2014 was a terrific year for The Library of American Comics. After all, this was just one book — we published twenty-three more that year! We ain’t done yet, either — please stay with us on the LOAC Road to 200, and come back to this space in May for the next spin of the LOAC Wheel of Fortune!

 

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