History for the Rest of Us

Li’l Abner Comic Strip Debuts

Li’l Abner Comic Strip Debuts

Aug 13, 2012

On August 13, 1934 the comic strip Li’l Abner would begin a run of 43 years. The strip was a satire featuring hillbillies living in Dogpatch, Kentucky. It’s confessed fans included Charlie Chaplin, Al Hirschfeld, Harpo Marx, Shel Silverstein, and reportedly Queen Elizabeth. The primary characters of the strip were Li’l Abner Yokum, his wife Daisy Mae, his mother Mammy Yokum, father Pappy Yokum, son Honest Abe Yokum, brother Tiny Yokum, and their pet pig Salomey. While these were the primary characters of the strip, the colorful characters that made cameo appearances are what truly set the strip apart. These characters often had real-world counterparts, and allowed creator Al Capp’s strip to become, as media critic and theorist Marshall McLuhan would state, “the only robust satirical force in American life.” John Updike, an American poet, short story writer, and literary critic, would say that the strip’s “richness of social and philosophical commentary approached Voltairean”. Some of the more well known supporting characters included Sadie Hawkins, Fearless Fosdick (a parody of Dick Tracy), Evil-Eye Fleegle (whose evil eye “triple whammy” could melt a battleship), and many others. visit the official Li’l Abner website for more information about some of the more well know characters (http://www.lil-abner.com/). Perhaps the most well known tradition in Dogpatch was Sadie Hawkins Day. Sadie Hawkins Day was first mentioned in the strip on November 15, 1937. According to the strip, “Sadie Hawkins was the daughter of early Dogpatch settler, Hekzebiah Hawkins. She was the homliest gal in the hills.” At the age of 35, Sadie told her father, “Yo’ gotta git me a husbin, or yo’ll have me on yore hands fo’ th’ rest o’ yore natcheral life!!” Hekzebiah devised a plan. He declared a day in November as ‘Sadie Hawkins Day’. On the designated day, he shouted to the bachelors of Dogpatch before firing his pistol, ‘When ah fires – Yo’ starts runnin’!! When ah fires agin, Sadie starts!! Th’ one she ketches’ll be her husbin’ – Le’s go!!” Sadie caught her husband, and “The other Dogpatch spinsters allowed it were such a good idea – Sadie Hawkins Day was made an annual affair!!” Sadie Hawkins Day or Sadie Hawkins...