Archive for November, 2009

John Mason Brown vs. Al Capp

189In 1955, America’s Town Meeting of the Air (an ABC radio show) released an lp of highlights.  Among the great issues between 1935-1955 that were selected, a short speech by John Mason Brown decrying the effects of comics on culture, given in 1948.  The acolyte of Frederic Wertham famously declared comics to be “the marihuana of the nursery, the bane of the bassinet, the horror of the home, the curse of the kids, and a threat to the future.” Al Capp’s retort is a complete smackdown, pointing out that reality is much more violent than any comic book. His proud admission to his contribution to juvenile delinquency shows just how cool he was. Audio of these brief speeches has been uploaded to

Art Spiegleman mentions Capp’s response to Li’l Abner being pirated in Tijuana Bibles as a sign that he’d arrived. Capp was also cool enough to lend his characters and talents to the U.S. federal gov’t. To the right is a U.S. Saving’s Bond from 1949.  Li’l Abner appeared in a Toby Press giveaway about joining the navy, two civil defense comics (Operation Survival and Natural Disasters), and as illustrations for a U.S. Dept. of Labor bulletin.



Over on the comic scholars discussion list there’s an interesting thread about early ‘comics’- prompted by Frederick Schodt’s re-publishing of Yoshitaka Kiyama’s The Four Immigrants Manga: A Japanese Experience in San Francisco 1904-1924. * In refuting any claims of “firstness” and easing into “early”, someone pointed out Journey to the Gold Diggins by Jeremiah Saddlebags written & drawn by the Read Brothers,  from 1849.  I found a microfilm copy in our Western American collection, digitized it, and posted at


*Cataloging side-note: Our library uses LC call numbers, and it’s located in the Fs (F869. S39 K5913 1999, to be exact).  Why not in the PN 6700s? I also notice we have a collection of Joe Coleman paintings in our PNs and not in the Ns- any thoughts on this reversal?

Flickr Photos


November 2009
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