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 Archive.org.

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.

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