Al Capp said yesterday that he was tired of going to the studio every day and anyway his Li'l Abner comic strip, at the age of 43, had dropped to fewer than 400 papers and his health wasn't good and they tried to get someone to continue the strip "but it didn't work out."
The irascible artist's characters, once the winsome darlings of 45 million readers in 900 daily papers, the subjects of a successful Broadway musical made into a successful movie, had more and more taken on the querulous tone of an increasingly controversial creator. And somewhere in the process they seemed to be lossing their once virtually universal appeal.
The strip first appeared during the Depression in August 1934, when a 19-year-old hillbilly the would be 62 now and his family were so impoverished that they could make people laugh and take their minds off their own problems for a few minutes each day.
For weeks readers lived through "Sadie Hawkins days" every year - and they became a tradition on many real college campuses.
They wondered each Sunday whether Daisy Mae would catch the shy Li'l Abner, or if he would fall prey to some other fleet-footed mountain girl and be dragged before "Marryin' Sam."
Capp invented "schmoos" for the strip and they became a delight to Doppatch residents. They looked like little bowling pins and could produce fresh vegetables, eggs, butter, milk by the wagon load. Their greatest joy in life was to roll over dead at anyone's whim. Fried they tasted like chicken and broiled like steak.
And there was Abner's pet pig Salomy who, herself, lived in constant danger of being killed and eaten.
Then there were the 50 million "kigmies" that looked like giant "schmoos" that Abner inherited from a relative in Australia.
The "Kigmies" begged to be kicked, explaining matters by saying, "We is a nice, safe li'l minority to kick around - we don't kick back."
One day they finally began kicking back and Capp had them all shipped back to Australia.
Capp. now 63, was born in New Haven. Conn., and attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
One of his earlier cartooning jobs was ont the Jeoe Palooka comic Strip working for its owner. Ham Fisher.
Capp created a hillbilly family within the strip and when he got sore at Fisher for not paying him enough he took his characters and created Li'l Abner.
Fisher sued, and the two went before the Cartoonists Society in New York and Capp came out winning.
Once when Capp was asked how he could sit in a four-walled studio every day for 365 days and draw a comic strip, his quick answer was, "For money, of course."
He used the strip to attack politicians, institutions, lifestyles, crime, smugness, poverty, smashing away at all of them in his world of ink, color and words.
A lot of readers came from a depression, moved thorugh a war, married, raised families, and the families were just as amused by the antics of this band of yokels from Dogpatch.
Capp once said, "The comic artist is a unique talent; he is a writer and the artist. He combines both skills and this is tough to do every day."
Unbeknown to Capp at the time, Mammy Yokin might have been one of the forerunners of a women's-liberation movement.
Her behavior was a soft legend to the hill folk when she went out to take on all enemies to protect her family and the shaky little log cabin they lived in. She fought for Dogpatch and once led a strong campaign to Washington to build a fire under Congress and Senator Phogbound, who usually just put a wreath on the statue of Jubilation T. Cornpone, authentic Dogpatch war hero.
We are all going to miss Hairless Joe and his Indian friend, stirring up a batch of 'kickapoo joy juice," the zoot-suited "Evil Eye Fleegle" giving Mammy Yokum a "Whammy," or the little guy with the cloud over his head that spelt doom, who had a name few could spell: Joe BLPFTSK.
Lost forever will be the long-suffering residents of Lower Slobbovia who were always encased in ince and snow were always encased in ice and snow while fierce wolves nipped away at them.
In the '50s Capp's ideas outraged the political right. Later in the '60s and the '70s he outraged the left.
During the later years there seemed to be an unwillingness for Capp to live quietly behind his strip and he became more and more of a controversial figure.
He took to the lecture circuit, television, radio, attacking anyone from Dr. Spock, Joan Baez, student activists, anybody who opposed the Vietnam war, to 10-cent toilets and other subjects.
The strip became more Capp than L'il Abner and the residents of Dogpatch.
There was violence with muggers, hippies and heavy messages that became tough to wade through while eating eggs on a Sunday morning.
The scenes shifted away from the quietly, easily accepted violence of Dogpatch to the real world.
The club, carried on the shoulder of Hairless Joe, with the huge nail sticking out became less funny held in the hands of a mugger.
The drawings of L'il Abner racing down a path to meet the mailman to get the latest adventures of Capp's spoof of Dick Tracy called, "Fearless Fosdick," were amusing.
Abner called them "funny papers" but the real strip fo L'il Abner was not that funny anymore. Maybe that is the reason the Yokums and Al Capp were moving slowly out of the comic page. They might have all just become tire of protesting all the time.