PRINCETON, WIS. -- As any fool can plainly see, Al Capp's long-running "L'il Abner" comic strip elevated the funny papers to a serious art form and deserves to be preserved for posterity in books.

The idea didn't come from Dogpatch or even Lower Slobbovia. It came from the Kitchen Sink Press of Princeton, Wis.

Kitchen Sink's publisher, Denis Kitchen, said he believes "L'il Abner" was the greatest comic strip ever produced, so he decided to reprint the entire 33-year run in 54 volumes over 10 years.

"Comic strips are beginning to be taken more seriously," Kitchen said in a telephone interview. "This book is an indication of how seriously."

" 'L'il Abner' is a strip that had tremendous cultural impact," Kitchen said. "Capp added a lot of terms to the language and actually created some cultural institutions. He had 60 million readers."

"He was a master of suspense and his characters were beautifully drawn and his plots cleverly written," Kitchen said.

The comic strip ran daily and Sunday in newspapers from 1934 to 1977, when Capp retired. He died in 1979.

Kitchen said some people still observe "Sadie Hawkins Day," a day when women are supposed to ask men out on a date.

Capp also invented the Shmoo, a creature that could turn into whatever a character desired. "Basically, it seemed like a dream come true," Kitchen said. "Everybody had a Shmoo."

Capp also caricatured and lampooned politicians and celebrities. During the '60s, Capp spoofed college radicals with his Students Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything, or S.W.I.N.E.

The first volume of the "L'il Abner" series is scheduled for publication in April, Kitchen said. Subsequent volumes will be published every three months.