Friday, March 22, 2013
Valley Of The Shmoon!
I was visiting my new favorite store Half-Price Books yesterday when I chanced across a real bargain. For very small money (way less than half price I'll tell you) I was able to carry home two volumes from Dark Horse Comics featuring the late 40's and early 50's comic strip and comic book phenomenon called "Shmoo".
Above under a vivid cover by Pete Poplaski is the second volume in the 2011 collection titled Al Capp's Shmoo The Complete Newspaper Strips, an over-sized presentation of Al Capp's original Li'l Abner strips introducing and then developing the legend of the Shmoo, a fascinating creature discovered to be ceaselessly friendly and endlessly delicious, the ultimate beast offering modern humans what we want most in a creature, the perfect commodity.
The Shmoo became a smash hit, and cultural phenomenon in an era before the internet or even television much was around to promote it. The Shmoo fad came with a thunder and then went mostly, but left a number of relics of interest to comic book fans.
The first volume of this exploration of the Shmoo titled Al Capp's Shmoo, The Complete Comic Books focused on comic books produced by Toby Press under the eye of Al Capp, but not produced directly by him. Part of the Dark Horse Archives series, the 2008 publication offers up the five regular comic books and a sixth pamphlet of unusual size. This rather lovely volume features another new and frankly adorable Poplaski cover.
The guide to all thing Shmoo in these volumes is Denis Kitchen, who offers up essays and examines the Shmoo phenomenon in some detail. It seems the Shmoo was seen as a satirical threat to both the political Left and the political Right, and if you can create something which stings both the polarized sides of the ceaseless American debate, then you've done a great service to the republic indeed. But as we learn over and over again when we explore things like the Shmoo, is that we're really exploring ourselves.
Here is a cover gallery of the Toby issues included in the comic book volume.