The Short Life and Happy Times of the Shmoo, by Al Capp, with an introduction by Harlan Ellison (Overlook, 160 pages, $22.95).
Al Capp's Lil' Abner -- published from 1934 till 1977--- was one of a tiny handful of comic strips that must be called the greatest of all time. It was never more celebrated than during the Time of the Shmoo, 1948 until roughly 1952 and then again in 1959. The Shmoo, any literate person must know, was one of history's most brilliant utopian satires. The squash-shaped, ever-smiling denizens of the Valley of the Shmoon, released unintentionally by Lil' Abner himself, provided every imaginable human need -- cheerfully and, since they bred prodigiously, endlessly. A splendid food supply, the softest of leather and more became instantly free and abundant. The result was near-catastrophe. Business was in dire danger of collapse; indolence fell upon the land, the structure of social economics was fundamentally threatened. They had to be killed -- and were -- though some of us still believe that back in the Valley of the Shmoon way beyond Dogpatch, there lurk... This marvelous edition of the Shmoo-era strips comes on the 54th anniversary of the phenomenon.