On Strips: Abbie an' Slats

By | Friday, August 01, 2014 Leave a Comment
File this under: another comic strip that needs a nice reprint treatment. Abbie an' Slats was started in 1937 by Al Capp, trying to play off the popularity of Li'l Abner. He didn't have the time to draw two daily strips, though, so the art chores were picked up by Raeburn Van Buren. Capp eventually turned the writing duties over to his brother in 1945, and Van Buren got some help from his assistant Andy Sprague beginning in 1947. The strip continued on under this creative team until Van Buren retired in 1971, and they ended the feature.

The story focused on Aubrey "Slats" Scrapple who, at the start of the strip, moved from New York to Crabtree Corners. It's not quite as rural as Dogpatch, but it's still a far cry from New York. Slats moved in with his cousin Abbie and her sister Sally. The tone wasn't dissimilar to Li'l Abner, as Slats pursued the daughter of his biggest enemy, before eventually switching over to wooing Becky Groggins. It was, in fact, Groggins's somewhat eccentric father (nicknamed "Bathless" for a reason!) that even became a bit of a star, eventually taking over the Sunday strips on an ongoing basis. But the stories do seem a little more in the adventure/drama genres than Abner.
The handful of reprints that have been published largely relied on actual newspapers for art, so the production quality isn't the best. Ken Pierce was able to publisher two better-than-average books back in the early 1980s, using original proof sheets as his source. Strangely, though, no one seems to have tried to utilize the fifteen-years-worth of original art that's currently housed at Syracuse University.

The strip never gained the popularity that Abner had, but given Capp's direct involvement as well as Van Buren's obvious illustrative talents, it strikes me as odd that these have yet to get one of those high-quality reproductions that folks like IDW have been putting out the past few years. I think getting the word out about strips that didn't quite rise to the level of popularity that Abner is important, so I urge folks to do some digging and track down some Abbie an' Slats.
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