Al Capp's "Fearless Fosdick" inspiration for Kurtzman's Mad?


Mike Fontanelli wrote a great introduction to cartoon great and unrepentant hippy hater Al Capp and his Dick Tracy parody, Fearless Fosdick. The post includes the first 20 pages (scanned in high res) of the first Fearless Fosdick story, "The Poisoned Bean Case."

"The Poisoned Bean Case" is, simply put, one of Capp's masterpieces. It seems to be a special favorite with fans too, both for its astronomical body count and its sheer outrageousness. Believe it or not, this blood-drenched parody ran in family newspapers in the fifties, in Eisenhower's America, on Sundays, no less!

In the following brilliantly demented pages, no one is spared Capp's merciless needle. From the venality of the justice system to the crookedness of the media; from the corruption of big business to the fickleness and stupidity of a complacent populace. The diabolical plot, which concerns product tampering, presages the 1982 Tylenol case by some 30 years.

As a cautionary note to readers encountering this story for the first time: you are hereby warned. It's impossible not to get swept up in the maelstrom of fury that's about to be unleashed. "The Poisoned Bean Case" doesn't so much unfold, as simply detonate! For comics fans who like their irony dark, raw and relentless- we proudly present Al Capp at or near the peak of his powers...



  1. As a kid we would always pick up the Sunday ‘Daily News’ after church at the local delicatessan. Dad would never allow us to read the ‘funny papers’ until he did because we would always “make a mess of them with our ‘Silly Putty’ and what not.” His favorites were ‘Dick Tracy’ and ‘L’il Abner’. ‘Fearless Fosdick’ was one of his favorite Al Capp characters because of its’ parody of his most favorite comic, ‘Dick Tracy’.

  2. “Fosdick! We thought you were dead!”
    “I was – but it didn’t prove fatal. Only a mild case.”

  3. My late husband basically grew up in Al Capp’s kitchen in the 50s in Cambridge Mass (next door neighbors), and he used to tell me stories about how cranky Al was in person, how he really did rant and rave – he probably indoctrinated my husband and his friend, who was Al Capp’s son. I don’t know about the friend, but my husband certainly demonstrated and expressed a lot of anti-big government and anti-authoritarian sentiments throughout our almost 43-year marriage. He probably was already going to be an iconoclast, but being exposed at an impressionable age (in his early-to-mid teens) to someone like Al Capp no doubt warped him (in a good way, though, don’t get me wrong!). Anyway, I totally remember loving Fearless Fosdick as a kid. What a treat to relive it!

  4. That was hysterically funny, and the line work is amazing – which is par for Al Capp, admittedly.

  5. Over thirty years ago, I studied cartooning under a cartoonist who was Capp’s assistant for over a decade. In other words, he drew Lil’ Abner when Capp was ‘self-incapacitated’. He told a great many ‘Capp is an ass’ stories, too. Of course, Capp was also a genius, which my mentor emphasized as well.

    Funny how the two seem so often to go hand in hand.

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