The Hardhat’s Bedtime Story Book by Al Capp (Harper & Row, 1972)
The Jack Acid Society Black Book by Walt Kelly (Simon & Schuster, 1962)
Al Capp and Walt Kelly shared many similarities. Born in 1909 and 1913 respectively, both wrote and drew a beloved comic strip which would intersperse simple jokes with social and political commentary. Al Capp produced Li’l Abner, and Walt Kelly created Pogo.
Both began their careers targeting extremists and fools, independent of party. Kelly was a bit more traditionally conservative than Capp during the early years of their careers. By the end of the 1960s, the roles had reversed.
The Jack Acid Society Black Book is a collection of Pogo strips and related songs and poems, centered around a fictional “Jack Acid Society” which was patterned after the John Birch Society. Focused entirely upon political storylines and targeting a group he disliked, it presents an excellent sampler for Kelly’s style and sense of humor while also displaying his skill at political parody. If the affected speech patterns of the swamp denizens aren’t too irritating, the skewering of those Buckley forced from the Republican party is masterfully presented here and well worth the read.
The Hardhat’s Bedtime Story Book by Al Capp, however, has only minimal cartoon art; it is primarily a collection of essays Capp had produced for newspapers. They are well written and funny, but often with an intentionally simplistic construction that creates suspicions that Capp was toning down his wit for mass consumption. The skewering of hard-left ideals of the late 1960s was done by presenting the most extreme views as commonplace and then reducing those who held them to cartoonish simpletons or predators.
It’s an entertaining book when viewed with consideration of the time it was published, but the format calls to mind Twitter insult threads and unidirectional talk radio rantings. For those who can move past it, the book is a fun, if minor, insight into mainstream views of the 1960s and early 1970s.