Long Sam in a typical scene of bucolic innocence. Artist: Bob Lubbers.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: United Feature Syndicate
First Appeared: 1954
Creators: Al Capp (writer) and Bob Lubbers (artist)
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When Al Capp, creator of Li'l Abner, hit on a winning theme, he stuck with it. Abner, one of the greatest successes in comics history, was about an invincibly innocent …

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… country bumpkin, often placed in a non-bumpkin world. The next strip Capp helped launch, Abbie & Slats, was basically a reversal — a street-wise New Yorker transplanted to a small town setting. His final strip, Long Sam, simply switched genders — the title character was a female bucolic innocent.

Capp's early 1950s interest in creating a new strip was likely a maneuver in a contract dispute with United Feature Syndicate, which distributed Abner (as well as venerable comics such as The Captain & the Kids and up-to-date ones like Twin Earths). Whatever the reason, he approached Bob Lubbers, who had been handling the Tarzan strip for United Feature since 1950 and was noted for his ability to depict beautiful women, to draw the new strip, with Capp writing the scripts. Accounts differ as to exactly when United Feature began syndicating Long Sam. The best information indicates it was Monday, May 31, 1954, but other sources say it was Sunday, June 6, or Monday, June 7, of that year.

Sam was similar to an earlier Capp character, Cynthia Hound-Baskerville, aka Strange Gal, who had emerged from the Great Swamp near Abner's Dogpatch to participate in the 1938 Sadie Hawkins Day race. Like Strange Gal, Long Sam was raised in isolation, by a man-hating Maw; and like Strange Gal, Long Sam was irrevocably changed when she did come into contact with civilization.

The first story concerned the outside world's discovery of the remote, uncharted valley where Sam and Maw lived; and consequently, Sam's discovery of the outside world, which Maw had assured her did not exist. Maw's strategy immediately backfired — instead of protecting Sam from the wiles of men, her lack of experience had rendered her exceptionally vulnerable to their charms. Throughout the strip's run, Sam would alternate between visits with Maw in her valley, and excursions outside; and a recurring schtick was that when outside, Sam would usually fall in love with the first man she met.

Al Capp didn't stick with Long Sam very long. The second writer was his brother, Elliot Caplin, whose many other comics writing gigs included Big Ben Bolt, The Heart of Juliet Jones and Little Orphan Annie. By the end of the 1950s, tho, Lubbers was writing it himself. Apparently, tho, writing and drawing one strip wasn't a full-time job for him, as he also took over King Features' Secret Agent X-9 in 1960, using the pseudonym "Bob Lewis".

By that time, tho, Long Sam wasn't long for this world. It ended on Saturday, December 29, 1962. Lubbers's subsequent career included another King Features strip, his own Robin Malone; work at Warren Magazines, Marvel Comics and other comic book publishers; and even another collaboration with Al Capp as writer — from 1970 until the strip's demise in 1977, Lubbers ghosted the artwork, over Capp's signature, of Li'l Abner.


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Text ©2003-05 Donald D. Markstein. Art © United Feature Syndicate