Luke, Snuffy, & Abner
Hillbilly Cartoon Images in Depression-Era America
This chapter explores the consequences of the 1934 emergence of three cartoons that would shape the graphic image of the hillbilly for decades to come: Paul Webb's Mountain Boys cartoon in Esquire magazine, Billy DeBeck's character “Snuffy Smith” in his Barney Google comic strip, and Al Capp's Li'l Abner. This explosion of hillbilly imagery reflected not only Depression-era public fear of economic collapse and social disintegration, but also the sudden fascination with mountain ways of life. Each of these works crystallized long-developing conceptions of mountaineer backwardness and social degeneracy; but they also presented a more sanguine vision of the durability of the American people and spirit and celebrated traditional values and culture. They thus mirrored the complicated mix of emotions and attitudes of Depression-era audiences in urban centers, as well as in the Southern mountain regions where the word-image was both repudiated and embraced.
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