Some comic strip characters are immortal because people never seem to forget them.
Fans of Al Capp’s Li’l Abner usually remember Abner and Daisy Mae and Mammy and Pappy Yokum, but how many recall the Shmoo?
The Shmoo first appeared in the strip in August 1948. According to Shmoo legend, the lovable creature laid eggs, gave milk and died of sheer esctasy when looked at with hunger. The Shmoo loved to be eaten and tasted like any food desired. Anything that delighted people delighted a Shmoo. Fry a Shmoo and it came out chicken. Broil it and it came out steak. Shmoo eyes made terrific suspender buttons. The hide of the Shmoo if cut thin made fine leather and if cut thick made the best lumber. Shmoo whiskers made splendid toothpicks.
The Shmoo satisfied all the world’s wants. You could never run out of Shmoon (plural of Shmoo) because they multiplied at such an incredible rate. The Shmoo believed that the only way to happiness was to bring happiness to others.
Li’l Abner discovered Shmoos when he ventured into the forbidden Valley of the Shmoon, against the frantic protestations of Ol’ Man Mose.
“Shmoos,” he warned, “is the greatest menace to hoomanity th’ world has evah known.”
“Thass becuz they is so bad, huh?” asked Li’l Abner.
“No, stupid,” answered Mose, hurling one of life’s profoundest paradoxes at Li’l Abner. “It’s because they’re so good!”
Seen at first as a boon to humankind, they were ultimately hunted down and exterminated to preserve the status quo.
There’s a Chestertonian paradox if ever there was one: The closest thing to a free lunch this side of a federal program and it turns out to be a dire threat.
The website notes that among Capp’s greatest celebrity admirers were avowed communist Charlie Chaplin, John Updike (of indeterminate political persuasion), and leftist economist John Kenneth Galbraith.
[Hat tip to Linda for alerting me to this.]