‘Me-tooism’ in comic strips may have reached its modern nadir in Jess ‘Baldy’ Benton’s Jasper Jooks. Introduced by the New York Post Syndicate on April 19 1948, the strip was an utterly slavish copy of Al Capp’s Li’l Abner. Practically the only nod to originality is that the residents of Appleknock Territory wear Revolutionary War attire rather than the hillbilly rags fashionable in Dogpatch.
It’s a shame, too, because copying Al Capp is no small feat. Baldy Benton had both the art and writing style nailed down, an indication that he surely could have done justice to a more original concept. My hope is that Benton didn’t create Jasper Jooks of his own volition, but was directed to copy Li’l Abner by the Post Syndicate. Perhaps the syndicate had the idea that because Capp’s phenomenally successful strip was only available in one paper per territory that a knock-off could find a home at all those other papers that missed out on the strip.
If that was the thinking then the syndicate was wrong. Jasper Jooks didn’t make it into a lot of papers and seems to have expired just shy of a one-year contract, on March 26 1949.