The SHMOO first appeared in "Li'l
Abner" in August 1948. They were a seeming miracle. The
lovable creature laid eggs, gave milk and died of sheer ecstasy
looked at with hunger. The Shmoo loved to be eaten by humans
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. Even the Shmoo's 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," Mose 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!"
Ironically, the lovable and selfless Shmoos
ultimately brought misery to humankind because people with a
limitless supply of self-sacrificing Shmoos stopped working and
society began to break down. Seen at first as a boon to humankind,
they were ultimately hunted down and exterminated by the U.S.
government to preserve the status quo. (Thought extinct after
the 1948 adventure, one Shmoo always seemed to escape to Dogpatch's
Valley of the Shmoon to form a new colony and the basis for
a later plot revival by creator Al
Capp). There was even a green-colored evil version of the
Shmoo called a Nogoodnik.
Licensed Shmoo merchandise was a huge phenomenon in the late '40s and early
'50s, spawning a wide variety of plush and plastic dolls, toys,
drinking glasses, wallpaper, belts, books, jewelry, balloons,
pendulum clocks, ashtrays, porcelain room deodorizers, canisters,
salt & pepper shakers, dairy products, banks, games, masks,
puzzles, comic books, baby rattles, 45 and 78 rpm records, ear
muffs and more. Shmoos adorned Grape Nuts cereal boxes. There
was even a Shmoo fishing lure! These are all highly collectible
For more details see Shmoo Facts Sheet. See also Postcard No.
87 and Postcard No. 179 for a sense of the merchandise.
The full 1948 Shmoo origin story, a preface on Shmoo merchandise
and science fiction author Harlan Ellison's take on the
phenomenon is in Li'l
Abner Volume 14 (available on this web store in hard and
softcover editions). A new Shmoo book is available from Overlook
Press and a limited edition statue is available from Dark Horse