On April 9, 1939, Alley Oop was transported from the Stone Age into the 20th century.
|Author(s)||V. T. Hamlin (creator)
Jack and Carole Bender
|Current status / schedule||running|
|Launch date||December 5, 1932|
|Syndicate(s)||Newspaper Enterprise Association|
|Publisher(s)||Whitman, Dragon Lady Press, Kitchen Sink Press|
|Genre(s)||Humor, adventure, science fiction|
Alley Oop is a syndicated comic strip created in 1932 by American cartoonist V. T. Hamlin, who wrote and drew the popular and influential strip through four decades for Newspaper Enterprise Association. Hamlin introduced an engaging cast of characters, and his story lines entertained with a combination of adventure, fantasy, and humor.
Alley Oop, the strip's title character, was a sturdy citizen in the prehistoric kingdom of Moo. He rode his pet dinosaur Dinny, carried a stone war hammer, and wore nothing but a fur loincloth. He would rather fight dinosaurs in the jungle than deal with his fellow countrymen in Moo's capital and sole cave-town. Despite these exotic settings, the stories were often satires of American suburban life.
|Alley Oop||Aug 7, 1933||A time-traveling caveman|
|Ooola||Oct 10, 1933||Oop's pretty girlfriend|
|Foozy||Sep 21, 1933||Oop's pal, who talks in rhyme|
|Dinny||Aug 12, 1933||Oop's pet dinosaur|
|King Guzzle||Ruler of Moo|
|Queen Umpateedle||Sep 28, 1933||Queen of Moo|
|The Grand Wizer||Sep 23, 1933||Advisor to the king|
|Dr. Elbert Wonmug||Apr 7, 1939||20th-century scientist and inventor|
|G. Oscar Boom||Rival and partner to Wonmug|
|Ava||Dr. Wonmug's laboratory assistant|
|Jon||Apr 7, 1939||Dr. Wonmug's lab assistant|
|Dee||Apr 15, 1939||Dr. Wonmug's daughter|
The first stories took place in the Stone Age and centered on Alley Oop's dealings with his fellow cavemen in the kingdom of Moo. Oop and his pals had occasional skirmishes with the rival kingdom of Lem, ruled by King Tunk. The names Moo and Lem are references to the fabled lost continents of Mu and Lemuria.
On April 5, 1939, Hamlin introduced a new plot device which greatly expanded his choice of storylines: A time machine, invented by 20th-century scientist Dr. Elbert Wonmug, who bore a rather suspicious resemblance to the Grand Wizer. The name Wonmug was a bilingual pun on Albert Einstein; "ein" is German for "one", and a "stein" is a form of drinking mug. Oscar Boom is derived from the words Nobel Prize, Oscar = Prize and Boom after Alfred Nobel (the inventor of dynamite).
Oop was transported to the 20th century by an early test of the machine (in the Sunday strip of April 9, 1939). He was hardly upset by the incident and apparently did not find modern society to be any different from his own. He then became Dr. Wonmug's man in the field, embarking on expeditions to various periods and places in history, such as Ancient Egypt, the England of Robin Hood, and the American frontier. Oop met such historical or mythical figures as Cleopatra, King Arthur, and Ulysses in his adventures. In addition to the time machine, other science fiction devices were introduced. Oop once drove an experimental electric-powered race car and, in the 1940s, he traveled to the Moon. During his adventures, he was often accompanied by his girlfriend Ooola, and by the sometimes-villainous, sometimes-heroic G. Oscar Boom (G.O. Boom), Dr. Wonmug's rival and occasional partner. Laboratory assistant Ava joined the cast in recent years.
Alley Oop's name derived from the "let's go" phrase allez, hop!, used as a cue by French gymnasts and trapeze artists. Initially, Alley Oop was a daily strip which had a run from December 5, 1932 to April 26, 1933. Beginning August 7, 1933, the strip was distributed by NEA syndicate, and the early material was reworked for a larger readership. The strip added a full page Sunday strip, on September 9, 1934. It also appeared in half-page, tabloid and half tab formats, which were smaller and/or dropped panels. During World War II, the full page vanished, and newspapers were offered a third of a page version that dropped panels, so more strips could fit on a page.
When Hamlin retired in 1971, his assistant Dave Graue took over. Graue had been assisting Hamlin since 1950 and had been creating the daily solo since 1966, although co-signed by Hamlin. The last daily signed by Hamlin appeared December 31, 1972, and his last signed Sunday was April 1, 1973. From his North Carolina studio, Graue wrote and drew the strip through the 1970s and 1980s until Jack Bender took over as illustrator in 1991. Graue continued to write the strip until his August 2001 retirement. Four months later, on December 10, 2001, the 75-year-old Graue was killed in Flat Rock, North Carolina when a dump truck hit his car. The current Alley Oop Sunday and daily strips are drawn by Jack Bender and written by his wife Carole Bender.
At its peak, Alley Oop was carried by 800 newspapers. Today, it appears in more than 600 newspapers. The strip and albums were popular in Mexico (under the name Trucutú) and in Brazil (Brucutu). In 1995, Alley Oop was one of 20 strips showcased in the Comic Strip Classics series of commemorative United States postage stamps.
Licensing and promotion
During the 1970s, Alley Oop was adapted to animation as a segment of Filmation's Saturday morning cartoon series Fabulous Funnies, appearing intermittently alongside other comic strip favorites: The Captain and the Kids, Broom-Hilda, Moon Mullins, Smokey Stover and Nancy.
In 2008, "to celebrate Alley Oop's 75th year," the Benders conducted a contest for "Dinosaur Drawings from Our Young Readers"; the entry Tyrannosaurus Rex holding a banner wishing "Happy Birthday" to Alley Oop, by 12-year-old Erin Holloway of Hammond, Louisiana, was published in the comic strip on 2009 January 17.
In 2002, Dark Horse Comics produced a limited edition figure of the character in a brightly illustrated tin container. Alley Oop was issued as statue #28—part of their line of Classic Comic Characters collectibles.
In popular culture
The long-running success of the strip made the character a pop culture icon referred to in fiction, pop music, dance, and sports:
- Jerom is a caveman in the Belgian comic strip series Suske en Wiske by Willy Vandersteen who was inspired by Alley Oop.
- An educated Neanderthal known as "Alley Oop" is a character in Clifford D. Simak's science fiction novel The Goblin Reservation, published in 1968.
- "O. Paley" (whose name was a loose anagram of "Alley Oop") was the central figure in Philip José Farmer's The Alley Man, a 1959 novella about the last Neanderthal who has survived into the 20th century.
- The character was the subject of the 1960 No. 1 single "Alley Oop", which was the only hit for the short-lived studio band The Hollywood Argyles. It was written and composed in 1957 by Dallas Frazier, and musicians on the record included Kim Fowley and Sandy Nelson. Lead vocalist Norm Davis was paid a one-time flat fee of $25, and he subsequently became a poet and poetry teacher in Rochester, New York. The song was later covered, most famously by The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, but also by both Dante & the Evergreens and George Thorogood & the Destroyers, and it was included in choreographer Twyla Tharp's 1970s ballet Deuce Coupe.
Collections and reprints
Many Alley Oop daily strips and a few Sundays have been reprinted by Dragon Lady Press, Comics Revue, Kitchen Sink Press, Manuscript Press and SPEC Books. In 2014, Dark Horse began publishing a series of large-format hardcover books that will purportedly cover the complete series of Sunday pages. The following titles are all by V. T. Hamlin unless otherwise noted:
- Alley Oop and Dinny A Big Little Book No. 763 (1935) Whitman Publishing
- Alley Oop in The Invasion of Moo (1935) (Cocomalt Premium) Whitman
- Alley Oop and Dinny in the Jungles of Moo A Big Little Book #1473 (1938) Whitman
- Alley Oop and the Missing King of Moo A Penny Book (1938) Whitman
- Alley Oop and the Cave Men of Moo (Pan-Am Premium) (1938) Whitman
- Alley Oop and the Kingdom of Foo (Pan-Am Premium) (1938) Whitman
- Alley Oop: Taming a Dinosaur (Pan-Am Premium) (1938) Whitman
- Alley Oop sheet music (1960) Kavelin-Maverick Music (USA), Leeds Music (Australia, New Zealand)
- Alley Oop Coloring Book (1962) Treasure Books
- Alley Oop Fun Book (1981) Happy House Books
- Alley Oop: The Sawalla Chronicles" (1983) Ken Pierce Inc.
- Alley Oop #1: The Legend Begins (1987) Dragon Lady Press
- Alley Oop #2: Enter the Time Machine (1987) Dragon Lady
- Alley Oop #3: Oop vs. Hercules (1988) Dragon Lady
- Alley Oop Volume 1: The Adventures of a Time-Traveling Caveman (1990) Kitchen Sink
- Alley Oop Volume 2: The Sphinx and Alley Oop (1991) Kitchen Sink
- Alley Oop Volume 3: First Trip to the Moon (1995) Kitchen Sink
- Alley Oop: Book 4 (2003) Manuscript Press
- A.Word.A.Day: alley-oop
- Jennifer Chancellor, "OKC museum chronicles Okie cartoonists", Tulsa World, June 21, 2010.
- Stephanie Schexnayder, "Girl's Art Wins 'Alley Oop' Contest" in Daily Star (Hammond, Louisiana, 2009 January 7; "Girl's Art Featured in 'Alley Oop' Comic Today" in Daily Star (Hammond), 2009 January 17, p. 1 (The strip with the drawing appears on p. 3B of the Daily Star for 2009 January 17).
- VAN HOOYDONCK, Peter, Willy Vandersteen: De Bruegel van het Beeldverhaal, Standaard Uitgeverij, Antwerpen, 1994
- Caveman: V.T. Hamlin & Alley Oop (2005), an award-winning documentary by Max Allan Collins, narrated by Michael Cornelison and featuring interviews with Will Eisner and Dave Graue, was released on DVD by VCI Home Video in 2008.