Sunday, May 27, 2007

Newspaper Reprints: Alley Oop

The third issue in the series features V.T. Hamlin's caveman Alley Oop. This issue was Oop's one and only appearance in the series. Alley is the chap with a grip on Eeny, the villain of the issue. Alley's girl friend Oola stands behind him. looking over the situation is his pet dinosaur Dinny and his pal Foozy.

Oop didn't star again in a Dell comic until 1962 when he appeared in two issues of Alley Oop with stories produced specifically for the books. He did get his own series at Ned Pines Standard Publications. Beginning in 1947, nine issues of Alley Oop, numbered 10 through 18, were published under the Standard banner. I haven't seen any issues, so it's only speculation, but based on other titles I've seen from Standard that featured newspaper strips, they were reprints of syndicate material. Oop also appeared in 3 issues of reprints published by Argo Publications in 1955-56.

The creation of Vincent T. Hamlin, Alley Oop first appeared as a daily comic on Aug 7, 1933. A Sunday page was started on Sept 9, 1934.

Hamlin was born in 1900 in Perry, Iowa. When the U.S. joined the Allies in World War I, he enlisted in the Army. At the age of 17 he was sent overseas to France. There he amused his comrades with his sketches. He met a wounded newspaperman at a Hospital who suggested Hamlin start a comic strip.

Hamlin returned to Perry in 1918 after the Armistice and resumed High School, then studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He found work as a reporter for the Des Moines Register and Tribune and the Des Moines News.

Hamlin moved on to Texas where he went to work at the Fort Worth Record as an arist and photographer. It was in Texas that he developed an interest in fossils and rock formations in the oil fields. Hamlin left the paper and began a career as an artist producing maps, posters and other items for the various oil companies. Hamlin's interest in geology sparked another interest in paleontology.

Moving to Houston he returned to the news business as a photographer. It was at this point he began experimenting with comic strips. His first concept was a girl strip. He abandoned that and following his wife's advice began a strip with a modern family in cavemen times. After a year of working on the idea he scrapped it and began another cave-man style strip. That effort lasted six months before he dropped it when he got the idea for Alley Oop.

NEA picked up the strip which continues to appear in newspapers. Hamlin retired in 1973 and his longtime assistant Dave Graue took over the strip. Jack Bender took over from Graue upon his retirement in 1991.

Issue Two's story (originally published in 1937-38) opens on the inside front cover. Oop is bored and spots Foozy and suggests they go see how Oola is doing in her new job as Grand Wizer. Foozy, who speaks in rhyme, doesn't want to as he feels it's gone to her head. They decide to head out into the jungle instead. They spot King Guzzle on a ledge as a storm blows in and strands Guz on the ledge.

Guz catches the attention of a wandering dino and escapes by rolling down the dino's back, which the dino likes and promptly snatches Guz and places him back on the ledge to repeat the manouver. Guz takes it on the lam and Oop's laughter gets the dino to chase him back to Moo (where they live) and hides in a cave. Queen Umpa, who has dethroned her husband as ruler of Moo, smacks the dino on the tail and finds herself carried off into the jungle by the dino.

Oola tells Oop they must save her and off they go on Dinny. Umpa is freed by Eeny who is from Jerooly. Eeny knows the dino is tame and only wants it's back scratched. She is telling Umpa how in Jerooly they have domesticated dinos when Oop and Oola arrive.

Eeny through force of personality soon has Foozy making stone wheels to build a cart for the dino to pull. Oop has developed a large dislike for Eeny but Umpa is protecting her. Eeny continues to step in and usurp more of Umpa's power for herself. Oola objects but Umpa refuses to see it. Oola resigns as Grand Wizer in protest and Eeny appoints herself as replacement. Eeny secretly begins to build her own secret organization of followers (called Hairshirts) among the women of Moo.

Eeny uses her influence and pulls a coup appointing herself as dictator. If you haven't noticed by now the parallel to Hitler and the Nazi's you're not paying attention. Oop takes a job as the Assistant Dictator, which he thinks he can use to reign in Eeny. She thinks she has Oop just where she wants him and all Alley's friend turn their back on him.

Eeny eventually doublecrosses Alley by having the Hairshirts, cause a rockslide that traps him inside his cave. Oola has escaped from the tribe and is at large in the jungle while Foozy is held prisoner in the pit. Eeny lies to Umpa about Oop not being in the cave when the collapse happened only to hear him cry out for help. They begin to battle and Oop frees himself only to have the women unite and drive him away. He rescues Foozy and they escape from the Hairshirts.

Alley and Foozy meet up with some of their old foes and they form an alliance as Oola, Guz and the rest of the Mooians that fled from Eeny's depotism join them. A great flood sweeps Eeny away and Umpa and the remaining women are rescued.

King Guz having returned to power decides they should head for Sawalla and make a new home. Oop, Foozy, Wur, Dootsy BoBo and the former Wizer decide to stay behind and form their own country. They survey and stake out their new home which Oop christens Mootoo. Eeny wanders into the camp and is prepared to stay until Oop walks in and she runs off. As an act of revenge she begins to set up signs and direction markers inviting people to settle in Mootoo. She places them where Guz will spot them and bring the rest of the group along. Meanwhile dissention is begining in camp. Foozy and Alley break away from the others and capture a small dino for entertainment. They set up houskeeping in a high cave on a cliff to escape the dino's mother. Suddenly Guz has arrived with the rest of Moo and they begin to layout their new home.

Oola and Dinny have been out in jungle and she meets up in turn with Dootsy Bobo, Wur and the Grand Wizer who rescues her from the others. They meet up with Oop and all return to Mootoo as the issue comes to an end.

Like the first two issues, this one is 68 pages with no ads. As for readablity, it's top notch. Little Joe wasn't bad, I just need a break when reading Harold Gray so I put it down a couple of times. Harold Teen was just tough, especially issue 2. The old slang and old dialect wore me out. I put it down several times. Issue 209 was better but I still had to take a break. Alley Oop in contrast I read and enjoyed straight through. Hamlin not only could tell a story well but had a pleasant art style to complement it. This one is a four star book.

Reference: Comics and Their Creators, Martin Sheridan, Hale,Cushman and Flint 1942; 100 Years of American Newspaper Comics, Maurice Horn ed., Random House 1996; Grand Comics Database

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