Nov 16, 2012

Alley Oop: The Time-Traveling Cave Man

When I was a kid in the 1960s and 1970s, the comics page of the Rock Island Argus was dismal -- no Peanuts, no Dennis the Menace, no Wizard of Id -- just bargain-basement knockoffs (like Winthrop) and relics from the Depression era that made no sense (like Out Our Way). The Golden Age of Newspaper Comics  (Little Nemo, Krazy Kat,  Buck Rogers) was thirty years past, and the Second Golden Age (Foxtrot, Pearls before Swine, Get Fuzzy) still thirty years in the future.

But at least there was some beefcake in Prince Valiant. And  I was intrigued by a cave man, square-headed, superbly muscled, with massive biceps and flat 8-pack abs, being held captive in a Middle Eastern palace.







What was a cave man doing in the Islamic Middle Ages?  Or in ancient Egypt, or among the Aztecs, or in the Wild West?


Eventually I discovered that the cave man was named Alley Oop, created in 1932 by V. T. Hamlin for a wacky-adventure strip set in a dinosaur-human prehistory (as in The Flintstones). But in 1939 he was zapped into the future by the grizzled Doctor Wonmug (a play on Einstein) and the young, black-haired G. Oscar Boom.  Unfazed by culture shock, Oop became a time-traveling research assistant for the duo, checking out whatever historical period the cartoonist found interesting.


Back in the prehistoric kingdom of Moo, Oop had a girlfriend, Oola; but during his time traveling adventures, he bonded mostly with men.  Often they were also semi-nude, with loving attention paid to their pecs and abs.









Oscar accompanied Oop on many of his adventures, sometimes an antagonist, sometimes a buddy.








At its heyday, the strip was a phenomenon, producing games, toys, Big-Little Books, comic books, and even a song, "Alley Oop," which charted at #15 in 1960. It still appears in 600 newspapers.  Modern continuities tend to bring Oola along as Oop's co-adventurer, but that doesn't eliminate the buddy-bonding.