Thursday, May 22, 2014

Alley Oop Sundays, Vol. 1

Caveman Alley Oop and Dinnie.

“…I shudder to think that without the efforts of Bill Blackbeard and other collectors we wouldn’t have this book…”

by John Adcock

IN THE YEAR 1958 it was said Vincent T. Hamlin’s comic strip Alley Oop appeared in 881 daily and newspapers in the United States and Canada alone. It’s one of the few comic strips from that period which is still running — you can read today’s cartoon HERE. Hamlin wrote and drew it from December 5, 1932, until 1971. From 1950 his assistant was Dave Graue. Hamlin’s wife Dorothy and children helped with the gags.

BEFORE TIME TRAVEL. This attractive Dark Horse reprint was produced from printed Sundays collected at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum in Columbus, Ohio. The frontal material is short, two pages of Introduction by Russ Cochran and a reproduction of the black and white dailies picturing the first meeting of Alley Oop and Dinnie. These Alley Oop Sundays all take place in the jungle Kingdom of Moo — the time-traveling tales, which gave the strip more scope for storytelling, were in the future.

Alley Oop & Foozy Co. – Traders.

HEADBASHING. When the story begins, the Kingdom of Moo is in the grips of a depression which leads Oop and his speaking-in-rhyme buddy Foozy to no end of schemes aimed at filling their pocketbooks. Cash in Moo takes the form of axes, not surprising since male, female and dinosaur heads are bashed on almost every page of this collection. Even the children of Moo participate in the mayhem.

BULGING KNOBS. Hamlin’s frequent use of the trope involving the bulging knob on the head spurting a constellation of angry stars must have pleased his world-weary depression audience. Hamlin created wonderful characters and dialogue and filled his panels with sound effects. He was a great admirer of Lt. Dick Calkins’ Buck Rogers. His drawings of women — except for Queen Umpateedle — seemed borrowed from Roy Crane’s Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy strips.

The Tribe of Wild Women.

REPRO. The restoration on this volume is not as good as its Dark Horse companion volume Gasoline Alley. Mostly because this time the available material was clipped from original comic supplements from the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library. Quality reproduction varied from State to State depending on the workmanship of a variety of presses and their operators. A few of these strips have unsightly smears running throughout the pages.

DOROTHY. The colorist was not the best either. Hamlin’s wife Dorothy helped with coloring proofs. Some of the colors were too dark, particularly a deeply saturated red ochre used mostly on rocks. It stands out like a sore thumb against the milder colors and often draws the eye away from the main focus points of the drawings.

BACK NUMBERS. Those quibbles aside we are lucky to have the complete Sundays in print. The daily strip, appearing in my small town (pop. 13,000) newspaper, the Trail Daily Times, was one of the first strips to grab my adolescent attention. Sometime in the early 60s I visited the newspaper office and happily spent much of the summer reading Alley Oop in back numbers in huge bound volumes. The first day the editor of the newspaper himself answered all my questions and personally lugged each volume out, one by one, to my eager hands. A tenderfoot when it came to comics, my samples drawn with a ballpoint pen, I wondered how they drew those sharp black lines. That generous man introduced me to Indian ink and told me that I could purchase it at the corner camera shop. He showed me his paper’s press room and printing mattes and warned me I would have to move to New York or Chicago if I wanted to pursue a career as a comic strip artist. The thrill that comes once in a lifetime!

BOUND VOLUMES. I assume those bound volumes of the Daily Times were eventually trashed and their contents transferred poorly to microfilm. I shudder to think that without the efforts of Bill Blackbeard and other collectors we wouldn’t have this book, we would not even have a complete history of the comic strip. This volume, with comics as fresh and funny as the day they were created, should please adventurous readers old and new. Volume Two is already in print.

See a preview HERE.

    Alley Oop; By V.T. Hamlin;  
    The Complete Sundays; Volume One; 1934-1936,
    hardbound, 128 pages. 
Russ Cochran/Dark Horse Book.

1 comment:

  1. My own boomer memory is that time travel never figured in the Sunday strips, which somehow disappointed me. I lost track of the strip except for a brief period in the late 70s, when greatly diminished strip sizes had taken their toll.

    Eventually I got hold of the three Kitchen Sink dailies reprints (and an unofficial Volume 4 from Manuscript Press) and was mightily impressed. Great visual style, unapologetically violent and rough house funny, combined with what looked to be earnest history.

    While I wish them luck on the Sunday collections, I personally crave more dailies.