Alley Oop, the 86-year-old comic strip caveman who spawned a popular song, a TV animated cartoon series, and whose adventures once appeared in 800 newspapers, may be going extinct.
Cartoonists Jack and Carole Bender announced last month that they are retiring from creating the strip, with the last original Alley Oop appearing yesterday. Andrews McMeel Syndication, the distributor, said the strip will go into reruns through the end of the year. After that, no plans have been announced.
Alley Oop was created in 1932 as a syndicated comic by cartoonist V.T. Hamlin. The character’s name was taken from a phrase allegedly used by French gymnasts and means “let’s go.”
Originally, Oop’s world was centered around his prehistoric kingdom of Moo. But in 1939, Hamlin took it in a different direction. A time machine invented by 20th century scientist Dr. Elbert Wonmug transported Oop to modern times. Hardly phased by this abrupt shift, Oop became a regular time traveler, journeying throughout history on his adventures.
Hamlin retired from producing the strip in 1971, and a series of artists continued his work. Jack Bender took over as illustrator in 1991, with his wife, Carole Bender, serving as the writer.
The comic strip still appears in more than 600 newspapers, and in 1995, was one of 20 comics showcased on a commemorative series of US postage stamps.
Oop was also adapted to animation as part of a Saturday cartoon series called Fabulous Funnies in the late 1970s, in rotation with such comics classics as The Captain and the Kids, Broom-Hilda, Moon Mullins, Smokey Stover and Nancy.
But its biggest transformation into other media was its role as the inspiration for the 1960 No. 1 single “Alley Oop,” a hit for the studio band The Hollywood Argyles, whose cast included Kim Fowley, later known as the guru behind The Runaways. The song has since been covered by George Thorogood and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, among others.