Gadzooks! Today's a New Beginning for 'Alley Oop'by Stephen Roth
After a four-month hiatus, Alley Oop awakens this morning to find his friend, King Guzzle, battling an angry dinosaur.
It's a jolting departure from Jack and Carole Bender's blissful Sept. 1 farewell strip, which had Oop and his longtime flame, Ooola, admiring a lovely landscape of dormant volcanoes and gentle-giant herbivores.
Clearly, big changes are afoot for the iconic, time-traveling caveman, who once inspired a 1960 No. 1 hit by the Hollywood Argyles, and whose strip turns 87 this year. As of Jan. 7, writer Joey Alison Sayers and artist Jonathan Lemon take over creative duties for Alley Oop, which will continue as a daily strip on GoComics, along with a related, brand-new Sunday strip, Little Oop.
Sayers and Lemon are comics veterans with their own, longstanding features, Joey Alison Sayers Comics, and Lemon's Rabbits Against Magic. Similar to the successful reboot of Nancy last year with Olivia Jaimes, Ally Oop will have a fresh look and updated adventures in store for fans. There may even be an upcoming trip to the 1980s and a visit with Ronald Reagan (how can you time-travel to the 80s and not meet the former star of Bedtime for Bonzo?).
“I’m really excited to have two such talented creators on the team,” said Andrews McMeel Syndication President John Glynn. “The great thing about time-travel strips is that they are full of surprises, and Joey and Lemon are just the duo to take us to new worlds … and old worlds. LOL.”
GoComics recently visited with both Sayers and Lemon, who hadn't met each other until they started working together on Alley Oop late last year. So far, the partnership appears to be going well, with both West Coast creators describing each other as "nice." Here's what they had to say about how they became acquainted with Alley Oop, and what we might expect from the revived strip in the coming months:
GoComics: Explain how you two became involved with Alley Oop.
Sayers: Dr. Wonmug appeared, clutching a magical amulet, begging for my help … no, I’ve been writing and drawing comics for many years, and have been publishing on GoComics for a little while now. John Glynn reached out to let me know that they were looking for a writer, so I put together a pitch, and the rest is history.
Lemon: I was contacted on Valentine’s Day by a representative at the syndicate. Rather than the two dozen roses I was expecting, I was offered the reins of a legacy comic strip. It wasn’t a very romantic gesture, but I was still deeply honored and utterly flabbergasted. I was sworn to secrecy until quite recently, which nearly drove me crazy (although some people might say that already happened a long time ago).
GoComics: How familiar with the strip were you before coming on board as a creator?
Sayers: I had a passing familiarity, having read it as a kid, but I’ve had to re-familiarize myself with the cast and the basics. Fortunately, we’re hoping to take the strip in some new directions, so I’m trying not to focus too much on the past, and am hoping to just bring my fresh eyes and brain to the Oop universe.
Lemon: Since I like to think of myself as an amateur comics historian, I was aware of its existence, but I wasn’t a daily reader of its modern incarnation. I’ve since had a lot of time to catch up. In fact, I’ve read every strip since 1933.
GoComics; What's your earliest memory of Alley Oop?
Sayers: As a fetus, my mother would read me each day’s strip, using different voices for each character.
Lemon: I grew up very poor in England, where my parents couldn’t afford comic strips, but thanks to the local public library I was able to devour vast tomes on the history of the medium. At some point, I must have come across the time-traveling caveman, along with the swamp-dwelling marsupial and the cat/mouse/dog love triangle. I’m also a huge fan of old comic strips, and often do parodies or homages to them in Rabbits Against Magic.
GoComics: How did the decision come about to have a special Sunday strip, Little Oop? How do you think that will differ – in tone and spirit – from the daily strip?
Sayers: It was something that we kicked around from the beginning. I believe it was John’s idea. I suggested that we do a new strip every single day, with new characters, art, and settings, but that got complicated very quickly.
Little Oop is going to be very different from Alley Oop, thematically and tonally. Lemon is doing it in a totally separate art style, and the jokes are built and paced differently. Little Oop is in middle school and is dealing with typical pre-teen stuff like crushes, homework, and not getting eaten by dinosaurs. There likely won’t be any time travel, unless you count the slow and unceasing march of time that bears down on each and every one of us, bringing us closer to our life’s end with every passing second.
Lemon: Visually, (Little Oop) is a completely different strip but with a doff of the hat in the direction of the daily strip. Do people still doff hats? If not, think of it more like a friendly wave across the carpark.
GoComics: Did the two of you know each other prior to starting your work on Alley Oop?
Sayers: I think it’s incredibly lucky that we click so well. Aside from being a super-talented artist, he’s really nice and funny. When I met him, I was worried — “what if this guy’s a jerk?” But he’s not! In fact, he’s so nice that if I asked him for $20, he’d probably give it to me. Right, Lemon? Can I have $20?
Lemon: We had never met, but I was a big fan of her work in The Nib and on GoComics. She’s amazing and talented and super funny. Now that we’ve met in person, I can say she is unequivocally the nicest person on the planet, although I heard a rumor that she once yelled at a man for littering and made him cry.
GoComics: Lemon, we loved the Dec. 27 Rabbits Against Magic strip, in which you made reference to your new assignment? Can we expect future mashups between Alley, Eightball and Weenus?
Lemon: Yes, for those who have been paying attention that was Oop's third appearance in Rabbits Against Magic. It’s a pretty topical strip, and you’ll often see characters from other strips, politicians, celebrities, and icons from popular culture. Apparently, this is all completely legal. I found this out when I drew myself in the strip once and then sued myself for copyright infringement and lost.
GoComics: What kinds of adventures can we expect from Alley and his friends in the coming months?
Sayers: Well, we’ll be starting with a little re-orientation in the Stone Age to set the scene for the new strip. Then Dr. Wonmug will visit Oop and Ooola, and they’ll all head of for their first adventure. They’ll be heading to the 1980s for a while, solving mysteries and meeting President Reagan. I don’t want to spoil anything, but at one point they get on a bus!
GoComics: We have long admired the quirky humor and variety of themes in JAS Comics. Will we see Alley Oop take on some of those sensibilities and points of view?
Sayers: I think it’s safe to say that quirkiness and a sense of humor are the two things I guarantee will be staples of the strip going forward. It’s still an adventure strip with an ongoing storyline, but each strip will stand alone with a joke and a punchline and approximately three tablespoons of quirk.
GoComics: In these politicized times, do you anticipate more political and social themes working their way into Alley Oop?
Sayers: I don’t want the strip to be political, per se, but let me just say that if the cast ever heads back to ancient Greece, you’d better believe I’m not going to hold back on my thoughts on Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix.
GoComics: Finally, if either of you were a time-traveling character from prehistoric times, what period in history would you select, or would you opt for the future, and why?
Sayers: I would 100% go to the future. Everything just gets better and better as time progresses. The past is just full of disease and bad music and people stabbing each other with spears all the time. In the future, they’ll probably have moving sidewalks, and I finally won’t have to walk anymore.
Lemon: Well, that’s a trick question, isn’t it? Cavemen would only go forward in time unless they were interested in magma and the Cambrian explosion. Would I be able to use it to give me more time before deadlines?