In 1939, Vincent Trout Hamlin had been writing and drawing the successful Alley Oop for more than five years. In Alley Oop Hamlin created a unique concept, marrying his fascination with dinosaurs and prehistoric times to a rollicking style of storytelling and drawing that was simultaneously serious, fantastic, and loaded with slapstick. The series was set in the kingdom of Moo and starred Alley Oop, the club-wielding caveman, his girlfriend Ooola, friends Dinny the dinosaur and Foozy, plus Oop’s rival, King Guz, and Guz’s Queen Umpateedle.
Yet Hamlin knew that the strip’s horizons in Moo were limited. When in early 1939 King Guz steals Dinny’s egg and has Oop and Ooola cornered in the jungles of Moo, what starts out as just another prehistoric adventure is turned upside down. Oop and Ooola see a mysterious box and, to the utter amazement of Guz and his minions, promptly fade from view. That Saturday, April 6th strip ends with a caption: “Dear Reader: you must now say goodbye to Moo…if you are to follow Alley Oop in this strangest of many strange adventures. — V. T. Hamlin”
Guz wasn’t the only one who was amazed. Readers also wondered what happened to their favorite caveman, only to shockingly discover that Oop and Ooola had entered a time machine and were now living in the modern day 20th Century! Their host was the inventor of the time machine, Dr. Elbert Wonmug (a clever reworking of “Albert Einstein”—”one mug” being coloquial English for the German “ein stein”).
Hamlin’s time-tripping device broadened the popular appeal as assuredly as it expanded the cast and the scope. Alley Oop, with every time period in history available as a backdrop, became a bigger hit than ever.
The strips reprinted here begin on March 6, 1939, with Oop’s last Moo adventure before being whisked away to the 20th Century, and continue through March 23, 1940 as Oop and Ooola re-enter the timestream and end up in ancient Greece to share adventures with brave Ulysses, the beautiful Helen of Troy, and the mighty Hercules. V. T. Hamlin would use his extensive autodidactic knowledge to educate readers as well as entertain them, sending his characters everywhere and everywhen—but the classic Alley Oop begins with the stories contained in this volume.
The book is introduced by Michael H. Price, who first met V. T. Hamlin in the 1960s and remained friendly with him for the rest of the cartoonist’s life. Price also composed the musical score for Hip Pocket Theatre’s production of Alley Oop.