What’s Going On In Alley Oop? Is Jules Rivera destroying Mark Trail yet? July – October 2020

OK, so it’s not Mark Trail’s week. But yes, Jules Rivera took over the daily strips on Monday. Her Sunday strips start next month. This is why Mark Trail looks different. Any news about the Mark Trail that I get, I’ll post in an essay gathered here. Yes, I too am worried by Tuesday’s revelation that the new Mark Trail may be a tiny little bit self-aware, but, hey. We adapted to Mark Trail sometimes internalizing thoughts for James Allen, after all. Mark Trail can notice how much Mark Trail has blown up boats and cars and islands the last few years.

But this essay is, in the main, about Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop. This should catch you up to mid-October. If you’re reading this after about January 2021, if there is a January 2021, you’ll likely find a more up-to-date plot recap at this link. Also any news about Alley Oop, if there is news.

And, last, on my mathematics blog I’m still working through the alphabet, explaining terms. This week we get to ‘R’. No, it’s not a joke about the beloved statistics computing and graphing programming language! Ho ho! Had you going there, though, I bet.

Alley Oop.

20 July – 10 October 2020.

Everyone was hanging around in Moo, last we left off. Ooola was rehearsing a play. She impressed Gromp, the director. Gromp pitches another job for her: using the play as cover to enter neighboring land Lem and steal King Tunk’s giant opal. She hates the plan. Gromp sends his dinosaur, Steve, to make her see reason. She beats Steve in a fair fight, though, and hauls Gromp off to be in a desert island cartoon.

Gromp, tied up, on a palm-tree-deserted-island: 'What are you doing? Are you just going to leave me here?' Ooola: 'Yep.' Gromp: 'But I can't swim!' Ooola: 'I hope you like coconuts.' Gromp: 'I do! Especially shredded over a nice chocolate dessert. And the milk is divine! [ Noticing Ooola swimming away. ] Oh, very funny. Hey, how am I going to open them?!'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 1st of August, 2020. It looks harsh, but if there’s one thing we know about being in a desert island cartoon it’s that someone else is coming along any minute now.

That, the 1st of August, wraps up that little story. From the 3rd we get a string of events leading into the current story. It starts with a joyride: Alley Oop wants to go to an amusement park. So they return to the present, and Doc Wonmug looks for the greatest amusement park, past, present, or future. But who can tell him what that is? rec.roller-coaster just fights about Kennywood versus Knoebels versus Efteling versus Holiday World. (Did you consider Waldameer? Especially if you have a family? Very under-rated park, especially if you aren’t all about high-intensity everything.) So he goes to The Clawed Oracle.

Ooola: 'You know, I'm kind of looking forward to the amusement park.' Wonmug: 'What's in the fanny pack?' Alley Oop, showing off his fanny pack: 'Zinc for my nose, quarters for skeeball, antacids in case I overeat, a compass so we don't get lost. I'm so excited!' Wonmug: 'You know, they might not have corn dogs in the future.' Oop: 'What? I changed my mind! I want to go somewhere else!' (As they ZANNNNG! into the future.)
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 13th of August, 2020. A fanny pack. Really. I would not have guessed Alley Oop was also in the American Coaster Enthusiasts group.

The Clawed Oracle, off in a never-before-mentioned room of Wonmug’s Time Laboratory, is a cat. She pronounces that the greatest amusement park ever is in Saint Louis in the year 3277. They zip off to Future Saint Louis. The place stinks, apart from the giant pine tree air freshener hanging from the Arch. What looks like an abandoned warehouse is labelled Amusement Park #41. Inside is an array of virtual-reality goo-filled tubes. Despite the ominous everything, they go in.

Attendant, to Our Heroes in their goo-filled VR tubes: 'Once I press this button your body will stay here while your consciousness controls an avatar in the park. When you're ready to leave, just say the password 'finicky veranda garbanzo' and your session will end.' Wonmug: 'How long do most people stay in?' Attendant: 'Ten years is average.' Ooola: 'Wait, WHAT?' Oop: 'That doesn't seem great.' Attendant: 'Enjoy!'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 21st of August, 2020. A throwaway line established that the admission price was about ten thousand dollars (in 2020 money), which sounds like a lot, but if you can live for ten years on that? That’s a pretty sweet deal. Well, except the upcharges get you: Wonmug wasted another fifty thousand (2020) dollars in avatar-change shenanigans. I have to suppose that, like, park fries or the reverse bungee rides are similarly scaled.

It’s a good time, though, until the fortune teller learns they’re from the 21st century. On that she leads them to a secret reality within the virtual reality. And to Phil, leader of the Underground Stronghold Alliance. He tells of the Great Culture Famine, a mysterious event that destroyed culture. All that’s left since 2081 are these virtual-reality amusement parks. But what can three time travellers do? They leave the park and journey to Phil’s coordinates in 2081. And there they meet … The Clawed Oracle.

It turns out The Clawed Oracle is an eternal ethereal being who manifests on earth as a cat, so that’s a nice gig. She reveals who’s responsible for the Great Culture Famine. It’s Dr Wonmug, yeah. Indirectly. It’s really the clone of Albert Einstein that Wonmug made and then abandoned on a farm. She sends them off to deal with Einstein Two. (Why not Zweistein?)

Einstein Two: 'I'd like to show you something. It's the culmination of the horrible hand that life dealt me. It's taken me nearly fifty years to build. I kept it secret from my parents until the day they died. [ Revealing a machine ] Ta-da! Behind the grand culture eraser! It will destroy all forms of art and culture, past, present and future.' Wonmug: 'This is LITERALLY what I was talking about before, when I asked about the Great Culture Famine.' Einstein Two: 'I guess they COULD be related, but I just don't see it.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 3rd of October, 2020. In the follow-up we learn Einstein Two’s gone on to become a local politician, successfully defunding the library and the school’s dance program because everybody has smart phones now.

Einstein Two’s gripe: his parents insisted he put all his scientific energies into the farm, and the zany cow bra business. So he invented a Grand Culture Eraser, to destroy all forms of art, past, present, and future. He has justification for this: he’s grown up to be a STEM jerkface so doesn’t see why gadgetry is not a life. Einstein Two proclaims this a gift to every child whose love of science was crushed by small-mindedness. Then Alley Oop punches his machine to rubble. Ooola smashes his backup, too. Dr Wonmug tears up the machine’s plans. Alley Oop digs up and rips up the backup plans. So that’s some success.

And that takes us to the start of the week. Also into a new timeline. Saint Louis of 3277 “now” has a giant chandelier hanging from the Arch. And Amusement Park #41 is the aquatic stadium any amusement park used for dolphin shows back in the 1970s when we were making that mistake. This looks like the resolution of a storyline. But it could also be the transition to a new story. Too soon to tell.

Next Week!

So how did the reunion between Kadia and her mother Imara Sahara go? Pretty good, right? It’s, like, literally impossible it could have gone bad. We’ll check in on Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom (Weekdays) next week, all going well. Thank you.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

10 thoughts on “What’s Going On In Alley Oop? Is Jules Rivera destroying Mark Trail yet? July – October 2020”

  1. Puh-LEEZE tell me you don’t seriously LIKE Joey Alison Sayers’ garbage! Do yourself a favor — go to GoComics, click on the Alley Oop page and read some of V. T. Hamlin’s classic strips (there is a calendar below the current piece of excrement that passes for Joey’s strip).


    1. I’m aware of Hamlin’s (undeniable) classic run on the comic. I’ve got a couple collections of 1940s-vintage strips, and borrowed one featuring the Original Time Travel story, and first several stories after that, from the library. This before I discovered the sporadic but welcome deep archive on GoComics. And I do recommend people read them, if their eyes or their screen widths are good enough to make out the older texts; they can be a bit cramped.

      That said: I do like the Sayers and Lemon strips, for the most part. There are things I don’t care for; I think the compulsion to put a punch line in the last panel constrains the writing, and there’s a tendency toward 90s-web-comic-wackiness that I feel weakens the overall stories. But in the main, these are amiable, low-key stories about a time-traveling caveman who’s able to fix a lot of problems by punching them. Plus, sometimes there’s dinosaurs. This is a thing I like.

      Would I like it to be better? Of course; I imagine even Sayers and Lemon feel they should be doing better. (If little else because every artist feels this was better in their heads, before it was put in tangible form.) Most particularly, I would like the serialized adventure story component to be stronger, and told with less ironic detachment. But it does seem the general public isn’t interested in a comic strip that does serialized adventure told straight. If some more jokes and some comments on the artifice of the mold keep the main project going, though? I’m good with that. There are aspects, particularly of Dr Wonmug’s character, that I don’t like, but I’m not the writer, editor, or any more than one member of the audience. I can’t expect them to cater to me.

      I am quite happy with the Little Oop strips on Sundays, though, and am curious how you feel about that separate alternate-universe setting.


      1. As polite as you were to me, so shall I be to you.

        You asked for my opinion of Little Oop. In my opinion, this is even worse than the daily strip, if that’s even possible. It appears that Sayers has taken Little Oop permanently out of Moo, which appears ridiculous on the surface, unless she establishes that Oop returns there once he’s grown-up. Otherwise, this creates a continuity problem. As for the daily strip, it appears that Doc, Alley and Ooola (and maybe Ava — why did Sayers turn her into a person of color? And please don’t try to explain it as “celebrating diversity”. That’s like saying, “Well, Ava’s been white all these years? Okay, poof! now she’s black.” That is just wrong on so many levels) will be the only regulars, with all others permanently gone, which is a shame. It might have been interesting to see what Joey would do with King Guz, Umpa, Foozy and the Wizer, not to mention Dinny. But apparently, Joey doesn’t give a rip about Moo anymore.

        It’s interesting what you said about the “humor” in Joey’s strip. But I’d like to point out that even in its prime years under Hamlin and then Graue, the strip did have its lighter moments. But they weren’t “forced” as they are under Joey’s watch.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, and one more thing — I’ve read that although Jonathan Lemon has read a number of the classic Alley Oop strips, Joey has not read one single strip at all. Perhaps if she researched the strip extensively before writing her first “story,” her plotlines (which I hear she does not research, either) might not be so putrid.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It is hard to read the review by someone who can’t even get the name of one of the main characters of the strip right. Ooola is called Oona not once, not twice, but nine times throughout your blog. Joey certainly has quickly earned rank as one of the worst adventure strip writers of all time. Carole Bender was embarrassingly bad but Joey is a couple of levels below that. And if you try to approach the new Oop from a humor level, it fails miserably there, too, as there are dozens and dozens of strips that are far funnier than this. Moronic characters have been done to death in more capable hands but to turn the heroic Alley Oop and the scientific Doc Wonmug into a couple of blathering idiots just isn’t cutting it.


    1. Well, I am embarrassed about getting Ooola’s name wrong. I confess this is a weird problem I have. Some part of me really wants her name to be Oona (or Ooona), and I can’t justify it. I think it started with a gut instinct that ‘Ooola’ is too similar a sound to ‘Alley’ to be likely, that I usually catch in editing. But, then, the next recap I go in remembering that I had her name wrong last time, and feel as much doubt writing down Ooola as I should when writing Oona. I will try to do better, but you should see the name errors I make with Mary Worth characters.

      As for ranking Joey Alison Sayers as a writer of adventure strips … well, whether one likes her stories or not is incorrigible. I won’t try to say there’s nothing but opinion in ranking adventure-strip writing, if nothing else because it would be absurd to deny that the last years of Mandrake the Magician, or Dick Locher’s run writing Dick Tracy, were particularly dire. I think that Sayers’s stories have mostly come from reasonable starting points, and to have developed and resolved with reasonable internal logic. That’s not to deny the existence of plot holes or unresolved bits of business; just to say that there haven’t been ones prominent enough to break the story for me. And I agree how prominent a story problem is, and whether it will break the story, is something each reader decides for themselves, possibly with the advice and opinions of other people.

      Whether one likes the humor is even more the reader’s choice. I do feel Sayers’s humor style here has been a bit more 90s-webcomic-snide than I quite like. But the mutual-insult-party comic style has a long heritage in American humor, and I can’t say it’s out of place. I think that I would like the strip more if there were a bit more sincerity in the characters’ interactions. But I might be wrong about that, and in any case Sayers isn’t under any obligation to meet my desires, or even to care what they are.


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