What’s Going On In Alley Oop? Did the Apollo astronauts meet an alien on the Moon? June – September 2021


No. Alley Oop and crew observed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin going through a mysterious door in the Sea of Tranquility. It turned out to be the bathroom. The Apollo 11 crew did not find the Moon Alien, Frodd. Alley Oop, Ooola, and Doc Wonmug met him later.

So this should catch you up on Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the start of September 2021. If any news about the strip breaks out, or if you’re reading this after about December 2021, there may be a more useful essay at this link. If there isn’t, well, we live in complicated times.

Alley Oop.

20 June – 4 September 2021.

This story almost exactly fit my publishing cycle. It started a week before my last Alley Oop update, with the gang going back to 1969 to watch the Apollo 11 moon landing. They start with understandable celebrity-creeping behavior. Pretending to be NASA workers. Messing around in training facilities. Then it escalates to following Apollo 11 all the way through the landing.

In front of a Saturn V rocket signed 'Apollo 11B', Doc Wonmug says, 'Guys, I think I found our ticket to the Moon!' Ooola: 'Doc, this sign says 'for display use only. Not for space travel'.' Wonmug: 'I'm sure we can make it work. I am a scientist, after all. I have a brand-new roll of duct tape.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 6th of July, 2021. Sure, you may sneer at using a display prop as a rocket. But almost exactly this idea appears in renowned science fiction author Stephen Baxter’s 1997 novel Titan. In it, the Saturn V Structural Test Article — used in the 60s to develop processes for handling the actual rockets — is refitted and launched into space as part of sending a space shuttle to Saturn’s moon Titan. And do we call Baxter’s Titan bad? Yes. It was appalling in its badness. It was a novel I finished because if I threw it across the bus someone else might have picked it up and read it, and I could not inflict that on an innocent stranger. The comic strip, though? That’s cool.

So Our Heroes watch Apollo 11’s moonwalk. This in a strip that ran the 21st of July, a timing miss I’m sure keeps Lemon and Sayers from getting a decent night’s sleep. After solving the mystery of the door, Our Heroes walk over to the far side of the Moon, where it happens also to be dark. There they discover a bored-looking alien playing at a computer.

Doc Wonmug, to Frodd, who's at a video game console on the Moon; 'So, you've been here on the back of the Moon, controlling all life on earth for billions of years? Why?' Frodd: 'Every kid from my world has to do a planetary simulation to graduate. It's like part of our school.' Ooola: 'And you lucked out and got Earth?' Frodd: 'Ha! No. I pushed my teacher's hafktq into a aabaao and got in big trouble. Earth is my punishment.' Alley Oop: 'Yep. Same thing happened to me one time.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 5th of August, 2021. So, folks who played SimEarth on the Mac back in the 90s. Remember there was an easter egg, a little thing where you typed in ‘JOKE’ and got this weird little Dadaist message? Right. So, anyone remember what it was exactly? I can’t find the joke for the Mac port listed in web sites listing video game easter eggs. There’s emulators to play SimEarth, but it’s the PC version, where the joke is it shows an image of the Earth in a giant frying pan, next to some space bacon and eggs, and labels it ‘Pan-Gaia’. I could swear that on the Mac SimEarth, the easter egg joke was something like “How many Glenn Campbells does it take to screw in a light bulb?” (Hit OK, and get the answer) “Two.” But I can’t find any evidence anyone else has this memory at all. Do I have a weirdly detailed false memory?

Frodd’s playing Earth as a “kind of a video game”, for a school project. Frodd starts to defend his Earth-playing skills, but has to come home for dinner, and takes Our Heroes with them. Frodd’s mother sees the humans and grounds Frodd, for “a Froddulon Millennium”, which is something like a billion earth-years.

So Our Heroes escape, Alley Oop along the way swiping some kind of necklace from somewhere. Turns out the thing makes Our Heroes invisible, which is good for getting them away from alarmed Froddians. They get to Frodd’s spacefaring bubble, which turns out to be able to get them anywhere instantly. They return to the Moon, planning to resume the Earth that Frodd left paused. Turns out Frodd’s there. He passed his school project, with a C-.

Ooola: 'I think we're invisible!' Doc Wonmug: 'I don't know about that. I can see you.' Alley Oop: 'Let me try something.' The invisible Alley Oop approaches a Froddian: 'Excuse me, may I ask you a question?' Froddian; 'Who said that?! Oh, no! The inquisitive ghosts are back! Everyone run for cover!' Alley Oop: 'Hmph. I was just going to ask how this necklace worked.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 19th of August, 2021. While it is jumping for a silly punch line, the Froddian’s declaration that “the inquisitive ghosts are back” works for me. I don’t know why it works and others don’t. Maybe because it suggests other stories, relying on the idea the world has more stuff in it than we could get to see.

They talk Frodd out of shutting down this Earth simulation, and even snag a nice moustache toggle for Alley Oop. With a pretty successful week, then, they head home. It’s too early to say what the next story will be, although Doc Wonmug has gone back to prehistoric Moo with them.

I admit some dissatisfaction with the story. A little bit from not caring for the reality-is-a-video-game premise. It’s something a certain streak of nerd loves without learning enough philosophy to know what issues it’s not addressing. But most of us enjoy pop culture items that raise issues it doesn’t address. Besides, if it address an issue well then it stops being a pop culture thing and becomes culture. I’m also a bit dissatisfied that Alley Oop, Ooola, and Doc Wonmug don’t have much to do. For most of the story, they’re just present. Note how little I had to break down what Alley Oop did, versus what Oola did, versus what Wonmug did.

Doc Wonmug: 'Frodd, please don't shut down Earth. There are so many great things about it.' Alley Oop: 'And many terrible things.' Frodd: 'I don't know, guys. Another Froddian left her Earth running, and she got in big trouble.' Wonmug: 'Wait, there's *another* Earth?' Frodd: 'In *this* galaxy? There are thousands. ... Aw, did you think you were special? That's so cute.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 30th of August, 2021. The notion of thousands of Earths is the sort of thing I mean, raising issues the comic strip isn’t dealing with. But those are essentially the issues raised by the multiverse idea — and the changeable-timeline idea — that’s been part of the Lemon and Sayers run on Alley Oop anyway, so it’s not a new issue.

My bigger dissatisfaction is that, in the strip’s focus on having a punch line and a plot development every day, we get some conflicts. I don’t want to call them continuity errors. For one, there’s very little that can’t be harmonized. But we get things like Frodd starting the 40,000-light-year journey to Froddulon A (the 9th of August) by altering Our Heroes’ source code so they won’t age. Later on, when we get back to the Moon (the 2nd of September) Our Heroes just miss some aliens hoping to find someone to bestow immortality on. There’s no contradiction here. But it feels sloppy to do this joke twice in one story. Frodd first explains he’s simulating Earth to get on the high score table (4th of August). The next day he explains it’s an unwanted school project (5th of August). Frodd gets grounded for a millennium (the 12th of August); he’s on the Moon later that day (the 27th of August).

More like a continuity error is Frodd needing to alter Our Heroes’ source code to not age. But we see (the 21st and 23rd of August) that Frodd’s space bubble can travel instantly. We can rationalize that, yes. (And it would wreck the story’s pace if Our Heroes’ escape took 40,000 years.) Puttering around at NASA Alley Oop discovers an Alien Alley Oop (28th of June). But their little launch causes NASA to think they’ve discovered aliens (14th of July). Again, anyone trying could reconcile this. And if an artist has a better idea for an ongoing project they should use the better one. But this feels to me more like they use every idea, which can’t always work.

Alley Oop, kneeling down at some rocks: 'Ooola, Doc, you have to come see this!' Ooola; 'Alley, if it's another rock that looks like someone famous, I think I'll pass.' Doc Wonmug: 'Yes, we do have rocks on Earth, you know.' Alley Oop, to a trio of mouse astronauts in a tiny lunar module: 'It was really nice meeting you. Congrats on being the first Earth creatures to reach the moon.' The tiny lunar module lifts off, and Wonmug asks, 'What was *that*?' Alley Oop: 'Oh, just a rock that looks like Dolly Parton.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 24th of July, 2021. As with the Inquisitive Ghosts, this throwaway joke works for me. Part of it may be that it’s about expanding the world, albeit in a way that makes human-mouse interactions in the strip somehow worse than they are in reality. But also that it’s a basically nice joke, Alley Oop having a nice time with new friends, which is easier to take than the cynical or mean jokes.

And the drive for a punch line every day has good sides too. For example, on the 24th of July, Alley chats with the mouse astronauts who beat Armstrong and Aldrin to the moon. It’s a scene I liked.

Next Week!

It’s been one week longer in arriving than usual, but I look at Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the final time. Did Spider-Man save Albuquerque from destruction at the hands of an alien war machine using nothing more than Rocket Raccoon and the secret alien war machine’s commander? The only person I knew in Albuquerque moved away years ago, so I have no way of knowing. Sorry!

Author: Joseph Nebus

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

Please Write Something Funnier Than I Thought To

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