What’s Going On In Alley Oop? May 2017 – July 2017


Thanks for trying to work out what’s going on in Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop. I’m writing this in mid-July 2017. If it’s a lot later than July 2017, the story might have moved on, although I admit right now that’s not looking very likely. There might have been enough story development that this stuff isn’t useful anymore. If I’ve written a fresh follow-up since this essay, it should be at or near the top of this page. Let me know if you don’t see something and if the story has got so baffling you need an update.

And before I continue may I point out that on my other blog, I talk about whatever comic strips the past week touched on some mathematics subject. These are almost never story strips, but that’s all right. There’s interesting stuff brought up by them. Also, this week it features bunnies wearing eyeglasses, although not as well as they could.

Alley Oop

1 May – 22 July 2017

The current storyline in Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop started sometime in October of last year. The end of April and my last update of the strip coincided with what looked like the end of the story. Volzon, an alien plant-frog-guy with a mind-control ray gun, had been foiled in his attempts to colonize prehistoric Earth. It turns out dinosaurs, like Dinny the brontosaurus, aren’t subject to alien mind-control rays and don’t see any reason they couldn’t eat invading alien spaceships. Good stuff to know.

Alley Oop, knowing a loose end when he sees it, tosses the remains of Volzon’s mind-control gun out of Moo, and rejoins the quest for food and whatnot. King Guz, reasonably annoyed at yet another attempt to overthrow Moo, starts talking crazy about building a dome that will keep invading aliens out. Alley Oop reminds him that just because someone has an idea doesn’t mean that idea isn’t incredibly stupid. And he soothes the mind-control-wary Moovians. Even if Volzon or another Jantrullian return, it’s not like dinosaurs are going to vanish from the face of the Earth.

Tunk, examining the mind ray: 'There are some strings inside this thing.' Lemmian: 'Whatcha got, King Tunk?' Tunk: 'I'm not sure yet, but once I join these strings back together, I'll be able to tell what this thing is!' He gets zapped. Queen Loola: 'Am I imagining things, or is that my husband I see? It's about time you came home, Tunk!' Tunk: 'Quiet, dear, I'm concentrating!' Loola: 'You're concentrating? On what?' Tunk: 'I found a very delicate piece of equipment that needs to be repaired!' Loola: 'Hmmm... What is it?' Tunk: '(Sigh) I don't know yet!'
Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop for the 21st of May, 2017. A couple notes about the art. First, I like the composition of the first panel, bottom row, close-up on the mind-control ray gun and with the characters receding behind it. It’s the sort of composition I’d use for a dramatic picture. Second: I really like Queen Loola’s ‘Hmmmm’ drifting into smaller and smaller characters. These days the use of computer-typeset letters seems common, and I understand why. But that does seem to discourage cartoonists using varied sizes to emphasize tone and pacing of dialogue and that is a loss. I’m glad to see size used.

This fine example of dramatic irony gets a little bit weirder when you remember the premise of the comic strip. Alley Oop is a time traveller. He’s been, repeatedly, to the present day and knows that dinosaurs do vanish. On the other hand, he also knows the Jantrullians don’t manage to conquer the Earth, not before about 2016 anyway. (I don’t know if he’s ever been to our future.) I’m not sure how wry this is all supposed to be.

Meanwhile in the loose end, it turns out Alley Oop threw the remains of Volzon’s mind-control gun all the way into Lem, where King Tunk found it. As he only just got in the story he doesn’t know what it is or what it should do, but he can tell these are a bunch of sparky wires that got ripped apart. He figures he could twist the wires back together, cover them with tar, and wrap the whole remains of the gun in a palm leaf and maybe then it’ll work again. I admire his ingenuity and his success. I mean, I’ve needed the help of the car care place down the street just to take off my license plate holder. Twice. He’s fixing up an alien mind-control gun using sticks and leaves.

King Tunk, thinking how to repair the ray gun: 'Let's see - I need something sticky t'glue these things together! Hmm ... I've got it! Th'tar pit!' (He runs to the tar pit) 'This should do it! There's nothing stickier than this tar!' (He glues the ray gun together, and wraps it in a leaf.) 'Maybe once those strings are coated with this goo, they won't shock me anymore! I guess I'll just hafta settle for making a skin for this thing to cover up that hole! The tar should keep it secured. Not bad! Now it's time to figure out what this thing can do!'
Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop for the 4th of June, 2017. Seriously, folks, give it up to King Tunk and his hacking skills. This is a great bit of problem-solving and thinking outside of the box by someone who lives tens of thousands of years before boxes were invented. Think what this guy could do at your town’s Maker Faire.

At least he’s trying to. He tromps into Moo with the repaired gadget, accusing King Guz of designing a weapon to attack Lem. His attempt to use it backfires, leaving him in a dazed and suggestive state. King Guz sees an opportunity, figuring “I think it’s high time Tunk did something good with his life”. This serves as a reminder that there are people who can’t be trusted with mind-control technology, and that would be pretty much “people who’d use it on the unsuspecting”. And I’m not sure it should be trusted to people who’d volunteer to have it be used on either. I get the idea, but there’s such major issues about consent and the respect of personal autonomy that I can’t see a way around it.

King Tunk: 'You designed this weapon [ the ray gun ] to attack Lem!' King Guz: 'You're crazy! I didn't make any weapon!' Tunk: 'Let's see what it can do!' Alley Oop: 'Noooo! STOP! Quick, Guz, shield your eyes!' The gun shoots out a fizzly bunch of lines that boomerang back at Tunk. Tunk: 'What's goin' on with this thing? Is this what this thing's supposed t'do? I'm ... ' And he falls over, wide-eyed and staring vacantly.
Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop for the 9th of July, 2017. I didn’t realize until this point that all the plot-representative strips were from King Tunk’s storyline, with nothing about Alley Oop trying to talk King Guz out of building a stupid dome and promising that nothing bad can happen to Earth as long as there are dinosaurs. Well, all right. Again, have to give it up for King Tunk that the mind-control ray gun is working at all he repaired its dinosaur-chewing damage using tar and leaves. Also have to give it up for Jantrullian technology that the thing can be repaired in the field so easily. I bet Volzon would feel the right fool that it ran off so fast.

Anyway, this storyline keeps puttering on at the lethargic pace of a strip that makes sure the Sunday strip contains all the plot of the six weekdays around it. I would have bet the mind-control ray story was over with the end of April, so I’m not going to make guesses about when this story will end. There’ve been some teases that King Tunk needs to learn about working with people, and maybe that’s where the mind-control gun is going. We shall see, I assume.


Next week: News about Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom. The weekdays storyline, not the production of the comic strip.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose — wait, this can’t be right. OK, it’s what everybody is saying, anyway. All right. The index rose 36 freaking points during the day, blasting way past the 300 margin and raising questions about whether the whole project is properly ballasted or what. I’m skeptical. Not looking to cause trouble but I’m not one of those people cranky about how they didn’t buy when it was at 80 or that did sell when it was at 256 because whatever this is, it’s not right.

327

Really Acting Like A Real Grownup For Real


So we went to the movie theater for the Rifftrax show last night. We split a bag of popcorn and I took home a refill of soda because apparently free refills is a thing movie theaters do now just like it was normal. And it was pretty late, after normal dinner time, but I didn’t figure I was hungry. And then realized I was, so I made some sandwiches. And that’s why I had a midnight dinner of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches with Diet Mountain Dew. Not because I’ve suddenly become twelve years old again. In point of fact I went, according to my records, from age 11 through 27 without having any variety of Mountain Dew.

Don’t mind me. I’m just recovering from how Comics Kingdom’s Thimble Theatre reruns seem to have dropped those awful Kabibble Kabaret footers. I’m suffering from irony withdrawal. It’s a terrible problem to have because anyone being sympathetic is doing so sarcastically.

To sum up: the Olympics are like two weeks old at this point. Why is Twitter telling me “OpeningCeremony” is still a trending thing? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? That’s probably enough asking.

Bunch of trending items on Twitter as of the 18th of August, two weeks after the Olympics Opening Ceremony: OpeningCeremony.
“OpeningCeremony” was just sitting there for like two weeks no matter what I did. Then I took the screen shot of this and it’s gone since then. I understand DuckDuckGo asking every single time that I open it if I want to make it my default search engine — it is — but this is getting creepy. Oh, wait, no, it’s back today. Never mind.

Oh Yeah, The Katzenjammer Kids Ended Nine Years Ago And Nobody Noticed Until Now


Back when the first rumors of Apartment 3-G‘s cancellation came I wrote that King Features pays someone (Hy Eisman) to draw The Katzenjammer Kids, which “can only make sense as a point of pride”. It’s the longest-running syndicated comic strip, originally created in 1897 by Rudolph Dirks. In its day it had many imitators and, following a creators-rights dispute, a long-running duplicate strip The Captain And The Kids also created by Dirks. Its popularity has declined, certainly, what with Dutch humor taking some serious hits from the sinking of the General Slocum and the end of vaudeville and the World Wars and all that. But it was still there, logging in one new Sunday strip a week for an alleged fifty newspapers worldwide. A distribution of “about fifty newspapers” is what they claim about any strip that nobody has found in actual newspapers in living memory.

And then a couple weeks ago, in the wake of 3-G‘s sad end, rec.arts.comics.strips maven D.D.Degg — who tracks the start and end dates of comic strips — noticed something. King Features Weekly Services, which had distributed the comic strip, no longer listed it. Degg’s searches through feature directories found that in 2015 the strip was listed as “reprints only”. The 2013 directory didn’t say anything about it being reruns only. This naturally led to the question: when was the last new Katzenjammer Kids published?

The Captain writes out his New Year's resolutions: fixing the roof, getting more exercise, all that. Momma points out he resolved them each of the last five years too.
Hy Eisman’s Katzenjammer Kids for the 1st of January, 2006. Probably the last new New Year’s comic strip for the venerable but not actually read comic strip. Yes, I get the dramatic irony in it being about repeating New Year’s resolutions.

Eventually, Michael Tisserand with The Comics Journal did the ridiculous and contacted Hy Eisman. Eisman reported (says Degg of what Tisserand said) that the last Katzenjammer Kids comic he drew was in 2006. Nobody has been able to find any publicity or news attention given to the longest-running comic strip going into reruns. But Degg did discover that King Features mentioned right there in its 100th Anniversary supplement to the newspapers that the comic strip ended in 2006.

If I can work out, or find someone who has worked out, when exactly the new strips ended I’ll pass that on. (Comics Kingdom’s web site includes the strip going back to October of 1998 and there might be a hint in the copyright notices.) Or I’ll just wait and freeload on Degg’s work. Eisman is still, reportedly, drawing new Popeye strips for Sundays. But it does strike me that in 2008 the Sunday Popeye strips dropped a storyline in which Wimpy was running for Mayor without resolution. And his maybe running for Mayor was mentioned again in 2012. I haven’t caught an exact rerun yet, but now there’s reason to be wary.

My Favorite Fonzie


I don’t go in to record shows looking for ironic and dubious purchases. But last weekend I did find the album Fonzie Favorites. It’s dated 1976. The more my love and I looked at it the more I knew I had to have the album even though that would make me feel kind of bad. But everything about the product just keeps giving.

Back cover of a stand able album. It includes some stock pictures of the Fonz and of the graffiti wall at Arnold's.
Cover to the 1976 album Fonzie Favorites that, on close examination, turns out to be the back cover to the 1976 album Fonzie Favorites.

For example, how to explain the weird perforation in the cover? This is because that was the back cover. The perforation was so that you could fold out a cardboard leg. It’s like those desktop picture frames that fall over backwards. Then you could be forever stared at by the smiling face of Henry Winkler. He’s dressed in a leather jacket with a superimposed “SIT ON IT” button. I admit having few clear memories of 1976, but I believe this to be representative of the era.

Fonzie baring his teeth while a 'SIT ON IT' button's been superimposed on his jacket.
Front cover for the 1976 album Fonzie Favorites. The face of Henry Winkler potentially staring at you. Forever.

The back cover promises “NO!!! The Fonz has not taken to singing on this album.” This makes sense because who would buy a Fonzie album to listen to Fonzie singing? It’s not like he’s Kojak or something. What they have is “BETTER!!! He has chosen favorite 50’s records to share with you.” It appears the Fonz is careless about the difference between a record and a song from a record. I bet he throws the word “album” around with reckless abandon. But these thoughts didn’t preoccupy me at the record show. I was busy looking at the graffiti wall and the big lips. They’re identified as “Wiscosin Cheese”. The graffiti artist spelled “Wisconsin” with nearly 89 percent accuracy. I guess that’s from the actual TV show set, but I never noticed before. A dollar is a fair price for that sort of revelation.

The grey ellipsoid on the back cover promises, “The last selection on this album is an `impressionist track’ containing the expressions Aaaaay, Cool, Nerd, Sit on It! Listen & learn to use Fonzie’s favorite phrases perfectly!” I know what you’re all thinking: how can this be the “last selection” on the album if it comes at the end of Side One? I like to think that the publisher, the Ahed Music corporation of Cheektowaga, New York, would answer by pointing behind you and noting, “SPIDER!”, then running away. Or, “SPIDER!!!”, based on their cover copy.

The “Impressionist Track” is much of the theme from Happy Days. At random intervals someone impersonating Fonzie says “Aaaaay” or “Sit on it” or “Cool”. This Dadaist performance of theme-song tune and mistimed bursts of Fonzie Words is shorter than I would have imagined, yet somehow not also a show on Adult Swim. You might wonder why anyone might need a record to figure out what it sounds like to say “Nerd”. But remember, the album is from 1976. Back then the only way to record stuff off TV was to take a Polaroid picture of the screen, and that’s useless for voice acting. You could buy a Photonovel. But that would just be cartoon word balloons plastered over stills from the most boring episode the TV show ever made. This is almost useless in working out the right inflections for saying “Cool”.

And yet the album keeps giving. “The Fonzarelli Slide” is the Happy Days/Welcome Back, Kotter crossover you’d never admit to writing, since you couldn’t work out a sensible way for Fonzie to have any meaningful interaction with the Sweathogs. He’d be like thirty years older than them. Yes, yes, Mork from Ork might travel back from his own show to Happy Days again. And he might decide to bring the Fonz forward in time. And even bring along Laverne and Shirley for some reason. But then why wouldn’t Horshack wonder about the Orkian? Why bother questioning whether the Fonz might be making a power play for leadership of the Sweathogs? Alternatively, should we take the Happy Days time-travel-based cartoon to be a canonical part of the Garry-Marshall-verse now? I’m sorry, but you did read this paragraph. You have some responsibility for it being in your head.

Put aside the practicalities of a Happy Days/Welcome Back, Kotter crossover if you dare. Because not a word on the cover suggests any Welcome Back, Kotter connection. This implies at some point in 1976 at the Ahed Music corporation of Cheektowaga, New York was a conversation like this:

“How’s that Happy Days record thing going?”

“Great! Tom had a killer idea, and we’re doing a track with the Welcome Back, Kotter characters too!”

“Oh, great idea. The girls love their John Travolta impersonators. Are we gonna put a sticker about ‘Special bonus Welcome Back Kotter appearance’ on it?”

“No, I figure we just let it surprise people.”

“That’s perfect, considering it’s 1976! Hey, want to check out the Herschell Carousel Factory over in North Tonawanda?”

“Oh, no, we’re at least a decade too soon to appreciate the art and craftsmanship of American carousel-makers. But let’s do that in 1988 sometime!

The back cover says the album was “TV & Radio Advertised”. This implies they worried someone would look it over but ponder. “It’s 1976, and I want to buy a Fonz-selected set of 50’s records or albums or songs or something! This record looks promising — but what if it wasn’t advertised on TV or radio?”. And they made sure this, at least, wouldn’t make consumers walk away.

Putting aside the ironic appeal. Somehow. It’s a good set of Favorite 50s Songs and I clung to that to justify buying this. The Coasters’ “Charlie Brown”, Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash”, The Five Satins’ “In The Still Of The Night”, these are all songs you can listen to with a clear conscience. Well, not these specific songs, because the record is kind of warped and only the innermost, most ironic, tracks will play. But if we gently crushed this record flat it would be worth the dollar, even if we never heard Happy Days music interspersed with “Sit on it!” again.

Statistics Saturday: Things Found While Cleaning Up After The Yard Sale


The squirrel was marked for $3.50 o/b/o; it eventually went for $3.25 along with a couple of ironic potholders.
The squirrel eventually went for $3.25 along with a couple of ironic potholders.

Bonus recreational puzzle: Identify when I figured out a tolerable way to do lettering while drawing on my iPad.