Historical Museum marks 75th anniversary of historic "Alley Oop" comic strip
Max Allan Collins will introduce movie about Iowan V.T. Hamlin, who created "Alley Oop" in 1932

For immediate release August 1, 2008

 

Contact: Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515) 281-3858

(DES MOINES) –The State Historical Museum will mark the 75th anniversary of the popular, nationally syndicated comic strip “Alley Oop,” which was created in 1932 by V.T. Hamlin of Perry, Iowa.

The event will be at 6 p.m. Thursday at the State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines. Admission is free and open to the public.

Director and Novelist Max Allan Collins (“Road to Perdition” starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman) of Muscatine, Iowa, will introduce his film, “Caveman: V.T. Hamlin & Alley Oop,” and lead a post-movie discussion with Mark Lambert and Iowa native Jack Bender and his wife, Carole Bender, current artist and writer of Alley Oop.

The comic is about a prehistoric caveman, Alley Oop, who rides his pet dinosaur, Dinny, with girlfriend, Ooola, during all kinds of adventures and battles. Alley Oop memorabilia, early comic strips examples and similar items will be on display.

Alley Oop program scheduleThursday, August 7, 2008

6 p.m. – Reception at State Historical Building sponsored by the Iowa Motion Picture Association and Central Lighting and Equipment

7 p.m. – Presentation of “Caveman: V.T. Hamlin & Alley Oop” in Cowles-Kruidenier Auditorium (Max Allan Collins introduces film)

8:30 p.m. – Question and Answer session with Max Allan Collins, Mark Lambert and Jack and Carole Bender, current artist and writer of Alley Oop.

Information about “Caveman: V.T. Hamlin & Alley Oop” from the Max Allan Collins Web site:
(http://www.maxallancollins.com/press/200511-caveman.php)

“Caveman: V.T. Hamlin & Alley Oop” is a new documentary from Iowa novelist/filmmaker Max Allan Collins, best known as the writer of the graphic novel, “Road to Perdition,” which became an Academy Award-winning 2002 film starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman.

“Caveman,” written and directed by Collins and produced by the University of Iowa Video Center, tells the story of Vincent T. Hamlin, the innovative cartoonist who created the dinosaur-laden, long-running comic strip, “Alley Oop,” from which the popular ’50s song derived. The strip has been credited with inspiring everything from “The Flintstones” to “Jurassic Park.” Hamlin was born and raised in Perry, Iowa.

“My father grew up around Perry,” Collins said, “and as a kid fascinated by comics, I was excited when I learned that Oop’s creator had been brought up within a stone’s throw of my dad.”

The filmmaker began his work in 2001, traveling to the San Diego Comics convention to interview nationally prominent cartoonists.

“It did take almost four years,” Collins said with a laugh, “in and around all of my own commitments, and the Video Center’s heavy workload at the U of I. But we made it happen. I’m particularly pleased that we were able to interview comics innovator, Will Eisner.”

Eisner died early this year. Another cartoonist key to the project – Dave Graue, Hamlin’s longtime assistant who worked on “Alley Oop” for over fifty years – was killed in an automobile accident just weeks after his trip to Iowa City to be interviewed for the documentary.

“The film is as much Dave’s story as Hamlin’s,” Collins said. “I was intrigued by how much the story of Hamlin and Graue resembled that of Dick Tracy artist Chester Gould and his assistant Rick Fletcher, who drew Tracy for me when I took over that strip in 1977. I came to see that through the Hamlin/Graue story, viewers could understand the way comic strips in the 20th century were produced – not just the mechanics of that process, but the personal story, the grueling work hours, the obsessive dedication, the daily struggle.”

Collins’ independent films include the Lifetime movie “Mommy,” and the innovative made-for-DVD thriller, “Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market.” His previous award-winning documentary, “Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane,” is included in Collins’s recent anthology film, “Shades of Noir,” due on DVD later this year.

“Caveman” has already racked up several impressive honors, in April winning the Silver “Eddy” for Best Documentary at the Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival and, in May, four awards in the Iowa Motion Picture Association's annual competition, including Best Director for Collins and Best Voiceover for narrator Michael Cornelison.

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The State Historical Society of Iowa is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and is a trustee of Iowa's historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa's past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa's historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. Visit www.iowahistory.org or call 515-281-5111 for more information.

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