A documentary on Perry native Vincent “Snick” Hamlin, the man who created the popular “Alley Oop” comic strip about a prehistoric cave man, premieres in his hometown Friday. Another Iowa native who’s been a cartoonist, novelist and filmmaker, Max Allan Collins, made the documentary. Collins says he jumped at the chance to do the project as it had a connection to his early life and his dad’s hometown of Grand Junction. He says Perry and Jefferson and those towns were all sort of his dad’s back yard. He says as he grew up and visited his grandparents people found out he was interested in comics, they told him the story of Hamlin and the comic strip “Alley Oop.”
Collins went on to write the Dick Tracy comic strip and books including the “Road to Perdition” which was turned into a movie. Collins says he learned a lot in researching the story of Hamlin. He says the thing that was fascinating was that Hamlin’s story reminded him allot of Chester Gould, the creator of Dick Tracy and Gould’s assistant. He says both stories mirrored each other with the cartoonists and assistants having a “troubled father and son relationship.” Collins says the Hamlin story gives a good view into what it was like to churn out a daily comic strip.He says it showed him how the cartoonists lived in the 20th century with punishing deadlines all the time and feeding the “hungry mouth of the syndicated comic strip.” He says they all lived a similar life. Collins says the strip had a big cultural impact on America — including a number one song of the same name.
He says, “It was a lot more than just that song, that rock and roll song. It really was a feature that sparked a lot of interest in dinosaurs and cavemen and that kind of story. So you can draw a direct line between Alley Oop and the Flintstones and Jurassic Park and all of that, all of that sort of dinosaur mania.” Collins says he’s excited about the Perry premiere.
He says they’ve been in a couple of film festivals, but this is the first public screening and he says it has a lot of meaning. The Hamlin documentary premieres at seven p.m. at the Hotel Patee in Perry and is free to the public.