Jack and Carole Bender, Today's Creators of Alley Oop

January 26, 2007

    Originally created by V.T. Hamlin in 1933, Alley Oop has managed to maintain a steady hold on newspaper fans for decades, with a fascinating serial-style story line and lots of intriguing venue changes. The dependable good art and interesting writing of the comic strip continued after Hamlin retired through the amazing talents of Dave Graue and his assistant, Jack Bender. Later, Jack's wife joined the team. Today, Jack and Carole Bender are the curators and creators of the Alley Oop phenomenon.


     A young man who attended school with VT Hamlin's daughter, Dave Graue became Hamlin's assistant in 1950. Called "a master of the cartoonist trade", Graue was a skilled and dedicated artist. He took his work seriously, creating the fine perspectives and compositions of Alley Oop with care. When Hamlin eased out of his work due to eye problems, Graue took on more and more of the daily duties and when Hamlin retired fully in 1973, he was ready to be the man in charge. Needing his own assistant, cartoonist Jack Bender was hired to fill the position.

    Born in Waterloo, Iowa on March 28, 1931, Bender graduated from East High School in 1949, (He was made a Hall of Fame member of his high school in 1971 for "achievements, service and contributions which reflect positively on the education foundation received while attending East High School.) A well-educated man, he earned a BA in art and journalism from the University of Iowa in 1953, attended the Art Institute of Chicago for Graduate work, finishing that in 1956. He completed his education in art and journalism, graduating from University of Missouri in 1961 with a Masters of Arts degree.

     Working first as an Art Director in St. Louis, he found a position as editorial cartoonist with the Waterloo Daily Courier in Iowa, making it his home base for 20 years. Jack Bender made a name for himself in editorial cartooning, winning awards and commendations for his work.

    Makng the move to Tulsa, Oklahoma, Bender took on the position of assistant artist with Don Martin on "The Nutheads" comic strip from 1989 to 1992. At the same time, he earned the position of assistant cartoonist to Dave Graue in the creation of Alley Oop in 1990. Bender also took on the challenge of teaching art at Platt College. And that is where he met his future bride.

    Carole Suggs was interested in calligraphy and graphic arts, learning the skills first when she was a teenager. After graduating from Ponca City High School, she earned a degree in the humanities from Oklahoma State University in 1974. Working in a print shop, she created production art work and layouts, and did freelance jobs, but was unsatisfied with her earnings. She enrolled in a course taught by Jack Bender at Platt College. Though they have a large age difference, they married, sharing interests and livelihoods.

    Having been the full-time artist for Dave Graue on Alley Oop since 1991, Bender was prepared to take full control of the comic strip on Dave's retirement in 2001. Before Dave's retirement, Carole began taking a role as the letterer - a perfect fit since she loved lettering and caligraphy - and was permitted to have her name in the by-line.

     Sadly, only months after his retirement, Dave Graue was killed in a car accident. His legacy to his fans is his amazing fifty years of creative work on Alley Oop.

    While Bender is the skilled Alley Oop cartoonist, Carole's role has expanded to include writing the plot lines for the comic strip, along with lettering and working as general assistant. Using her graphic art talents, she wrote a biography of folk musician, Bob Gibson. Entitled "Bob Gibson: I come for to sing", it was published in 1999 by Folk Era Books.

     Carole and Jack Bender have done a wonderful job of keeping the Alley Oop spirit alive and popular, with surprising story-lines, heartfelt scenes and a humour that keeps readers coming back for more.

    Read about VT Hamlin, Original Creator of Alley Oop in the 2006 articles of The Cartoonists.

    The daily Alley Oop - http://www.comics.com/comics/alleyoop/

     Read questions and answers by the Benders:



© Susanna McLeod 2007