Gasoline Alley is a comic strip created by Frank King and currently distributed by Tribune Media Services. First published on November 24, 1918 as a weekly panel before becoming a full strip in 1919, it is the second-longest-running comic strip in the U.S. and has received critical accolades for its influential innovations. In addition to inventive color and page design concepts, King introduced real-time continuity to comic strips by showing his characters as they grew to maturity and aged over generations.
The strip originally was a panel featuring young garage owner Walt Wallet and some friends in automobile-related situations (hence the title), but it began to chronicle Walt's life after he found a baby in the doorstep, whom he named "Skeezix" (common slang at the time for a motherless calf). Walt later married Phyllis Blossom in 1926, with whom he had a son named Corky. The family was completed in 1935 when a baby called Judy was left in Walt's car. All three grew up, got married and had children of their own. In later years, the strip has mostly centered on Skeezix and his wife Nina Clock, as well as on their daughter Clovia and her husband Slim Skinner, who now manages the garage. Garbage collectors Joel and Rufus stand out among the non-Wallet characters.
Frank King was the original artist, being replaced by Bill Perry in 1951 (Sundays) and Dick Moores in 1959 (dailies) after both had assisted King for years. In 1975 Moores became the sole artist. Jim Scancarelli took over in 1986 after Moores' death and has drawn the strip ever since.
Not to be confused with the Rod Stewart album/song of the same name.
This Comic Strip contains examples of:
- Alliterative Name: Walt Wallet, Gideon Grubb, Hope Hassel, Slim Skinner
- Artifact Title: The strip began as a part of "The Rectangle", where each of the Chicago Tribune's four staff artists drew a panel. In Frank King's panel, four characters named Walt, Doc, Avery and Bill (the last three being long dead by now) talked about cars, hence the name. It became popular enough to be spun off as a strip in 1919, with more characters who talk about a lot of other things besides cars. Even by the 1950s, MAD was doing parodies noting that the strip seemed to have nothing to do with gasoline.
- Big Eater: Slim.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Melba, one of the least intelligent characters in the strip, was elected mayor in the 1980s and supposedly still has the job.
- The Bus Came Back: Rover's birth mother in 1995. Hoogy in 1997. Lil Skinner in 1999. Eve in 2004. Gretchen in 2013. Chipper in 2016.
- Bus Crash: Walt's friends Avery, Doc and Bill were phased out as the strip began to focus on Skeezix's family. They were mentioned years later, all having died "off-stage". Happened to Mr. Pert and Hoogy's father as well.
- Butt-Monkey: Slim. Rufus.
- Canon Discontinuity: This strip is usually very good about maintaining continuity. However, one story in 1995 features Rover's birth mother telling him the back story about his father, which is completely different from the story that was told when these characters were introduced in 1981.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: A large number of the Wallet family members have been phased out over the years.
- Corrupt Politician: Senator Bobble, nephew of Pert, who served a similar role in earlier years.
- Crazy Cat Lady: Rufus borders on being a male version.
- Crossover: A few ones with Dick Tracy.
- Disco Dan: Avery, Walt's original neighbor, was this half a century before disco even took off; his defining trait was that he still used a crank car long after everyone else had moved on to cars with starters.
- Doorstop Baby: That's how Walt found Skeezix in 1921, and Judy in 1935.
- In 2012, recurring "ne'er-do-well" characters Joel and Rufus were giving away kittens, and one of them was given to Walt, who had deja vu before reminiscing about the time in 1921 when he found Skeezix.
- Eye-Obscuring Hat: Both Joel and Rufus wear these.
- Fat Idiot: Slim Skinner
- The Gambling Addict: Lil Skinner.
- Jerkass: Mr. Pert. Wilmer Bobble. The snooty salesman who seems to work in every store Skeezix visits.
- Killed Off for Real: Several of the original strip's minor characters offscreen, as would be expected, along with major character Phyllis in 2004.
- Later Installment Weirdness: Throughout the 2000s, the strip seems to have deviated more and more from its long-time premise. For three generations, it was a semi-realistic depiction of small-town family life. Lately, it features a lot more slapstick comedy, absurdist humor, a heavier focus on characters outside of the Wallet Family, not to mention talking animals.
- Malaproper: Joel, who overall seems to be the smarter of the two trash collectors, nonetheless has at least one malaprop in nearly every sentence he speaks.
- Massive Multiplayer Crossover: An October-November 2015 storyline had Walt visiting an "old comics' home" to attend Jeff's funeral, only to find out that Jeff was actually alive and well (much to the surprise of everyone else). Apart from Mutt and Jeff themselves, many other comics characters appeared in this arc, including "Smokey Stover" and even the "Yellow Kid".
- Methuselah Syndrome: By virtue of being the main character, Walt at 120 would be the oldest living person in the world if he were actually alivenote , and he's likely not going away anytime soon. The current writer of the strip has stated that he does have plans for this issue; what plans, however, he isn't saying.
- Not Allowed to Grow Up: Averted. Walt is 120 years old (Phyllis was 105 when she passed away in 2004) and Skeezix is now 99. While some characters have, the most popular and important characters will probably never get around to actually dying, but characters who were young in the Roaring Twenties are ancient now and characters who were introduced as children have families of their own.
- Played straight with a few characters, specially with Joel and Rufus.
- Also played straight in general when Dick Moores helmed the strip in the 1970s and '80s.
- Older Than They Look: Many long-time characters, such as Clovia, Slim and Chipper, are supposed to be in their 60s-70s but are still drawn to look much younger.
- Once a Season: Skeezix's birthday was noted every year, complete with a reference to his age. This tradition was eventually discontinued, likely because Skeezix's current age makes no sense within the context of the current stories.
- Overly Long Gag: Joel's frequent "shortcuts" across the decaying old bridge have been done to death. More recently are the frequent encounters between Skeezix and the snooty salesman. It's to the point where this is all Skeezix does anymore.
- Parental Abandonment: A recurring motif in how characters have entered the strip. In addition to Doorstop Babies Skeezix and Judy, Rover was taken in as a toddler by Slim and Clovia after his parents abandoned him.
- Print Long-Runners: It has run every day since 1920, and it was printed weekly in the two years beforehand.
- Puppy Love: Boog and Charlotte from the fifth generation.
- Boog's parents were Slim and Clovia's foster son Rover and his childhood friend Hoogy.
- The Quiet One: As a small child, Gretchen refused to speak. When Hoogy was first introduced, she only spoke one word at a time.
- Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Both Walt Wallet and Mr. Pert had storylines where other characters believed them to be dead, but they turned out not to be. The audience was misled both times.
- Same Character, but Different: Corky's daughter Eve reappeared in the mid 2000s for the first time since the 1970s. Despite her supposed age being near 40, she was presented as a reckless teenager type who couldn't care less about her aging grandfather. There were absolutely no consequences for her behavior (that we saw, anyway), and she hasn't been back since.
- Can also apply to Slim's mom, Lil Skinner. Throughout the 1980s, she was a slightly overbearing grandmother who lived across the hall and helped take care of the kids. After a decade-long absence, she returned in 1999 as a shrewish old lady who hated Clovia (the feeling was mutual) and seemed not to care for anyone but herself.
- The Scrooge: Mr. Pert.
- Ship Tease: Rufus and Melba. They dated on and off for decades. When they finally planned to get married, it ended up being a giant fake-out by the writer.
- Shout-Out: Beginning around 2016, the characters often find themselves with a snooty guy directly based on Frank Nelson, of The Jack Benny Program fame.
- Those Two Guys: Joel and Rufus. Hack and Sarge.
- Unfortunate Names: Rover, which is a name for a dog, not a person.
- World War II: Skeezix was in the army in the 1940s.