It's only natural, with The Croods opening today in theaters - not to mention news of a study that Neanderthals may have been condemned to extinction because too much of their skull space was devoted to their eyes and not enough to their brains - that cavemen might be much on your mind lately. Here are ten great pop-culture troglodytes of the past century, with those tiresomely ubiquitous denizens of Bedrock excluded from consideration, because let's face it, we like our number ones to be slightly less predictable than the plot of a Dreamworks animated film.
10. Alley Oop
V. T. Hamlin's classic funny-paper caveman originated in 1932, gave rise to a catchy novelty song and remains in syndication to this day. He has killer abs, and his woman, Oola, reputedly based on Hamlin's wife, is pretty hot as well. In 1939, Oop was brought to the 20th Century by a time machine, and soon began hopping throughout history. He even flew to the moon at one point, which you could certainly call a giant leap for cavemankind.
9. Og, Son of Fire
Irving Crump's cave-kid originated as a strip in the pages of Boy's Life in early '20s. In the '30s, he became the star of a successful radio show, and a Big Little Book. According to Crump, Boy Scouts would practice primitive-style camping in what they called "Og Patrols." In 1965, Crump wrote a sequel - Og, Son of Og. Apparently the Ogs were the first bluebloods.
Johnny Hart's smartass, neurotic cave guys were really funny in their earlier decades - after Peanuts, arguably the most laugh-out-loud funny American comic strip, albeit often in a midcentury, male sort of way - before Hart turned the strip into a vehicle for nasty (not to mention chronologically perplexing) conservative Christianity in the '80s. A hilarious 1973 TV special, B.C. The First Thanksgiving, was released on VHS but not, as yet, on DVD; it can however be viewed here.
7. It's About Time
It's hard to imagine that Sherwood Schwartz could have made a sitcom more insipid than Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch, but he managed the feat with this one-season wonder from 1966, in which two astronauts go back in time and encounter such cavedwellers as Joe E. Ross, Imogen Coca and Mike Mazurki. About halfway through the run the astronauts return to the present day, bringing the cave-folk with them, which meant that the coolest aspect of the series for kids - the occasional appearance of a stock-footage dinosaur - was lost. Probably the best thing about the series was the opening animation and theme song, although the first two lines ("It's about/It's about space/It's about two men in the strangest place") inspired a painfully recalled (if metrically superior) variation among elementary-school bullies: "It's about time/It's about space/It's about time I slapped your face," at which point they would do so.
The show also inspired a terrific lunchbox.
6. Captain Caveman
Though voiced by the redoubtable Mel Blanc, this title character from Hanna-Barbera's Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels (1977-80) isn't exactly cartoon gold. Vaguely resembling a hirsute bowling pin with limbs and a bulbous nose, CC had superpowers - most inexplicably, he could fly - and he served as the muscle to a mystery-solving trio of cuties. Not really the pinnacle of imagination for '70s-era Saturday morning cartoons. In the late '80s, CC's adventures with his equally hirsute son, Cavey Jr., were a supporting feature on...well, on a "juvenile" version of that show set in Bedrock that we aren't mentioning here.