Sunday, August 10, 2008


The images here are sketches of my comic version of my OTHER lifelong favorite character and inspiration since the age of 6, Popeye the Sailor. I was 3 years old when the Robin Williams movie came out in 1980 and I watch it ANY chance I get!! It still stands as one of my all time favorite flicks!!
Popeye was created by E.C. Segar in 1929 as a bit character in his hit comic strip "Thimble Theater" starring Olive Oyl and her brother Castor since 1923. He stayed on for a couple weeks, and Segar started getting letters from readers that they liked the one-eyed sailor and he kept Popeye in the storylines, eventually changing the name to "Thimble Theater featuring Popeye".
By 1940, E.C. Segar had passed, and Popeye was introduced to a wider scale audience through Fleischer Studios and later Famous Studios in animated features. He was drawn by various artists, but former Segar assistant Bud Sagendorff took over most of the illustrating for the strips, merchandising and anything related to Popeye when he finally became old enough to be hired.
In the 1990s I noticed less and less Popeye. Bud Sagendorff had passed away in the late 1980s (I think 1989) and except for a failed "Popeye and Son" cartoon on Saturday mornings, not alot of public interest surfaced.
In 1999, comic writer Peter David wrote a story for Ocean Comics called "The Wedding of Popeye and Olive Oyl", which made national news.
In 2004, Popeye fans celebrated the 75th anniversary of his appearance in "Thimble Theater". The Empire State building was lit up green in honor of the sailor's eventual source of strength- spinach.
I say eventual because EC Segar did not create the greanleafed vegetable as Popeye's sourse of strength. It was written that a little whiffle hen named Bernice was a wish-giving ol' bird, and Popeye had rubbed her head and wished to be invulnerable (basically). He had been shot over 15 times by a pirate, only to survive. He was already superhumanly strong, and now he was tough to kill. It wasn't until 1934 that Fleischer Studios gave Popeye a can of spinach as a way to overcome his opposition, be it a goon or Bluto (Brutus in the strip, who was also only a bit character. The cartoon made him Bluto and Popeye's constant nemesis. He eventually became more involved in the strip as well). Popeye's use of spinach caused spinach sales to skyrocket 75% (if I remember correctly. It was alot) internationally.
But I digress.
A CGI movie was released, retelling Popeye's journey to find his dad, Poopdeck Pappy. The name was "Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy", and the voice talents of the original Popeye cartoons, the late Jack Mercer (who did the voice from the original cartoons until his death in the 90s) was replaced by the great Billy West, mumbling the graspy tones of both Popeye and Pappy. Unfortunately, the movie fell under most of the public's radar. It was, in my opinion, a fine cartoon and I hope they continue to do more.
In 2007 and 2008 King Features, who owns the rights to all things Popeye, released the black and white Fleischer Studios episodes on DVD in two volumes, bringing at least a little recognition back to one of the true American icons.
I drew these because I feel that Popeye should return, not as more of a "badass", just more like how Segar had written him, with a comic book style. I would love to do a book of Popeye, just a little grittier than, say, the Robin Williams classic.
I must mention that that movie showed a great deal of Segar's original characters and brought together some of his storylines from the strip, including finding Pappy, meeting Olive, and even the boxing match with Oxblood Oxheart! With the exception of the musical interludes, it was a fine homage to the legend of Popeye to me.

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