Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Reader's Diary #2032- E.C. Segar: Popeye Volume 1

Having an interest in those odd pop culture characters that exist outside of Disney, Marvel, DC and the like and yet have existed for a long, long time, I was quite happy to finally get my hands of the first collected volume of E.C. Segar's Popeye strips. Actually, it begins as Thimble Theatre, but it's Popeye's first appearance.

Having been more familiar with the old original cartoon than the comic strip, I began being surprised, then pleasantly surprised. There are quite a few notable differences from the cartoon: spinach is never mentioned, Bluto, Wimpy, and Swee'Pea have not yet made an appearance, and Popeye spends more time with Olive Oyl's brother Castor Oyl. Besides these trivial differences though, I was happy to find that there were some generally funny moments (of the Looney Tunes, punny and slapstick variety) and that the adventure stories ran the length of many strips compared to the one-offs I'm used to from most of the Funny Pages.

It's a long volume though and it definitely outwore its welcome. I was enjoying Castor Oyl at first, reminding me somewhat of Phoncible Bone from Jeff Smith's Bone comics with his constant scheming. He was even getting some character development as the strips went on. However, I guess Popeye struck a nerve with fans and Segar allowed him to take over. But perhaps more troubling he froze Popeye in place. Like Jimi Hendrix always having to light his guitar on fire to appease his audience, Popeye had to remain a simpleton who solved all problems with his fists. Worse were the occasional glimpses of racism and misogyny.

I'm glad to have read them but do not feel compelled to read the subsequent volumes.

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