Elzie Crisler Segar's Popeye
Update: The logo [below] the Google search engine used to
mark Elzie Segar's 115th birthday on December 8, 2009:
About Segar's Popeye
[Blow up of the last panel. See all four panels here]
Bruce Ozella Popeye Page, 2012
Segar's Popeye is a unique figure. Bill Blackbeard argues Popeye is the original first "superhero," predating Superman by years. Kids and teens of today, who are used to searching the web for laptop deals so that they can play new video games on super revamped characters like Iron Man, may find it hard to reconcile what they picture as a super hero with the image of a sailor man whose super power lies in eating his spinach. The proof lies in the argument that Popeye gained super strength from a can of spinach and that's how he defeated his foes. (This assumption seems to be based on the supernormal powers Popeye can yield - - if so, then why is Popeye first? Why not Samson?)
Click to enlarge - Popeye 12-3-1933 by Segar
In his essay "The First (Arf, Arf) Superhero of them All," from the book All In Color for A Dime, published 1970, Blackbeard's description of the Popeye that Elzie Crisler Segar created back in January 17, 1929, is the best one I've ever read:
"Segar's Popeye is a character compounded of vulgarity and compassion, raw aggression, and protective gentleness, violent waterfront humor and genuine 'senskibiliky,' thickheaded stubbornness and imaginative leadership, brutal enmity and warm friendship, who knock out a 'horsk' in a rage and nurses a baby carefully while it is suffering a fever that makes thermometers pop. He is no paranoid daydream, but a realistic, complex, often wrong but determined man of action who suffers continual agonies of decision, who pursues what he believes to be right far beyond the bounds of cop-interpreted law and order, who has to fight his very way to comprehensibility through the warp and woof of an English language that is often almost too much for him."(Page 94, paperback edition)
Blackbeard goes on to summarize the Popeye phenomenon of that era by saying that the popularity of the little sailor far outstripped anything enjoyed by the costumed heroes in capes and masks that began to appear after him, and the Fleisher cartoon versions for movie theatres drew many more people than ever showed up for the Superman and Batman serials that played at local bijou's. All of that underscores how much America has changed, as Popeye has become a fringe character in the current pop art character pantheon.
Click to Enlarge - Sappo 1934 by Segar
Segar also used his page space provided by Hearst to run an other strip titled "Sappo." In this space Segar also provided the artwork for the original reason Hearst brought him in: "Thimble Theatre" a miniature 'movie theatre' diorama, which was a substitute for a previous strip series called "Minute Movies" by a different artist.
Thimble Theatre - Click to Enlarge
Elzie Crisler Segar was born December 8, 1894, and died October 13, 1938 at the age of 43 from complications of liver disease. Segar debuted his cartooning career with "Thimble Theatre" on December 19, 1919, the strip featured the characters Olive Oyl, Castor Oyl, and Ham Gravy. In a January 17, 1929 episode of the strip, the character Castor Oyl goes to find a sailor to navigate his ship to Dice Island: and so was introduced Popeye.
Vaguely related artwork regarding the color green and how it connects Superman and Popeye:
Original page November 12, 2008 | Updated April 2012