“I Yam What I Yam”

Nostalgia has never really played a huge part in my daily life, with only the occasional look back, and conversations when the mood strikes. It could be that my life has always been more of a whirlwind than a soft breeze. But now blogging, this new (to me) “medium” that I’ve undertaken, seems to have brought out some of that latent wistfulness. I’ve been thinking of late of different characters that I grew up with. And one that I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for, is the art and fun of Popeye.

In 1937 Crystal City Texas (the “spinach capitol of the world”), erected a statue of Popeye for promoting the spinach eating habits of Americans by 33% ! Heheh

Maybe that’s because my father liked him too, and anything my dad liked, I liked. I think it was more though. For example I found myself some years ago using a photo of a one panel cartoon featuring Olive Oyl to highlight a point. In this panel, she’s effectively kicking Bluto’s butt. (To some he’s Bluto, to others Brutus, you decide.) I’m thinking that Olive, the long suffering foil to Popeye, was more together than her constant, high pitched entreaties to be saved, made her seem. So points to E.C.(Elzie Crisler) Segar, for creating this early heroin. He was ahead of his time. And that was some time ago. He was born in 1894. So “put that in yer pipe and smoke it”!

Mr. Segar actually launched a comic staring “Olive Oyl and Harold Ham Gravy” before “Popeye” and for some weird reason, this makes me happy. But when I was a kid, it was all about the “sailor man”. Olive remained his background foil for many years. As I grew older, I came to appreciate Olive more, as she really is a bad arse, and in a clumsy, innate way, smart. She would remain the ever long suffering foil, always in trouble and in need of saving, yet still with a strong sense of self preservation.

I recently found this little cotton bag, at a dollar store!

Finally in 1929 along comes Popeye to save the day, and I find that in many other ways, Popeye was ahead of the game as well. Cringe worthy characterizations of the day, aside. Olive Oyl is often seen joining the “fight”. Then in 1933, on July 24th, Popeye “finds” the “infink” Swee’ Pea, and decides to “adopt” him, declaring “Whoopee! I always wanted a baby!” Come on! Goes to show how every new generation tends to assume that they’re the first to do something that in fact had been done numerous times before. It could be that some things had just never been given a name, for example, “stay at home, or single dad”

Look what I just found at a local antique store!

Popeye is a single guy with dubious job qualifications. (When does he ever do anything other than walk around confused and mumbling?) So then he “finds a baby” and suddenly he’s a “dad”… hhhuummm. To be fair at some point, he does actually join the navy.

Swee’ Pea!

In 1936 Olive Oyl’s Uncle Ben, sent her a gift from Africa, a magical, and strange creature named, Eugene the Jeep. Again this was in 1936! Not only that but Olive Oyl and Popeye carry on their “relationship” for years, ostensibly raising Swee’ Pea together, although not married.

Over the years, Popeye moves on to his own comic book series, and TV shows. It’s an interesting fact that, accomplished and famous artists through the decades, have honored the character of Popeye, by including him in their own visions of who his character is.

In 1961 Andy Warhol brings us his Pop Art, including a piece called “Saturday’s Popeye”. Also in 1961 the Pop Art Artist, Roy Lichtenstien included his own version of Popeye.

It’s impressive to note how many varied, and creative fields of entertainment have been captivated by this character. Including a magazine house in Tokyo Japan that launched “Popeye” magazine that would be the first fashion periodical for young men in Japan. In 1995 the US Postal Service featured Popeye in “American Comic Classics” a set of stamps that were issued in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the American comic strip. I can imagine that a lot of collectors have these hiding in drawers all over the country.

You can buy Popeye spinach. 😉

In 2009 Popeye appeared in a Google Doodle. Also that year, the artist Jeff Koons made a striking statue of him, in a beautiful mirror polished stainless steel. This statue, (hold onto your phone), sold at auction to Steve Wynn for an astounding 28 million dollars. You read that right.

In 2017, that striking statue that Mr. Koons made, in partnership with Snapchat, was released on the “World Lens” platform, making it available to be activated to view, in public parks around the world. Pretty cool.

Popeye and the other characters from the comic have been featured in things from; charity campaigns, promoting fragrances, men’s care, car adds and clothing lines. This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Popeye franchise and it continues to go strong, having a lasting influence on our lives. Who knows where it will go from here, but I have a feeling it’ll make it to 100.

Weighing In On The Art and Writing of the MCU and End Game

When I first started writing this post I hadn’t seen the MCU’s End Game yet and had planned on simply starting out by saying, ‘End Game is fantastic! I truly underestimated the emotional impact it would have on me. For many of us who have been following the Avengers all these years, it has become more than just a series of movies. It’s been a journey. For myself it has been a large part of my life for nearly a decade. More than just a distraction, they’ve helped me through some rough times. Now having seen End Game, I realized I couldn’t begin this blog in such a flippant way. It’s so much more than just “fantastic”. And perhaps in another blog, I’ll do a critique of it, as there are things about it that I’d like to address. (Side note: I hope to have a guest artist/writer contribute in a few weeks. She is writing a fan fiction comic about how she would have liked to have seen End Game “end”. )

Like I mentioned, to say that this visually striking and artistically captivating film, this sometimes heart wrenching movie is just “fantastic”, doesn’t do it justice. I won’t give any spoilers away, but I will say that it’s a very humorous, yet emotional roller coaster. I understand that things have to change, and that it is “just a movie”, but, I’m pretty sure that Marvel Studios broke the world’s heart this past weekend.

Diving in let me ask; when you’re watching any of these amazing and fun movies, do you ever think about the art of it? How it all came about? Or how so many extreme fans know so much about them, and the “arcs”? I tend to think about that, and the fact that the MCU in particular, can be super complicated! Or so it felt for a while. Having watched the growth of this particular series for some years now, I can say that I’m probably somewhat knowledgeable about it, especially having had a chance to re-watch most of them. I’m probably mid range fan knowledgeable 🙂 .

I feel that there are a lot of “purists” out there (with well earned superior attitudes) about the MCU, because they’ve actually read the comics who could explain it for hours. And to say that I’m a bit envious may sound a little odd, after all “they’re just comics”. But here’s the thing, these comics, were, and remain, amazing, and fantastical artworks! Over the years they have been wrongly written off as “kid’s stuff”, and that’s a shame. Especially as many not only have great art, but also have engaging, and exciting writing. Thankfully, in no small part due to the MCU, that attitude toward them is changing.

So looking at the artwork of many comics, there often is;

  • Movement
  • Excitement
  • Mood enhancing shading and shadows

This art is not easy, and the artists were and are, pumping them out sometimes weekly! That’s not to assume that they weren’t enjoying it. I can only imagine that it was a better than average job for a creative person. But, as someone who has worked under deadline, I appreciate that it is work. Albeit, fun, amazing work that millions now benefit from!

To get back to my sometimes being as green as the Hulk, having not had the chance to read comics growing up, (most girls literally were not allowed to back in the day) as an artist, I feel I missed out on a great learning opportunity, (and a chance to hold my own in conversations about it!) Conversations which by the way, can be as multi layered and confusing as the story arcs! (I’m thinking that gamers have no issue with this either.) Though I have found that a lot of people are more than happy to try to bring me up to speed. Re-watching them doesn’t hurt either, and is always fun.

So here is my own personal feeling on some things that I, or anyone could learn from the art of comics and sketching them repetitively;

  • Better figurative art.
  • Faster execution.
  • A possible multi million dollar contract. (heheh, jk)

It is interesting to have seen the growth over the years of comics. Thinking back to it’s “origins”, in my mind I picture a small black and white photograph from the 1950’s; someone sitting at a drawing table pen in hand, anther person perched on the end of the desk, others sitting around. They’re chatting and have slight grins. These were the first steps leading to the explosion of this movie genre.

The growth of these movies, not only with the characters, but with the overall look and mastery of sets and costumes which are beautiful and complex, has been exponentially alluring, and exciting. A massive undertaking that uses art in a myriad of ways.

And all of this, this multi-billion dollar obsession of millions of people around the world…all of it started with an idea… and a drawing.