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.
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.