Popeye (comics)

Popeye 1929
from the first
comic strip (1929)
Strip titles:
--- "The Thimble Theatre"
--- "The Thimble Theatre starring Popeye"
--- "Popeye"

Category: Comics

Genres: Adventure, Humor

Author: Elzie Crisler Segar

Country of origin: USA

First format: Daily strip on newspapers

First issue: December 19, 1919 - USA

Popeye (character) first appearance: January 17, 1929

First editor: King Features Syndicate

Background/Features: "The Thimble Theatre" was cartoonist E. C. Segar's third published strip when it first appeared in the New York Journal on December 19, 1919. Born as a drama-a-day, in a few months Segar changed the strip to a gag-a-day, easing out the melodrama satire and introducing new characters. In its early years, the strip featured characters acting out various stories and scenarios in theatrical style (hence the strip's name). Thimble Theatre's first main characters were Olive Oyl and her boyfriend, Harold Hamgravy. After the strip moved away from its initial focus, it settled into a comedy-adventure style featuring Olive, Ham Gravy, and Olive's enterprising brother, Castor Oyl. Olive's parents, Cole and Nana Oyl, also made frequent appearances. The Sunday Thimble Theatre started in 1925, and the cast grew here and there. Popeye first appeared in the strip on January 17, 1929 as a minor character; he was initially hired by Castor Oyl and Ham Gravy to crew a ship for a voyage to Dice Island. Popeye became soon so popular that he was given a larger role, and the strip was expanded into many more newspapers as a result. Though initial strips presented Olive as being less than impressed with Popeye, she eventually left Ham Gravy to become Popeye's girlfriend. In 1931 the strip was renamed "The Thimble Theatre starring Popeye"; "Popeye" became the strip's title in later years. The strip carried on after Segar's death in 1938, at which point he was replaced by a series of artists.

Main characters (in order of appearance, E. C. Segar period 1919-1936):
--- Olive Oyl, first appearance on December 19, 1919. Main character and Harold Hamgravy's girlfriend until Popeye makes his debut (1929), Olive is very tall and very skinny with black hair rolled in a neat bun, like her mother Nana, and enormous feet. Olive Oyl is named after olive oil.
--- Nana Oyl, first appearance on December 19, 1919. Nana Oyl is Olive Oyl's mother.
--- Cole Oyl, first appearance on December 19, 1919. Cole Oyl is Olive Oyl's father.
--- Harold Hamgravy, first appearance on December 19, 1919. Better known as Ham Gravy, he is Olive Oyl's original boyfriend.
--- Castor Oyl, first appearance on January 14, 1920. Castor Oyl is Olive Oyl's brother.
--- Bernice the Whiffle Hen, first appearance on September 13, 1928 (debut September 10-11-12 as a gift closed in a box). Bernice is an "African escape hen".
--- Popeye, first appearance on January 17, 1929. Popeye is a middle-aged sailor with a screwed-up face and muscular forearms, with anchors tattooed on them. He wears a captain's hat, and he smokes a corncob pipe. Despite his appearance, Popeye is very kind-hearted and adventurous. When he is up to his neck in danger, Popeye eats a lot of spinach that give him loads of strength (in its early adventures he got this power rubbing the head of Bernice the Whiffle Hen). When Olive Oyl meets Popeye, she left Ham Gravy to become Popeye's girlfriend.
--- The Sea Hag and her vultures - specifically Bernard, first appearance in January 1930. The Sea Hag is one of Popeye's worst enemies. She had several vulture minions, and one of these vultures, Bernard, is her right-hand pet.
--- King Blozo the Third, first appearance in April 1931. King Blozo is a ruler of a fictional kingdom.
--- J. Wellington Wimpy, first appearance on May 3, 1931. Wimpy is Popeye's friend.
--- Oscar, first appearance in 1931. Oscar is Popeye's friend.
--- Rough House, first appearance on February 28, 1932. Rough House is a cook who runs a local restaurant.
--- Bluto, first appearance on September 12, 1932. Bluto is Popeye's nemesis.
--- George W. Geezil, first appearance on November 6, 1932. Over time, George appears under different names and roles.
--- Swee'Pea, first appearance on July 24, 1933. Swee'Pea is Popeye's adopted baby son.
--- Bill Barnacle, first appearance on December 3, 1933. Known as Salty, Bill Barnacle is Popeye's old friend.
--- Goons - specifically Alice the Goon, first appearance on December 10, 1933. Goons are a tribe of strange humanoids all identical; Alice is one of them: Popeye's enemy only during their first encounter, since than she becomes one of his best allies.
--- Toar, first appearance in February 1935. Toar is Popeye's enemy only during their first encounter, since than he becomes one of his best allies.
--- Eugene the Jeep, first appearance on March 16, 1936. Eugene the Jeep is a mysterious animal with magical abilities, pet and friend to Popeye and Olive Oyl.
--- Poopdeck Pappy, first appearance on October 25, 1936. Popeye's 99-year-old long-lost father, also a sailor.

Interesting facts: In the comics, Popeye originally derived his great strength from rubbing the head of Bernice the Whiffle Hen, until June 26, 1931, when spinach was first referenced as the source of Popeye's power. Popeye is known as Iron Arm in Italy, Karl Alfred in Sweden and Skipper Skraek or "Terror of the Sea" in Denmark. Segar's strip was quite different from the cartoons that followed. The stories were more complex, with many characters that never appeared in the cartoons. Spinach usage was rare and Bluto made only one appearance.

Quote (Popeye): «I yam what I yam!»

Property: King Features Syndicate, Inc.

Reference website: http://popeye.com

The Thimble Theatre, first daily strip
The Thimble Theatre, first daily strip (New York Journal, December 19, 1919). In this strip four characters made their debut: Olive Oyl, her first boyfriend Harold Hamgravy, and her parents Nana and Cole Oyl. Note: Segar often signed his comic strips with a cigar, due to his last name being a homophone of "cigar" (SEE-gar).

Thimble Theatre, the first Sunday strip
Thimble Theatre, first Sunday strip (January 25, 1925)

Popeye, first appearance
Popeye, first appearance in the Thimble Theatre daily strip (January 17, 1929)

Popeye, debut of his superpower
Popeye, debut of his superpower (June 11, 1929). Popeye got strength rubbing the head of Bernice the Whiffle Hen (instead of eating spinach, gimmick introduced later).

Popeye and Olive first kiss 1929
Popeye, first (accidental?) kiss from Olive (August 27, 1929). In this strip Olive Oyl kisses Popeye, but she is imagining Julius J. Herringbone, her current suitor. Anyway, she soon becomes Popeye's undisputed girlfriend.

Popeye talks about spinach for the first time, 1931
Popeye, first reference to spinach as source of power (June 26, 1931). When general Bunzo asked him: «You lick my best men – You break jail at will – You escape from a ton of rope – How are you able to do such things?», Popeye reveals: «Tha's easy. I eats Spinach».

Popeye, first bowl of spinach, 1932
Popeye, first bowl of spinach that gives him superpowers (February 28, 1932). «They's nothin' like Spinach to give a man strengt'». Popeye eats a heaping bowl of the leafy stuff, and it gives the strength to knock out an iron-jawed braggart.

Popeye talks about spinach power for the first time, 1932
Popeye, first explanation about spinach power (July 3, 1932). When a woman catches Popeye in the act of eating hungrily a lot of spinach from her garden, she exclaims: «Good heavens! Are you a horse?!»; Popeye replies: «Spinach is full of vitamin 'A' an' tha's what makes hoomans strong an' helty».

Popeye, Thimble Theatre cast in 1932
Popeye, The Thimble Theatre cast (1932). The cover of the Chein & Co. comic toys catalogue displays Popeye surrounded by 32 characters, saying «I suspose yer all susprised on account of me bein' center».

Popeye, Thimble Theatre cast in 1937
Popeye, Thimble Theatre main characters (1937)

Elzie Crisler Segar
Elzie Crisler Segar
(Chester, Dec. 8, 1894 – Santa Monica, Oct. 13, 1938), the cartoonist who created Popeye

Popeye on Facebook
Popeye celebrates 10 million Facebook fans (November 24, 2014) and his 90th birthday (January 17, 2019)
Popeye 90th birthday 2019