Waxing Nostalgic Over Classic TV

Saturday, October 18, 2008

He's Popeye the Sailor Man!

Popeye has always been a mother's best friend. When faced with her child's refusal to eat spinach or other green veggies, she can always resort to saying, "Don't you want to grow up strong like Popeye?"

Funny thing is, when Popeye was first introduced to the world in 1929 as a minor character in the E. C. Segar comic strip Thimble Theater, he didn't get strong from eating spinach. His super-human strength came from "rubbing the head of the rare Wiffle Hen."

Popeye hit the big-time in 1933 when Max Fleischer at Fleisher Studios began to produce a series of Popeye theatrical cartoons, which rivaled Mickey Mouse in popularity.

This video is the historical first appearance of Popeye in a Fleisher cartoon. It's actually a Betty Boop cartoon, although the sexy star of the Fleischer Studios only makes a brief appearance. It established the basic Popeye storyline -- Arch-enemy Bluto attacks Olive Oyl, Popeye eats spinach and saves the day. What makes the cartoon noteworthy, however, are some of the hilarious Fleischer sight gags. The cartoons would later introduce some characters that had not been present in the comic strip, "notably Peepeye, Pupeye, Pipeye, and Poopeye, Popeye's look-alike nephews."

Popeye later successfully made the jump to television cartoons, and in 1980, Robert Altman made a popular film version, starring Robin Williams.

The ubiquitous sailor man is one of those cultural icons that has conquered just about every form of media available, including movies, comic strips, comic books, theatrical cartoons, television cartoons, radio, and even video games. Not to mention of course, the countless number of merchandise that has carried his image.

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