Popeye has a long and rich history spanning nearly a century and is one of the most recognisable and beloved cartoon characters in the world
Yes, it may be hard to believe, but Popeye has been around a long time. January 17, marks the first appearance of Popeye the Sailor 92 years ago. He was featured in the comic strip "Thimble Theatre" and was created by Elzie Crisler Segar.
This sailor character was created in 1928 by Elzie Crisler Segar for his Thimble Theatre comic strip. The star of many comics and animated cartoons, he is best known for his squinting or entirely missing right eye, huge forearms with two anchor tattoos, skinny upper arms, and corncob pipe.
Popeye has a long and rich history spanning nearly a century and is one of the most recognisable and beloved cartoon characters in the world.
Popeye was created by E. C. Segar and was inspired by a man Segar knew by the name Frank Rocky Fiegel. Popeye would make his debut in the January 17, 1929 Thimble Theatre strip "Dice Island" as a rough sailor for hire. While originally introduced as a minor character, Popeye's popularity eventually grew to the point where he became the main character of Thimble Theatre.
Popeye was born the son of Poopdeck Pappy and an unnamed woman in a typhoon in Santa Monica. Shortly after his birth, his father Poopdeck left home and was never seen again, and his mother's fate was unknown, leaving the young Popeye to be raised by an orphanage keeper who gave him the ID number of 185,764. As an infant, Popeye already had his signature pipe, presumably given to him by his father before leaving. Little Popeye was impressed by early home training and exercised. When he was four years of age, orphanage keeper decided to enter him in contests where the young Popeye became a prize baby. Eventually, the orphan Popeye would fall on hard times upon leaving the orphanage, and was forced to wear flour sacks for clothes, but happily, the luckless lad was taken in by Whaler Joe at the docks, who even bought Popeye a new pipe and a fascinating straw hat with a radio antenna on it.
After turning six, Popeye took his exercise more seriously and started devoting himself to fights with the local bullies.
As the twelve-year old Popeye set off on his first voyage, he would end up losing his right eye in "the mos' arful battle" of his life. One fateful night, Popeye had just finished shooting craps with his five mates, who laid beaten on the deck of the Josie Lee with all their money on Popeye's side. It was then that the monstrous and bloodthirsty cook of the ship, a beast-like man stepped forth, having had enough of Popeye's winning streak. And he punched him so bad that costed Popeye his one eye.
Despite this gruesome defeat, Popeye did not weaken or falter and only became more dangerous from the experience, and he quickly recuperated and continued his service as a sailor.
Later in life, Popeye would offer his seafaring services at local ports; it was there he would eventually meet the ever-ambitious Castor Oyl and his sidekick Ham Gravy, who sought Popeye's services in order to travel to the gambling paradise of Dice Island and make it big using the luck-enhancing powers of their mysterious pet, Bernice the Whiffle Hen, and through them he would meet Castor's sister, Olive Oyl and from then Popeye and Olive have remained almost inseparable and happily in love.
Swee'Pea's dark backstory
Remember the little scrolling baby Swee'Pea? Scooner Seawell Georgia Washenting Christiffer Columbia Daniel Boom, also known as Swee'Pea, is a character in E. C. Segar's comic strip Thimble Theatre and in the Popeye cartoon series derived from it.
In the comics, Swee'Pea is a baby left on Popeye's doorstep. Popeye adopts and raises him as his son, or, as he puts it, "boy-kid". Initially, Swee'Pea's speech consisted entirely of the sound "glop".
Swee'Pea's attire consists of a yellow shirt that is too big for him along with a sailor's cap, much like the one Popeye wears. This baby has a very dark backstory.
Swee'Pea was originally a son of the royal family of Demonia. After Swee'Pea's birth father was killed, Swee'Pea was made the Crown Prince of Demonia, but as he was of royal birth, he needed protection from his evil uncle who wanted to eliminate him and take control of the country.
To save him from such a fate, Swee'Pea's mother left him on the doorstep of the Oyl home knowing the trustworthy sailor who stayed there would protect him.
After finding the abandoned baby, Popeye proposed the name Swee'Pea for the child; Olive objects, saying it sounds ridiculous, and he retorts "Well, what were you going to call him? Baby Oyl?". Eventually, the couple officially decide to name him "Swee'Pea", a term of affection Popeye regularly uses.
The comic was all about Olive Oyl
Did you know originally the comic was about Olive and her family, not about Popeye? Olive Oyl was created by Elzie Crisler Segar in 1919 for his comic strip Thimble Theatre, which was subsequently renamed after Popeye, ever since the sailor character became the most popular member of the strip's cast. Here are some interesting facts about Olive Oyl:
Olive is always depicted as a tall, skinny and lanky young woman with a stick-like figure and oversized feet. She has short black hair which she always keeps tied in a bun and wears a pair of large brown boots and a long black dress with a red top that goes past her knees.
Olive is very close to her family and regularly spends time with them, including her brother, Castor Oyl, mother Nana Oyl, father Cole Oyl, Castor's wife Cylinda Oyl, and niece, Deezil Oyl.
In the original story, Olive was born the daughter of Cole Oyl and Nana Oyl, and the younger sister of the ever ambitious Castor Oyl. Upon reaching adulthood, Olive became the target of two male suitors, the "lounge lizard" Harold Hamgravy and the villainous Willie Wormwood, however Olive chose the young Ham Gravy to be her suitor. Eventually, Wormwood would finally leave Olive be, allowing her to try and move forward in her relationship with Ham Gravy who would become her more-or-less fiancée. Their relationship however would be a very difficult one as Ham Gravy was very lazy, who did as little work as possible and was always borrowing money. His attraction to other women, particularly if they were rich, naturally incensed the problem between Olive and his relationship. She once succumbed to a fit of "lunaphobia" (a kind of angry madness) over one of his amours. When she recovered, she continued to pretend to have the disorder to win him back. She was not immune to flattery from other men, but remained committed to Ham throughout the length of their rocky relationship.
After Olive's brother Castor came into the possession of the magical Bernice the Whiffle Hen, he, Olive and Hamgravy sought to make it rich in the casino paradise of Dice Island. To reach their destination, Castor hired a local sailor in the port known as Popeye the Sailor. Upon first meeting the grumpy sailor, Olive immediately hated Popeye. They fought bitterly and hilariously for weeks until finally realising that they had feelings for each other. It was at this point that Olive left her long-time boyfriend Hamgravy to be with the sailor she now loved, and the two would remain almost inseparable from then on.
Wimpy, the hamburger man
J. Wellington Wimpy, or just Wimpy, is one of the characters in the long-running comic strip Thimble Theatre and in the Popeye cartoons based upon it. He is a hefty hamburger lover and close friend of Popeye's. He is a soft-spoken and cowardly gentleman who will do whatever it takes to get a free hamburger.
Wimpy has become a well-known and loved character in his own right, often seen as one of the most recognizable sidekicks in cartoons and whose association with hamburgers has led him to be featured in many advertisements related to the meaty patty.
Wimpy is reputed to be the source of the term "wimp" (meaning timid or cowardly). "Wimpy's" is also a hugely popular hamburger chain which is definitely inspired from this character.
Bluto or Brutus?
Bluto is a sailor character created in 1932 by Elzie Crisler Segar as a one-time villain, named "Bluto the Terrible," in his Thimble Theatre comic strip. Despite his one-time appearance, Bluto would go on to become Popeye's best-known enemy since being featured in the Fleischer Studios cartoon adaptation, which also led him to become a recurring antagonist in later comics. However, the latter incarnation would mostly be identified as Brutus.
After the theatrical Popeye cartoon series went out of production in 1957, Bluto was replaced by Brutus as distributors of the Fleischer Studios (later Famous Studios) cartoons owned the rights to the name "Bluto". Basically "Brutus" was substituted in order to avoid potential copyright issues.
Brutus appeared in the 1960-1962 Popeye television cartoons, but Bluto would return in subsequent media. However, Brutus would be used by Nintendo for their arcade game based on the property.
Although it may be argued that they are one and the same, Ocean Comics has published one of the Popeye Special comic books where Bluto and Brutus were twin brothers. Bobby London, who drew the "Popeye" daily strip for six years, wrote and illustrated "The Return of Bluto" story where the 1932 version of Bluto returns and discovers a number of bearded bullies have taken his place, calling themselves "Brutus", each one being a different version of Popeye's rival. On December 28, 2008 and April 5, 2009, the Popeye comic strip added Bluto in the capacity of twin brother of Brutus.
1. The couple in the Popeye was real named as Popeye and Olive Oyl. They lived near the Segar's house and the real inspiration came while watching them. A one eyed man named as Frank Rocky Fiegala, who shared fondness of Popeye in terms of fighting and pipe smoking. His appearance gave the idea of a cartoon character Popeye. The Olive Oyl was another neighbor of Elzie Segar, a tall and a slim woman named as Dora Paskel, and she used to tie her hair in a bun. Moreover, when 'Rocky' aka Popeye died, his gravestone was carved with the words, "Inspiration for Popeye".
2. Popeye's love for spinach helped in boosting the sale of the green veggie across the US and many other parts of the world. It impacted kids deeply and encouraged them to eat healthy food. It is said that during a Great Depression, there was a 33% increase in the sale of spinach because of the character as he urged everyone to eat spinach, especially kids. At that time, spinach was listed as one of the favorite foods between kids after turkey and ice cream.
3. Our sailor man was the very first cartoon character to get his own statue. His statue stood tall and proud in Crystal City in Texas since 1937 to honour his contribution to the spinach industry.
4. In one of the cartoons, Popeye is shown telling his nephews that he is actually a descendant of Hercules and his ancestors drew their strength from garlic.
6. Originally, the comic-strip Popeye gained his strength in 1929 by rubbing the head of the rare Whiffle Hen. Spinach only came into the story in 1932.
7. During WWII, the Popeye cartoons reached new heights of popularity and were regularly used to boost U.S. morale, partially because a handful of Popeye cartoons during the war years were incredibly racially offensive towards the Japanese. During the war years, Popeye also made a clear cut wardrobe change. Instead of Popeye's customary skipper's hat and black rolled-up shirt, Popeye made the switch to the all-white navy sailor's outfit, complete with white sailor's cap.
8. In the original Thimble Theater comics, Olive Oyl's boyfriend was "Ham Gravy". He was soon dropped from the comic series because of Popeye's skyrocketing popularity.
9.The Popeye cartoon has given a few terms and words to the English language:
- In later Popeye cartoons, Popeye acquires a pinkish, dog-like creature named "Eugene the Jeep". Four years after this popular dog made its debut, the army's "General Purpose" vehicle, later known as "Jeep" was first manufactured. It's thought that a big part of why "General Purpose" (often called "GP") later gave rise to "Jeep" was because of this dog.
- The word "goon", slang for a criminal or thug, did not originate with Popeye. Popeye cartoons, however, did bring to life a "Goon family", a group of strange, odd-looking creatures with featuring Alice the Goon. This gave "goon" its other meaning of "weird or strange-looking".
- The later Popeye comic strip introduced a character named "Dufus". Dufus, who was Popeye's nephew, soon took a place in the American vernacular as a "silly fool, a dimwit, or a stupid person", often later spelled "doofus".
One of the beautiful thing about the Popeye's carton is the signature theme song, which was written by Fleischer Studios composer Samuel. "I'm Popeye The Sailor man" became very famous in every screen and radio due to the character. Here are the lyrics, according to popeye.wikia.com: