Popeye the Sailor
is a comic strip character, later featured in popular
animated cartoons. He was created by Elzie Crisler Segar,
and first appeared in the King Features comic strip Thimble Theater
January 17, 1929.
Comment "My favorite cartoon character is Popoye the sailor man "The Legendary " The Hero Popoye
Popeye quickly became the main focus of the strip, which was
one of King Features' most popular strips during the 1930s. Thimble Theater,
carried on after Segar's death in 1938 by artists such as Bud Sagendorf, was
renamed Popeye in the 1970s. Today drawn by Hy Eisman, Popeye
continues to appear in first-run strips in Sunday papers (daily Popeye
strips are reruns of older strips).
In 1933, Max and Dave Fleischer's Fleischer Studios adapted the Thimble
Theater characters into a series of Popeye the Sailor theatrical
cartoon shorts for Paramount Pictures. These cartoons proved to be among the
most popular of the 1930s, and Popeye at one time rivalled Mickey Mouse for
popularity among audiences.
After Paramount assumed control of the Fleischer Studio in 1942, they
continued producing the series until 1957. Later Popeye cartoons were
produced for television from 1960 to 1962 by King Features, and from 1978 to
1982 and 1987 to 1988 by Hanna-Barbera Productions (now owned by Warner
Fictional character biography
Popeye is an independent sailor (or "sailor man," as he puts it) with a
unique way of speaking, muscular forearms with two (sometimes one) anchors
tattooed on them, and an ever-present corncob pipe (which he toots like a
steamship's whistle at times). His strange, humorous, and often supernatural
adventures take him all over the world, and place him in conflict with enemies
such as the Sea Hag and Bluto. Popeye also seems to like singing a song called
"Popeye the Sailor Man." His hometown is a fictional town called Seawater.
Many debate the military service in which Popeye served. In Fleischer's
Popeye Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves, Popeye is found guarding his Coast Guard
Station. Popeye even tells Ali Baba to "stop in the name of the Coast Guard."
Later, other cartoonists place Popeye in other services, such as the Navy and
In addition to a gravelly voice and a casual attitude toward grammar, Popeye
is known for having an apparent speech impediment (a common
character-distinguishing device in early cartoons), which either comes naturally
or is caused by the ever-present pipe in his mouth. Among other things, he has
problems enunciating a trailing "t". Thus, "fist" becomes "fisk" (as sung in his
song) and "infant" becomes "infink".
The plot lines in the animated cartoons tended to be simpler. A villain,
usually Bluto makes a move on Popeye's "sweetie", Olive Oyl. The bad guy then
clobbers Popeye until Popeye eats spinach, which gives him superhuman strength.
Spinach farmers in Crystal City, Texas were so grateful for this they erected a
statue of Popeye in the town and credited him for saving the then-dying spinach
|Popeye and Olive Oyl in A Date to Skate (1938).
Although Popeye is short, odd-looking, belligerent, and has only his left eye
(although, if viewers have a keen eye, at times, he needs to rub his eyes to see
correctly, and his second eye seems to open) many consider him a precursor to
the superheroes who would eventually come to dominate the world of comic books.
Some observers of popular culture point out that the fundamental character of
Popeye, paralleling that of another 1930s icon, Superman, is very close to the
traditional view of how
the U.S. sees itself as a nation: possessing
uncompromising moral standards and resorting to force when threatened, or when
he "can't stands no more" bad behavior from an antagonist.
This theory is directly reinforced in certain cartoons, when Popeye defeats his
foe while a US patriotic song such as "The Stars and Stripes Forever", or
"Columbia, Gem of the Ocean" plays on the soundtrack. One of Popeye's
catchphrases is "I yam what I yam, and that's all I yam," which may be seen as
an expression of statesider individualism.
One historian believes Popeye was inspired from Frank "Rocky" Fiegel, a
man who was handy with his fists during Segar's youth in Chester, Illinois. Fiegel was born on January 27, 1868. He lived as a bachelor his entire life and
never got married. It was said that later Segar sent Fiegel checks in the 1930s.
Fiegel died on March 24, 1947 at the age of 79.
Such has been Popeye's cultural impact that the medical profession sometimes
refers to the biceps bulge symptomatic of a tendon rupture as the "Popeye
muscle". Note however that Popeye has pronounced muscles of the forearm,
not of the
Thimble Theater comic strip
Popeye first appeared on January 17, 1929 as a minor character in Segar's
newspaper cartoon strip Thimble Theater, which had been running
since 1919 with protagonists Olive Oyl, her brother Castor Oyl, and her
boyfriend, Harold Hamgravy. The Popeye character became so popular that he was
given a larger role. Olive eventually left Hamgravy to become Popeye's
girlfriend, although she often displayed a fickle attitude towards the sailor.
Castor Oyl continued to come up with get-rich-quick schemes, and enlisted Popeye
in the misadventures.
As the illustration shows, the muscular disparity between Popeye's biceps and
forearm was not nearly so exaggerated initially.
In 1933, Popeye received a foundling baby in the mail, whom he adopted and
named "Swee'Pea". Other regular characters in the strip were J. Wellington
Wimpy, a moocher and a hamburger lover who would "gladly pay you Tuesday for a
hamburger today" (he was also soft-spoken and cowardly, hence his name); George
W. Geezil, a local cobbler who speaks in a heavily affected accent and
habitually attempted to murder or wish death upon Wimpy; Poopdeck Pappy,
Popeye's belligerent and woman-hating father; and Eugene the Jeep, a yellow,
vaguely dog-like animal from Africa with magical powers. In addition, the strip
featured the Sea Hag (a terrible pirate, as well as the last witch on earth),
and Alice the Goon, a monstrous creature who entered the strip as the Sea Hag's
henchman and continued as Swee'pea's baby sitter.
Segar's strip was quite different from the cartoons that followed. The
stories were more complex, with many characters who never appeared in the
cartoons (King Blozo for example). Spinach-usage was rare and Bluto made only
one appearance. Segar would sign some of his early Popeye comic strips with a
cigar, due to his last name being a homonym of "cigar".
Artists after Segar
After Segar's death in 1938, many different artists were hired to draw the
strip. Tom Sims, the son of a Coosa River channel-boat captain continued writing
Thimble Theater strips and established the Popeye the Sailorman
spin-off. Doc Winner and Bela Zaboly, successively, handled the artwork. Ralph
Stein took over the writing until the series was taken over by Bud Sagendorf in
Sagendorf wrote and drew the daily strip until 1986 and the Sunday strip
until his death in 1994 . Sagendorf, who had been Segar's assistant, made a
definite effort to retain much of the classic style, although his art is
instantly discernible. Many obscure characters from the Segar years were
maintained, especially O.G. Wotasnozzle and King Blozo. Sagendorf's new
characters, such as the Thung, had a very Segar-like quality. What set Sagendorf
apart from Segar more than anything else was his sense of pacing. Where
plotlines moved very quickly with Segar, it would sometimes take an entire week
of Sagendorf's daily strips for the plot to be advanced even a small amount.
Quotes from Popeye
- (Castor Oyl: You there, are you a sailor?) "Ja' think I'm a cowboy?" -
Popeye first line in the comic strip, therefore his first line.
- "I yam what I yam and tha's all what I yam." -- Popeye the Sailor
- "Well blow me down!" -- Popeye
- "That's all I can stands, cuz I can't stands n'more!" - Popeye
- "I'm strong to the finach, 'cause I eats me Spinach, I'm Popeye the sailor
man! (toot, toot)" - Popeye (from theme song)
- "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today." - J. Wellington Wimpy
- "Let's you and him fight." - J. Wellington Wimpy
- "Popeye, Popeye!" --Olive Oyl
- "I'll take you all on one at a time!"
- "Where's the entrance to the exit?"
- "Oh yeah? WHAM!" (from the earlier cartoons)
George Wildman drew Popeye for Charlton Comics from 1969 till the late 1970s.
From 1986 to 1992, the daily strip was written and drawn by Bobby London, who
after some controversy was fired from the strip for a story that could be taken
to satirize abortion. London's strips put Popeye and his friends in updated
situations, but kept the spirit of Segar's original. One classic storyline
titled, "The Return of Bluto" had the sailor battling every version of the
bearded bully from the comic strip, comic books and animated films. Since then
the daily strip has been reprints of older Sagendorf strips, and the Sunday
strip was taken over by Hy Eisman in 1994. Acknowledging Popeye's growing
popularity, the strip was billed as Thimble Theater Starring Popeye
during the 1960s and 1970s, and eventually was titled simply Popeye.
Thimble Theater was adapted into an animated cartoon series originally
produced for Paramount Pictures by Fleischer Studios, run by brothers Max
Fleischer (producer) and Dave Fleischer (director) in 1933. Popeye made his film
debut in Popeye the Sailor, a 1933 Betty Boop cartoon (Betty only makes a
brief appearance as she reenacts her hula-hula dance seen in Betty Boop's Bamboo
Isle at the local carnival). It was for this short that Sammy Lerner's famous
"I'm Popeye the Sailor Man" song was written. I Yam What I Yam became the
first entry in the regular Popeye the Sailor series.
As one astute cartoon historian has observed, the song itself was inspired by
the first two lines of the "Pirate King" song in Gilbert and Sullivan's
operetta, The Pirates of Penzance: "For I am a Pirate King! (Hoorah for
the Pirate King!)" The tune behind those two lines is identical to the "Popeye"
song except for the high note on the first "King".
The character of Popeye was originally voiced by William "Billy" Costello
(Red Pepper Sam). When Costello's behavior became a problem, he was replaced by
former in-between animator Jack Mercer, beginning with King of the Mardi Gras
in 1935 . Olive Oyl was voiced by a number of actresses, but by far the most
notable was Mae Questel, who also voiced Betty Boop. Questel eventually took
over the part completely until 1938. Various actors provided the voice of Bluto,
including Gus Wickie, William Pennell, Jackson Beck, and Pinto Colvig. Other
characters from the strip would appear briefly in the shorts, including Poopdeck
Pappy, Eugene the Jeep, George W. Geezil, and the Goons.
Thanks to the series, Popeye became even more of a sensation. During the
mid-1930s, polls taken by theater owners proved Popeye more popular than
In 1935, Paramount added to Popeye's popularity by sponsoring the "Popeye Club"
as part of their Saturday matinee program. Popeye cartoons, including "Let's
Sing With Popeye" were a regular part of the weekly meetings. For a 10 cent
membership fee, club members were given a Popeye Kazoo, a membership card, the
chance to become elected as the Club's "Popeye" or "Olive Oyl" and opportunities
to win other valuable gifts.
The Popeye series was noted for its urban feel (the Fleischers operated out
of New York City), its manageable variations on its simple theme (Popeye loses
Olive to bully Bluto and must eat his spinach and defeat him), and the
characters' "under-the-breath" mutterings (which began as ad-libs by Mercer, who
muttered so that his additions would not alter the timing of the completed
animation). The voices for pre-1940 Fleischer cartoons were recorded after the
animation was completed, so the actors, Mercer in particular, would improvise
lines that were not on the storyboards or prepared for the lip-sync.
Fleischer Studios produced 108 Popeye cartoons; 105 of them in black and
white. The remaining three were two-reel (double-length) Technicolor specials
billed as "Popeye Color Features": Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor,
Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves, and Aladdin and His
The Fleischers moved their studio to Miami, Florida in 1938 to weaken union
control and take advantage of tax breaks. The Popeye series continued
production, although a marked change was seen in the Florida-produced shorts:
they were brighter and less detailed in their artwork, with attempts to bring
the character animation closer to a Disney style. Mae Questel refused to move to
Florida, and Margie Hines, the wife of Jack Mercer, voiced Olive Oyl through the
end of 1943.
In 1941, with World War II becoming more of a source of concern in America,
Popeye was enlisted into the U.S. Navy, as depicted in the 1941 short "The
Mighty Navy". His costume was changed from the black shirt and white neckerchief
to an official white Navy suit, and Popeye continued to wear the Navy suit in
animated cartoons until the 1960s. Popeye periodically wore his original costume
when at home on shore leave, as in the 1942 entry Pip-Eye, Pup-Eye, Poop-Eye,
An' Peep-Eye, which introduced his four identical nephews.
Fleischer Studios was dissolved in January 1942 when Max and Dave were both
forced to resign from the company. Paramount purchased the studio and renamed it
Famous Studios. Appointing Seymour Kneitel and Isadore Sparber as its heads,
production was continued on the shorts. The early Famous-era shorts were often
World War II themed, featuring Popeye fighting Nazis and Japanese soldiers.
In late 1943, the Popeye series was moved to all-Technicolor
production, beginning with Her Honor the Mare. Paramount moved the studio
back to New York at this time, and Mae Questel re-assumed voice duties for Olive
Oyl. Jack Mercer was drafted into the Navy during World War II. When he was
unavailable to record his dialogue, Mae Questel stood in as the voice of Popeye,
in addition to her role as Olive Oyl. Jackson Beck voiced Bluto in the color
Famous shorts, which began to adhere even closer to the standard Popeye formula.
Cartoon - Popeye the Sailor:
Parlez Vous Woo (1956)
Theatrical Popeye cartoons on television
Famous/Paramount continued producing the Popeye series until 1957,
with Spooky Swabs being the final of the 125 Famous shorts in the series.
Paramount then sold the Popeye film backlist to Associated Artists
Productions. AAP was bought out by United Artists and later merged with
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which was itself purchased by Turner Entertainment in 1986.
Turner sold off the production end of MGM/UA in 1988, but retained the film
catalogue, giving it the rights to the theatrical Popeye library.
The black-and-white Popeye shorts were shipped to South Korea in 1985,
where artists retraced them into colour. The process made the shorts more
marketable in the modern television era, but prevented the viewers from seeing
the original Fleischer pen-and-ink work, as well as the three-dimensional
backgrounds created by Fleischer's "Tabletop" process. Turner merged with Time
Warner in 1996, and Warner Bros. (through its Turner subsidiary) therefore
currently controls the rights to the Popeye shorts. These colorized
shorts began airing on WTBS Channel 17 Atlanta in 1986 during their "Tom & Jerry
and Friends" 90 minute weekday morning and hour long weekday afternoon shows.
They were syndicated colorized in 1988 on a barter basis until the early 1990's.
For many decades, viewers could only see a majority of the classic Popeye
cartoons with the altered opening and closing credits (AAP had, for the most
part, replaced the original Paramount logos with their own, and thus destroying
the impact of their original theatrical presentation). But in 2001, the Cartoon
Network, under the supervision of animation archivist Jerry Beck, created a new
incarnation of The Popeye Show. The show aired, for the first time since
their original theatrical releases, the Fleischer and Famous Studios shorts in
their original unaltered form (complete with their original Paramount credits)
in both black & white and color (depending on the original production of the
shorts). Gone were any scenes bearing the mark of the television syndicator
(Associated Artists Productions) with the original footage restored to each film
seen on the 45 episode series along with trivia about the characters, voice
actors, and animators with Bill Murray as the announcer. 135 Popeye
cartoons were restored, and the program aired without interruption until March
2004. The Popeye Show continues to air on Boomerang to this day. It is these
restored shorts that are now making their way into revival film houses for
occasional festival screenings.
The Fleischer and Famous Studios films have not had an official VHS or DVD
video release. United Artists (under the former MGM/UA management) had planned a
VHS and Beta release in 1983 but were informed by King Features Syndicate that
they and only they had the legal right to release Popeye cartoons on video.
United Artists did not challenge King Features' claim, and a release never
happened. While King Features own the rights to the Popeye characters, it has
never owned any part of the Fleischer/Famous cartoons. King licensed the rights
to Paramount Pictures to use the images of Popeye and his crew in the theatrical
cartoons, but did not retain ownership of the films.
A clause in the original contract between Paramount Pictures and King
Features stated that after ten years, the prints and negatives of the Popeye
cartoons were to be destroyed.
King Features had the same clause for all of their licensed properties. There is
speculation that the clause contributed to the demise of Fleischer Studios. The
clause was never enforced for Popeye.
Still, a handful of Popeye cartoons from the 1930's and early 1940's have
fallen into public domain and these are available on numerous low budget DVDs.
Since King Features Syndicate had exclusive rights to the 1960-1962
made-for-television Popeye Cartoons, about half of them have been released on
DVD as a 75th Edition Popeye boxed set in 2004. Fans consider these inferior to
the theatrical episodes, but these were also widely shown on television into the
Warner Bros./Turner Entertainment later acquired the cartoons and reached an
agreement with Hearst Entertainment and King Features Syndicate. Warner Home
Video recently announced it would release the theatrical cartoons from 1933 up
to the last theatrical ones in the late 1950's. They also will re-release the
made-for-TV Popeye cartoons of the 1960's as well release the ones made from
1978 to 1987 (note no episodes were ever made between 1962 and 1978) on DVD,
restored and uncut, presumably sourced 'from the original masters', starting in 2007. This is similar
in most respects to the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD sets also
released by Warner, except the Popeye shorts will be released in chronological
According to Amazon and TV Shows On DVD, the first Warner Brothers DVD
release will be on July 31, 2007. This will feature all the Popeye Cartoons from
1933 to 1938 in their original black and white form and will not be the
colorized editions. As stated, further releases are planned later in 2007 and
well into 2008.
In the meantime, some Popeye cartoons from the Fleischer Studios era
now in the public domain have made their way into several unofficial VHS and DVD
cartoon compilations. Among these cartoons are a handful of the Fleischer black
and whites, several early-1950s Famous shorts, and all three Popeye Color
Popeye and his identical
quadruplet nephews (Pipeye, Pupeye, Poopeye, Peepeye), in a scene from Famous
Studios' "Me Musical Nephews" (1942).
Original television cartoons
In 1960, King Features Syndicate commissioned a new series of Popeye
cartoons, but this time for television syndication. Mercer, Questel, and Beck
returned for this series, which was produced by a number of companies, including
Jack Kinney Studios, Rembrandt Studios, and Paramount Cartoon Studios (formerly
Famous Studios). The artwork was streamlined and simplified for the television
budgets, and 220 cartoons were produced in only two years, with the first set of
them premiering in the autumn of 1960, and the last of those debut during the
1961-1962 television season.
For these cartoons, Bluto's name was changed to "Brutus," as King Features
believed at the time that Paramount owned the rights to the name "Bluto." Many
of the cartoons made by Paramount used plots and storylines taken directly from
the comic strip sequences-as well as characters like King Blozo and the Sea Hag. The 1960s cartoons are the only Popeye cartoons from the classic era to
have yet been given an official video release, and have been issued on both VHS
On September 9, 1978, The All-New Popeye Hour debuted on the CBS
Saturday morning lineup. It was an hour-long animated series produced by Hanna-Barbera
Productions, which tried its best to retain the style of the original comic
strip (Popeye returned to his original costume and Brutus to his original name
of Bluto), while complying with the prevailing content restrictions on violence.
The All-New Popeye Hour ran on CBS until September 1981, when it was cut
to a half-hour and retitled The Popeye and Olive Show. It was removed
from the CBS lineup in September 1983, the year before Jack Mercer's death.
These cartoons have also been released on VHS and DVD. During the time these
cartoons were in production, CBS aired The Popeye Valentine's Day Special -
Sweethearts at Sea on February 14 (Valentine's Day), 1979.
Popeye briefly returned to CBS in 1987 for Popeye and Son, another
Hanna-Barbera series which featured Popeye and Olive as a married couple with a
son named Popeye Jr., who hates but respects spinach. Maurice LaMarche performed
Popeye's voice; Jack Mercer had died in 1984 . The show lasted for one season.
In 2004, Lions Gate Films produced a computer-animated television special,
Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy, which was made to coincide with the
75th anniversary of Popeye. Billy West performed the voice of Popeye; after the
first day of recording, his throat was so sore he had to return to his hotel
room and drink honey. The uncut version was released on DVD on November 9, 2004;
and was aired in a re-edited version on FOX on December 17, 2004 and again on
December 30, 2005. Its style was influenced by the 1930s Fleischer cartoons, and
featured Swee' Pea, Wimpy, Bluto (who is Popeye's friend in this version), Olive
Oyl, Poopdeck Pappy, and The Sea Hag as its characters.
Popeye has made brief parody appearances in modern animated productions,
including The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004), and the TV shows
Drawn Together, Robot Chicken, The Simpsons (in the episode
"Jaws Wired Shut" for instance) and Family Guy. Popeye imitations are a
frequent element of comedian Dave Coulier's routines, and were performed often
during his co-starring role on the ABC sitcom Full House.
There have been a number of Popeye comic books, from Dell and other
publishers, including a comic book in which Popeye and Olive Oyl marry. In the
comics, Popeye became something like a freelance police assistant, fighting
mafia and Bluto's criminal activities. The new villains included the Mings
dwarves, who were identical.
Popeye and most of the major supporting cast members were also featured in a
thrice-weekly 15-minute radio program named Popeye the Sailor. The Popeye
radio program was broadcast over three different networks by two sponsors from
1935 to 1938. The show was broadcast Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights at
7:15pm. September 10, 1935 through March 28, 1936 on the NBC Red Network (87
episodes), initially sponsored by Wheatena, a whole-wheat breakfast cereal,
which would routinely replace the spinach references. Announcer Kelvin Beech
would sing, to composer Sammy Lerner's "Popeye" theme, "Wheatena is his diet /
He asks you to try it / With Popeye the sailor man". Wheatena reportedly paid
King Features Syndicate $1,200 per week.
The show was then broadcast Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7:15 – 7:30
p.m. on WABC, and ran from August 31, 1936 to February 26, 1937 (78 episodes).
Once again, reference to spinach was conspicuously absent. Now Popeye would
sing, "Wheatena's me diet / I ax ya to try it / I'm Popeye the Sailor Man".
The third series was sponsored by the maker of "Popsicle" three nights a week
for 15 minutes at 6:15pm on CBS from May 2, 1938 through July 29, 1938. Out of
the three series, only 20 of the 204 episodes are still known to exist.
Director Robert Altman used the character in Popeye, a 1980
live-action musical feature film starring Robin Williams as Popeye, Paul Smith
as Bluto and Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl, with songs penned by Harry Nilsson.
The script was by Jules Feiffer, a big fan of the original strips. Many of the
characters created by Segar appeared in the film, a co-production of Paramount
Pictures and Walt Disney Productions. The film was Williams' first. The village
the film is based around was built in northern Malta in the village 'Mellieha'.
It is still an advertised attraction today, having been opened to the public.
Video and pinball games
Nintendo created a Popeye video game based on the characters in 1982.
The game was originally released as an arcade game and was fairly popular. It
was later ported to the Commodore 64 home computer as well as various home game
consoles (Intellivision, Atari 2600, ColecoVision, NES, and Odyssey2).
The goal was to avoid Bluto and the Sea Hag while collecting hearts, musical
notes, or the letters in the word "help" (depending on the level). Punching a
can of spinach gave Popeye a brief chance to strike back at Bluto. Other
characters such as Wimpy and Swee' Pea appeared in the game but did not affect
gameplay. Nintendo overcame some resistance from King Features to bring the game
to market. The game is playable on the MAME game emulator computer program for
PC. A board game based on the video game was released by Parker Brothers.
In 1994, Technos Japan released Popeye : Ijiwaru Majo Seahug no Maki
(Volume of the Malicious Witch Seahag) for the Japanese Super Famicom. A side
scrolling adventure game that was mixed with a board game, the game never saw US
release, but a ROM of the game can be found at various emulation sites. It
featured many characters from the Thimble Theater series as well. In the game,
Popeye had to recover magical hearts scattered across the level to restore his
frozen friends as part of a spell cast upon them by the Sea Hag in order to get
revenge on Popeye.
Midway (under the Bally label) released Popeye Saves the Earth,
a SuperPin pinball game, in 1994. In 2006, a Game Boy Advance video game called
Popeye: Rush for Spinach was released.
I'm in the Army Now
(1936) with Bluto
Popeye’s theme song, titled "I'm Popeye The Sailor Man", composed by
Sammy Lerner in 1933 for Fleischer’s first Popeye the Sailor cartoon,
has become forever associated with the sailor. As one cartoon historian has
observed, the song itself was inspired by the first two lines of the "Pirate
King" song in Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta, The Pirates of Penzance:
"For I am a Pirate King! (Hoorah for the Pirate King!)" The tune behind those
two lines is identical to the "Popeye" song except for the high note on the
A cover of the song, performed by Face To Face, is included on the 1995
tribute album Saturday Morning: Cartoons' Greatest Hits, produced by Ralph Sall
for MCA Records.
The reference to spinach comes from the publication of a study which, because
of a misprint, attributed to spinach ten times its actual iron content. The
error was discovered in the 1930s but not widely publicized until T.J. Hamblin
wrote about it in the British Medical Journal in 1981.
The popularity of the character helped boost sales of the leafy vegetable and
the spinach-growing community of Crystal City, Texas erected a statue of the
character in gratitude. There is another Popeye statue in Segar's hometown,
Chester, Illinois. Another statue is in Alma, Arkansas, which claims to be "The
Spinach Capital of the World", and is home to Allen Canning which markets
Popeye-branded canned spinach. A statue of Popeye is also at Universal Orlando
Resort in the Islands of Adventure theme park, which has Popeye-themed rides.
The 1954 Popeye cartoon Greek Mirthology depicts the fictional
origin of spinach consumption in Popeye's family. Popeye's Greek ancestor,
Hercules, originally sniffed garlic to gain his supernatural powers. When the
evil Brutus removes the scent of the garlic using chlorophyll (an obvious
incongruity), Hercules ends up getting punched into a spinach field, and, upon
eating the leafy green substance, finds it empowers him many times more than
In the consumption realm, in addition to Allen Canning's Popeye spinach,
Popeye Fresh Foods markets bagged, fresh spinach with Popeye characters on the
In 2006, when spinach contaminated with E. coli was accidentally sold
to the public, many editorial cartoonists lampooned the affair with Popeye
featured in their cartoons.
The strip is also responsible for popularizing, although not inventing, the
word 'goon' (meaning a thug or lackey); goons in Popeye's world were large
humanoids with indistinctly drawn faces that were particularly known for being
used as muscle and slave labor by Popeye's nemesis the Sea Hag. One particular
goon, the aforementioned female named Alice, was an occasional recurring
character in the animated shorts, but was usually a fairly nice character.
The Popeye Picnic is held every year in Chester, Illinois on the weekend
after Labor Day. Popeye fans attend from across the globe, including a visit by
a film crew from South Korea in 2004. The one-eyed sailor's hometown pulls out
all of the stops to entertain devotees of all ages.
Marketing, tie-ins, and endorsements
Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits, a fast food restaurant chain, is not
named after Popeye the sailor, but rather after the character "Popeye" Doyle
from the 1971 film The French Connection, who was in turn named after
real police detective Eddie Egan, who was called "Pop eye" because of his keen
observational skills. The restaurant chain would later obtain a license for the
cartoon characters for use as a promotional tool, causing some confusion as to
the source of the name. Recently, Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits has omitted the
use of "Popeye the Sailor" in promotions; one reason given by CEO Ken Keymer was
that "nobody in their right mind equates fried chicken with a speech-impeded
In 1991, a special series of short Popeye comic books were included in
specially marked boxes of instant Quaker Oatmeal. The plots were similar to
those of the films: Popeye loses either Olive Oyl or Swee' Pea to a musclebound
antagonist, eats something invigorating, and proceeds to save the day. In this
case, however, the invigorating elixir was not his usual spinach, but, rather,
one of four flavors of Quaker Oatmeal. (A different flavor was showcased with
each mini comic.) The catch phrase, "Can the spinach! I wants me instant Quaker
Oatmeal!" apparently failed to catch on with the general public, and the
promotional campaign remains little-known.
In 1995, the Popeye comic strip was one of 20 included in the Comic
Strip Classics series of commemorative U.S. postage stamps.
From early on, Popeye was heavily merchandised. Everything from soap to razor
blades to spinach was available with Popeye's likeness on it. Most of these
items are rare and sought-after by collectors, but some merchandise is still
being produced; for example Mezco Toys makes classic-style Popeye figures in two
sizes, and KellyToys produces plush stuffed Popeye characters.
In 2001, Popeye (along with Bluto, Olive, and twin Wimpys) appeared in a
television commercial for Minute Maid Orange Juice. The commercial, produced by
Leo Burrnett Co, showed Popeye and Bluto as friends (and neglecting Olive Oyl)
due to their having had Minute Maid Orange Juice that morning. The ad agencies
intention was to show that even the famous enemies would be in a good mood after
their juice but some, including Robert Knight of the Culter and Family
Institute, felt the commercial's intent was to portray the pair in a homosexual
romantic relationship -- an allegation that Minute Maid denies. Knight was
interviewed by Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central's The Daily Show over
Popeye in Fleischer's
Little Swee' Pea (1936).
Popeye also produced "candy cigarettes", which were pretty much small sugar
sticks with red dye at the end to simulate a flame. They were sold in a small
box, similar to a cigarette pack. The company still produces the item - but has
since changed the name to "Popeye Candy Sticks" and has ceased putting the red
dye at the end.
The original newspaper strips were collected and published in multiple
volumes by Fantagraphics. Wimpy's name was borrowed for the Wimpy restaurant
chain, one of the first international fast food restaurants featuring
hamburgers, which they call "Wimpy Burgers."
Popeye and "bad English"
Singapore once banned "Popeye" from local TV stations during the 1980s
because the cartoon series promoted the wrong or distorted usage of English
Although educators in Singapore saw nothing wrong with the story, it feared
that the "bad English" used by Popeye in his dialogues would encourage kids to
imitate its uses. Among the kind of bad English that Singaporean educators
pointed out from Popeye was the use of "me" instead of "my" to describe his
ownership over certain things, like "I'm strong to the finish, cause I eat 'me'
Singapore is under a strict program to promote the use of English as a second
language in its elementary and high schools in its aim for "first world"
proficiency of its citizens right after graduation from college.
- Popeye the Sailor, Nostalgia Press, 1971, reprints three daily
stories from 1936.
- Thimble Theatre, Hyperion Press, 1977, ISBN 0-88355-663-4, reprints
daily from September 10, 1928 missing 11 dailies which are included in the
- Popeye, the First Fifty Years by Bud Sagendorf, Workman Publishing,
1979 ISBN 0-89480-066-3, the only Popeye reprint in full color.
- The Complete E. C. Segar Popeye, Fantagraphics, 1980s, reprints all
Segar Sundays featuring Popeye in 4 volumes, all Segar dailies featuring Popeye
in 7 volumes, missing 4 dailies which are included in the Hyperion reprint,
November 20 – November 22, 1928 August 22, 1929.
- Popeye. The 60th Anniversary Collection, Hawk Books Limited, 1989,
ISBN 0-948248-86-6 featuring reprints a selection of strips and stories from the
first newspaper strip in 1929 onwards, along with articles on Popeye in comics,
books, collectables, etc.
- Popeye, Fantagraphics, 2006-on, new hardcover reprint series of all
Segar Sundays and dailies featuring Popeye, with Sundays in color, in six
Characters in Popeye comics/cartoons
Thimble Theatre characters
- Olive Oyl
- Castor Oyl (Olive Oyl's brother)
- Cole Oyl (Olive Oyl's father) (also appeared in an episode of Popeye and
Son, in a flashback; and in the episode of the series of the 60s, Olive
White and the Seven Sweepeas, as the king)
- Nana Oyl (Olive Oyl's mother) - A play on the slang term "Banana Oil" (also
appeared in an episode of Popeye and Son, in a flashback)
- Harold Hamgravy (Olive Oyl's original boyfriend)
- Popeye the Sailor
- The Sea Hag
- Sea Hag's Vultures, Specifically Bernard
- J. Wellington Wimpy
- George W. Geezil (the local cobbler who hates Wimpy)
- Rough House (a cook who runs a local restaurant, The Rough House) (also
appeared in the series of the 60s)
- Swee'Pea (Popeye's "adopted" baby son in the comics, Olive's cousin in the
- King Blozo (also appeared in the series of the 60s)
- Goons, Specifically Alice the Goon
- Poopdeck Pappy (Popeye's 99-year-old long-lost father; also a sailor)
- Eugene the Jeep
- Bill Barnacle (a fellow sailor)
- Oscar (in various cameos, also appeared in the series of the 60s and in the
The All-New Popeye Hour is mentioned by Olive, and has taken his place as
butler in the Valntine Special of this series)
- O. G. Watasnozzle (also appeared in the series of the 60s and in an episode
of Popeye and Son)
Popeye cartoon characters
- Popeye the Sailor
- Pipeye, Pupeye, Poopeye, Peepeye (Popeye's identical nephews)
- Diesel Oyl (Olive's identical niece, a conceited brat that appears in only 3
shorts: Popeye's Junior Headache, The Mark of Zero -inspired in
Zorro- and Popeye the Couch -aside of Swee'pea- in the series of the 60s;
although in a segment between-stories of The All-New
Popeye Hour appear four Olive's identical nephews, dancing in a
diurnal party with the Popeye ones, unknowingly if Diesel is one of the these
- Shorty (Popeye's shipmate during he World War II period)
- Poopdeck Pappy, Popeye's father
- Olive Oyl, Popeye's girlfriend
- J. Wellington Wimpy
- Popeye Jr. (Son of Popeye and Olive Oyl, exclusive of the short lived series
Popeye and Son)
Have Your Say
My favorite cartoon character is Popoye the sailor man "The Legendary " The Hero Popoye
popeye is a legendary character he has always been my