The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

well blow me (down)
Maybe I ignored Tintin's 75th birthday last week, but there's no way I'm going to let Popeye's diamond anniversary pass by without note! Happy birthday, you old swab!

The runty little sailor's always been one of my favorite characters. I grew up with endless repeat viewings of the old King Features Popeye cartoons on Channel 5 in New York City. Purists consider these made-for-TV shorts to be a low point in Popeye's animated career, and indeed, a lot of them have pretty bad animation and writing. But there were more than a few diamonds in the rough, especially with some of the actual artwork (as opposed to the animation, which, as most television animation of the time, was severely lacking) and some darn funny writing. I miss those shorts, and I hope they'll come around to releasing them, along with the more-loved Fleisher/Famous theatrical releases, on DVD some day.

So, how many Popeye-related links can I add here? I'm not going to go nuts, but try these on for size:

- Toonopedia's entry on the Sailor Man, from his origin to the present;

- The word out of Chester, Illinois, Elzie Segar's hometown and thus also Popeye's, which includes an interesting note on the probable real-life inspiration for Popeye:

Randolph County residents proclaim that Popeye was actually based on Frank "Rocky" Fiegel, a Chester tough guy who worked cleaning up a local saloon. Popeye's co-stars were likewise based on Chester area residents Segar came to know growing up.

- King Features' Popeye daily strip;

- The world-famous Popeye statues in Crystal City, Texas and Chester;

- Popeye-brand canned spinach;

- Popeye, the much-maligned 1980 movie starring Robin Williams (which I actually liked, and always thought got a bad rap).