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“I Got A Heart Like Nobody’s Bizness!” COMICS! Sometimes They Are Timeless Magic!

John Kane

Now I don’t know about you but I needed a bit of a larf recently. And the most larfs I had lately were courtesy of these comics. So I thought I’d tell you about them and then you could go and buy them and have a larf too. It’s called The Cycle of Larf! Arf! Arf! No, wait, these are good books, honest! Oh, be like that then.

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POPEYE #1
Art and letters by Bruce Ozella
Written by Roger Langridge
Coloured by Luke McDonnell
IDW, $3.99 (2012)
POPEYE created by E.C. Segar

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A while back I commented that the presence of this comic was awesome for anyone who missed Thimble Theatre. Forgetting I was on The Internet I think my words were misconstrued as a dig at the fact that such an old property was being dug up and dusted off once again; despite the fact that the original audience had long ago ceased to care about comics if not before, then certainly shortly after, they had ceased breathing, which they all had some time ago. That’s not actually what I meant. What I actually meant was that the presence of this comic is awesome for anyone who missed Thimble Theatre. Like me. Basically I meant “missed” as in “failed to experience” rather than “felt the loss or lack of“. Words are tricky, hear me now!

I was well up for this because the only time Roger Langridge has ever disappointed me was that time when he failed to bring peace to the world entire. To be fair though that expectation may only have been in my head and comics are really more his thing. After all comics are a thing Roger Langridge does rather well. Here he just dives in with a feature length tale of Popeye and all his familiar companions, together with several unfamiliar to me anyway, creations having madcap adventures of a bizarre and confounding nature while in serach of a mate for The Jeep.  Apparently this strange creature gave the WW2 US Army vehicle its name. I previously thought it was named after the onomatopoeic effect of the initials for General Purpose (G.P.) but, no, apparently it was a Popeye character. According to the Bud Sagendorf book anyway, more on that anon. Langridge and Ozella’s tale is a pell mell charge into entertainment which is dense in event with something engagingly off-kilter occurring on every page. Ozella’s art has a loose and scrappy quality that retains the “punkier” quality of Segar’s work as opposed to the cleaner Sagendorf stuff. By basically taking the property of Popeye and changing very little (his pipe is just for show now), the book retains the central appeal of the character which is the main reason to buy the thing.  That’s not cluelessness it’s common sense.

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People want Popeye not “street level” Popeye or “Tom Clancy-lite” Popeye. If the book doesn’t sell then people just don’t want Popeye. The yellow lettering on the cover of my copy indicates it is a “2nd Printing“, so I guess people want Popeye alright. This is something DC could bear in mind with characters like Captain “Shazam!” Marvel. If you change it too much it isn’t that character anymore and if it isn’t that character anymore why should anyone care? After all making Captain Marvel a dick in a hood contributes little except a clear indication that he isn’t Jewish. Anyway, this comic is about Popeye not Shazam! (Boo!) and it reads like a Popeye comic and thanks to the talents of all involved it is VERY GOOD!

Please help send Brian Hibbs to Summer Camp by purchasing this comic from HERE. Issues 2,3 and 4 are also now available, just saying. Summer Camp can be pricey these days.

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POPEYE (Classic Comics) #1
By Bud Sagendorf
IDW/Yoe Comics, $3.99 (2012)
POPEYE created by E.C. Segar

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Now, when I read the 2012 comic I had very little idea about Popeye but once I’d finished it I found my curiosity had been piqued. Luckily this comic appeared. So I bought it. Causality in action there. This is apparently the first issue in a complete reprinting of the POPEYE comics which spun up and out from the newspaper strip. There are over a hundred of these. Judging by the contents of this issue the next ten years are going to be called the Happy Popeye Fan Decade. Because although I’d never heard of Bud Sagendorf before buying this it turns out that Bud Sagendorf is all kinds of awesome. He is particularly awesome at Popeye.

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His style is cleaner and more polished than that of Segar but it loses none of its anatomical daftness and retains enough of the creepiness that always underlies Popeye’s comedy. Although these strips are from 1948 they are just as mentally, er, different and rich in incident as the 2012 comic. The strips seem to have been copied straight from the old comics with warts and all remaining which gives them a lovely old timey feeling, like when you maul your grandad’s face. The pages are thick and the package has a heft and solidity pleasing to the purchaser. I believe Brian Hibbs calls this quality “finger“. POPEYE CLASSIC COMICS has good finger. The comics within it are, truth to tell, also VERY GOOD!

Now, I don’t want to come across as though I’m rattling a tin in front of your face but this comic can also be purchased from HERE.

POPEYE The Great Comic Book Tales By Bud Sagendorf
By Bud Sagendorf (Natch! Arf! Arf!)
IDW/Yoe Books, $29.99 (2011)
POPEYE created by E.C. Segar

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So I read those books and then I went looking for more. Because I am a greedy man indeed. And that’s how I ended up buying this. It’s a sturdy volume and like all Yoe books the design and research speak so loudly of  enthusiasm that any cavils about proofreading are soon drowned out. The contents are a selection of Sagendorf’s strips across a roughly 10 year period. The reproduction, and in fact the very first strip, are exactly the same as the comic above. So if you enjoyed that you’re sure to enjoy this. Heck if you enjoy Popeye or just good comics you’re certain to enjoy this.

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There are probably historically verifiable reasons for each of the stunningly unsettling character designs on display here. One thing I do know is the timeless quality engendered by their wonderful weirdness enables each new generation to imprint their own meaning upon them. The Sea Hag, for example, looks like nothing so much as a stroppy Grant Morrison in a hooded cloak. That’s pretty disturbing on its own but when she asks the squint-eyed one for his malformed hand in marriage whole new vistas of repellent perversity play out in the unwilling reader’s mind. Conversely when old arse-chin smacks The Sea Hag one upside her weirdly hirsute chin you do kind of want to shout, “That’s for Siegel and Shuster, you pound shop Anarchist!” Basically though why these strangely swollen and wobbly looking folks look the way they do I haven’t a clue. Maybe E.C. Segar had a squint, talked like his tongue was as big as a cat and had a chin like a bum with a pipe stuck in it. I don’t know. I know he had tattoos so that’s one mystery solved right there. I could have looked it all up but frankly I want to keep the focus on these comics and when I do finally get those E.C. Segar volumes from Fantagraphics I’ll be wanting to present their well researched facts as my own won’t I now?

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This volume has its own well researched facts in the form of preface by Craig Yoe which is illustrated with Sagendorf rarities and one picture of the artist with snowy white hair. I am a big fan of pictures of comic book artists with snowy white hair. To me they are like pictures of kittens are to normal people. This introduction is highly enlightening in regard to Sagendorf’s craft as it includes two pages from a correspondence course he chipped in on (above) and has the man himself explaining, via quotes, some of the process involved in the creation of the strips. He and Segar would basically fish from Segar’s boat for five days hashing ideas out before belting the strips out. The introduction isn’t very long but as I say it’s informative After reading it you understand why Sagendorf was able to replicate The Master’s style after his death i.e. simpatico interests (science -fiction, which explains a lot about the strip in itself) and seemingly being a creative equal for much of their association. And yet it points at the huge mystery of why it took Kings Feature Syndicate 2o years to pass the job on to Sagendorf without offering an answer. In the end though Sagendorf got the gig and made it his own. The extent to which he succeeded can now be viewed by generations previously unaware of his very existence. I think he would have liked that and I think you will like this book as it is VERY GOOD!

Before I bought POPEYE #1 by Langridge and Ozella I knew very little about Popeye, shortly thereafter I had bought POPEYE CLASSIC COMICS #1 and POPEYE THE GREAT COMIC BOOK TALES. I don’t know much about publishing or retailing but I think I might count that as a success right there for all involved and the persistent magic of the the profoundly stupid or perhaps even the stupidly profound, world of POPEYE!

Have a good weekend, y’all, and read some COMICS!!!
(Maybe even buy ‘em from HERE!)

11 Responses to “ “I Got A Heart Like Nobody’s Bizness!” COMICS! Sometimes They Are Timeless Magic! ”

  1. Noway! u r old! I want 2 read about popeye who kicks ASS & puts his pipe thru peeples chest & stuff. Also call him SPINICH not popeye cus every1 thinks of SPINICH 1st when they hears his name. Also this comic wood sell better with more BLOOD on the cover!

  2. G.J. – You, Sir, have the boorish manners of a Yalie! No, Popeye should have a solid grounding in scientific fact. We must explain, in great detail, the effects of radiation in the Sargasso Sea on Poopdeck Pappy that led to the birth of a son with such great strength (and freakish forearms) and indestructibility. Popeye the First Mutant, that is a comic that will sell.

    In one of the many, many spin-off series (either Avenging Popeye or the Spinach Corp) we can learn the secret origin of the Wormhole Ingesting Massive Pachyderm, Yo (W.I.M.P.Y.).

  3. I have no idea if it is still around, but I read the hell as a youth out of the ‘Popeye 50th anniversary book’ by Bud Sagendorf.

    Sagendorf was basically Segar’s apprentice from early in his career, and naturally carried on the strip after Segar’s retirement. The history in the book is breathtaking, particularly the stories about how Popeye was really only introduced as a side-character to Ham Gravy, Castor Oyl and Olive Oyl before essentially taking over the strip (a la Wolverine, the Fonz and Alex Keaton).

  4. J.G. and Jim – I’d laugh if what you both said werent’ so true… okay, I did laugh but it’s all still sadly true…

  5. “After all making Captain Marvel a dick in a hood contributes little except a clear indication that he isn’t Jewish.”

    What a perfectly constructed little joke this is, John. Just brilliant.

  6. If you’ve begun to fall in love with the real Popeye, find the 1980 movie. Robert Altman admired the Segar original, and he hired Jules Feiffer to write the script (Feiffer also greatly admired the Thimble Theater original). The soundtrack is pretty much the last original music created by Harry Nilsson.

    The movie was considered a flop in the US because people went expecting a Robin Williams movie (I believe this was his first film right in the flush of the original Mork & Mindy popularity) and/or the watered down Popeye of the bad cartoons done in the 50s, 60s and 70s. The mass audience no longer knew of the Thimble Theater cast, so when the movie used characters like Ham Gravy, it meant nothing to them.

  7. “Hand”, John — not “finger”

    Finger is either pinning something on someone (“I put the finger on him”), or is otherwise known as “flipping the bird” (“He cut me off, so I gave him the finger”) — which your clever native people do with some sort of “V”, I believe.

    -B

  8. I really liked these reviews, and it made me want to read Popeye, but instead of reading the comics you actually reviewed, it made me want to pick up the Segar Fantagraphics collections.

    I think I’ll definitely check out the Sagendorf collection eventually, though.

    Also the movie thanks to Kosmicki’s comment.

  9. I really liked these reviews, and it made me want to read Popeye, but instead of reading the comics you actually reviewed, it made me want to pick up the Segar Fantagraphics collections.

    I might check out the Sagendorf collection eventually though.

    Also the movie thanks to Kosmicki’s comment.

  10. Wow, dude. I had a very similar progression. I *really* hated the Popeye cartoons when I was a kid. On the other hand, I have such faith in Landridge that I would not be surprised if he achieved world peace some day. So, I picked up his Popeye book and loved it. But it made me want to go back to the original Segar strips. So, I bought some of the huge Fanta books and the original stuff is great! It’s also much more raw than I expected. So, I dug up some of the original Thimble Theater stuff and Segar’s earlier work was…he grew a LOT. It’s actually kinda amazing.

    So, now I’m surprised to find I’m a Popeye fan, too. Landridge is God!

  11. @G.J: I like thr way you blue sky, big guy! C’mon and be my Chief Creative Officer why doncha now!

    @Jim Kakalios: I guess we could have TWO Chief Creative Officers!

    @Aussismurf: Hey, I’ll look out for that book it sounds aces. Ham Gravy! Heh.

    @Harpo: Ain’t it just.

    @Jeff: Um, what joke? (Cheers!!!)

    @Jim Kosmicki: I’ve been on the lookout for that Popeye film since it came out. I think I remember seeing it a whole three times in the TV Listings in my lifetime. I’ll make sure I catch it next time, f’sure! Ham Gravy! Still funny!

    @Brian Hibbs: Are you sure about that? Heh. Calm down, dear! I can’t remember the last time I saw someone “flick a V”. Who knew a once prifane gesture would one day become as quaint and mythic as cream teas and cricket on the village green. I’m going to “flick V”s at people all weekend just to do my bit for British culture.

    @David: Hey, that’s what we like to hear! Segar or Sagendorf – it’s all POPEYE!

    @Chris Hero: You didn’t like the cartoons? I thought they were Fleisher Studios ones? Man, you were a picky kid! Oh, I’d have got the Segar stuff if I could, you betcha! This is more the budget friendly introduction to Popeye. Segar’s up next though, oh yeah!

    Segar might be King but Sagendorf’s no booby prize, kids!

    Thanks everyone! Arf! Arf!

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