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Yes, I know Tumbleweeds is done.

§ August 10th, 2018 § Filed under all star batman, comic strips, popeye § 9 Comments

So Dave Carter of Earth sez in response to my last post, he sez

“I wonder if kids these days get exposed to Popeye like we did when we were young? I mainly learned the basics of Popeye mythology (Popeye, Olive, Swee’Pea, Bluto/Brutus, Wimpy, spinach, etc.) though the cartoon, which ran on a local UHF station. But I’m not aware of any way a kid these days would encounter Popeye unless it is purposely placed in front of them by an adult-type.”

…And yeah, that was something I was wondering about myself the other day. Well, in sort of a roundabout way, I suppose. I was wondering if we would ever see, arising from the newspaper funny pages, a strip that would achieve the near-universal recognition and/or influence of, like, Garfield, or Peanuts, or Dilbert, or even Popeye.

I mean, sure, it’s not like the strips can’t be found, and even if people don’t have newspaper subscriptions, which nowadays is more and more likely, the comics can always be found online at the various syndication websites. But there that requires readers to go and seek the strips out, versus the strips coming into your home every day with the latest copy of the Oxnard Press-Courier (or your local equivalent). Near effortless daily access for readers of all ages compared to a readership comprised of at least slightly tech-savvy folks (or at least with tech-savvy relatives to show ’em how to get the new Marvin)…there’s going to be some attrition.

And not to mention selection…the latter group won’t be getting the full page or two of every strip in the paper, where they’ll at least be aware of Tumbleweeds, probably spending the couple of seconds to read it even if they don’t like it. Instead they’d likely pick and choose which strips they want to follow…no inadvertently scanning over strips they didn’t want to read, no basic knowledge of the strips they don’t see.

I’m making a lot of assumptions here. My thesis here essentially boils down to “comic strips aren’t the universal experience they used to be,” which I don’t think can be too heavily argued against, even if the reasons for this are up for debate. Is there going to be another licensing juggernaut like Garfield that spawns out of the traditional newspaper strip format? Or even from web-only strips? Surely there will be some marketing success with other strips, but only if they make it into other media, and not nearly on the scale of a slothful orange cat or a neighborhood filled with neurotic children.

Anyway, we were talking about Popeye. Popeye, of course, was immensely popular nearly from the get-go, with his introduction in the comic strip in 1929, and the famous cartoons, and, inexplicably, the chicken restaurant (RIP that tie-in license, by the way). But now, in 2018, like Dave said above, it seems like the number of opportunties for kids to learn about Popeye are drastically reduced.

The comic strip runs reruns of old Bud Sagendorf dailies, while still producing new Sunday strips by Hy Eisman. I don’t know how many subscribing papers Popeye has, but it can’t be too many, possibly only a fraction of the number it held in its heyday. You know, like almost every other strip.

The cartoons, which seemed ubiquitous on TV in my youth, have been relegated to the specialty channels. Not sure how often they’re shown, or what the viewership is, but certainly the numbers are lower there too.

And I don’t know how many kids are stumbling across the Official YouTube Popeye Channel…maybe some, I’m sure. Oh, and don’t forget the popular attraction in Malta built around the still-standing sets for the 1980 Popeye movie that starred Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall.

I admit some bias…I don’t see Popeye on TV or in the paper or just by happenstance over the course of my day (well, yes, except at the store), so I’m assuming nobody does. When I see anything Popeye-related, it’s when I seek it out…like renting the archival DVDs of the original cartoons from Netflix, or watching, like I did very recently, that 1980 live action adaptation (short review: beautifully designed, wondefully cast, stupefyingly presented), or buying a specific issue off the eBay.

As it turns out, when I received that very Popeye comic in the mail at the shop, my niece (who used to be the 10-year-old niece I’d occasionally mention on this site and who is now my 21-year-old niece, in case you needed another shove towards the grave) happened to stop by to say hello. I said “hey, look what I got in the mail!” and she replied “hey, Popeye!” so she definitely knew who the character was. A while later, thinking about what Dave said, I asked her about how she knew about Popeye. Her reply was that, when she was younger, her dad’s parents would sometimes let her read her dad’s comics from when he was a kid, which included the adventures of our favorite gazookus which hates all palookas. And she would see Popeye cartoons on the very same cable network I’d linked above while pooh-poohing its viewership.

So, you know, it’s Popeye. He’s too tough to be forgotten, and he’ll find a way to connect with kids somehow. Maybe the audiences aren’t are huge and widespread as they once were, and it’s not as easy to just happen across any of his material, but he and Olive and Wimpy and Bluto (and Brutus) are all still hanging in there, waiting for that next child eventually to discover what E.C. Segar created for all of us so long ago.

Now if Lex had a stuffed tiger, that would be a strip.

§ June 25th, 2014 § Filed under comic strips, lex luthor § 4 Comments

Having watched just a few weeks ago the Dear Mr. Watterson documentary on Netflix, and with Bill Watterson’s recent brief return to the the comics page, I was fairly well primed to revisit his famous Calvin & Hobbes strip. Fortunately, I own a set of the slipcased hardcovers reprinting the whole shebang and was able to satisfy this urge in short order. Unlike the esteemed Mr. Isabella, who has the astounding self-control to restrict himself to only a week’s worth of strips at a time, I would read huge amounts at any given opportunity, immersing myself in Mr. Watterson’s imagination for an hour or so.

While the strips’ run concludes with a fairly open-ended Sunday page, essentially indicating that the pals’ adventures will continue, even if we won’t see them for ourselves, there is at least one bit of closure, I think, prior to the end, with Rosalyn the babysitter. All of her previous appearances involve direct, angry (or at least highly annoyed) conflict between Rosalyn and Calvin, but in her final story sequence, Rosalyn and Calvin finally find common ground:

Ah, Calvinball. The great equalizer. It’s the one time the two characters manage to get along peacefully, bringing a happy ending of sorts to the long series of battles they’ve endured over the history of the strip. It’s no Charlie Brown finally saying “hello” to the little red-haired girl, but it’ll do.

• • •

I also recently read a handful of ’70s and ’80s Lex Luthor appearances, because I miss this version of Lex Luthor, the one with the green ‘n’ purple jumpsuit:

…who would also occasionally disguise himself like, oh, say, Kurt Vonnegut:

One of the big losses of the mid-1980s Superman reboot was losing the “fiendish schemes” of the “criminal scientist” era of Luthor, who was in at least some measure occasionally sympathetic and even funny, in favor of the cruel and unpleasant businessman Luthor. There was some slight return to the somewhat goofily-evil in-love-with-his-own-voice Luthor in the last decade or so, even to some extent in the post New 52 DC Universe, but nothing is quite the same as Lex in his green/purple tights and his bandoliers, zipping around in his rocket pack.

images from The Complete Calvin & Hobbes Volume 3 (2005) by Bill Watterson, and Action Comics #510 (August 1980) by Cary Bates, Curt Swan and Frank Chiaramonte