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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.

I would absolutely wear Charlton-branded clothing if such a thing existed.

§ August 8th, 2018 § Filed under charlton, popeye § 4 Comments

So anyway, I came across a picture of this cover somewhere online and decided right then and there I had to have it:


Now, I may have mentioned at some point that I’m a fan of the Charlton Comics era of Popeye comics, from the late ’60s into the ’70s, and I tend to keep ’em for myself on the rare occasion one happens my way in a collection. However, this issue, I just couldn’t wait for the tides to drop one on my shores…I sailed out into the internets and netted my very own copy.

What I was hoping for was what was seemingly implied on the cover…”the story of Popeye” as in “the life story” with at least several pages devoted to his adventures when he looked like this:


Alas, ’twas not the case, which means this comic I talked about a while back still stands as the only definitive fictional biography of the one-eyed (or is he) sailor man.

What we actually get in this here funnybook is a little more literal delivery on the cover blurb, in which the actual origins of Popeye in the comic strips is explained:


…and briefly mentions the supporting characters;


…but it sort of glosses over the fact that Popeye had appeared in a strip that had already been running about ten years by the time he showed up. And that Olive wasn’t just “there at the beginning” of Popeye’s introduction, but preceding his appearance entirely. Darn your lackadaisical scholarship, nearly-50-year-old Charlton comic!

The Bluto/Brutus name mix-up is referenced:


…though the name “Bluto” isn’t actually mentioned, but I’m sure a kid interested enough in Popeye to read comics about him probably knew it from the original cartoons.

After another page covering more characters and relationships (such as Wimpy, and the Jeep), we get this great full-page splash of artist George Wildman drawing himself surrounded by the various denizens of this series of Popeye:


…wearing of course the official Charlton Comics work shirt issued to all employees of the company at the time. Writer Joe Gill even gets a namecheck for himself in there, which is a nice reminder that this comic wasn’t the one-man show I’d assumed. And that’s pretty much it for “The Story of Popeye,” as the next three pages are a short…um, well, Popeye story where Brutus abducts Olive and Popeye goes to the rescue and there’s fisticuffs and mayhem and it’s pretty much just a small, simple quintessential example of what Pipeye, Peepeye, Poopeye and Pupeye’s uncle is all about.

Again, that last splash is a wonderful drawing…I’ve written before about how the Charlton Popeye will, despite its apparent simplicity, occasionally surprise you with its artistry. I was hoping there would be some eventual comprehensive reprinting of this run, like the recently concluded IDW series featuring the Bud Sagendorf comics, but I guess there just isn’t enough money in it. That’s a shame, because the world could always use more recovery of classic cartooning, and not just have it relegated to the forgotten back issue bins and dusty attics of history where only oddballs like me can appreciate it.
 
 

from Popeye #108 (June 1971) by Joe Gill and George Wildman

About as on-the-nose of an image as I could find for this Fourth of July.

§ July 4th, 2018 § Filed under popeye § 1 Comment


From the very aptly-named “Patriotic Popeye” from 1957…and I hope you all have a good holiday, where applicable

Speaking of eyes.

§ May 28th, 2018 § Filed under popeye § 12 Comments

So, always on the lookout for the latest and freshest Popeye news as I am, I spotted this story about a company about to debut brand new cartoons starring our favorite rough ‘n’ tumble one-eyed sailor with a heart of gold on his official YouTube channel. Well, first I was all “oh hey, new Popeye cartoons, cool” before it dawned on me that “oh, wait, there’s an official YouTube channel?” which I had no idea even existed (putting lie to my initial claim that I”m always on the lookout for Popeye news, I guess). Anyway, there it is, right now mostly heavy on the (relatively) later color Popeye cartoons post-Fleischer Studios, including a number in Spanish and, um, a Beetle Bailey cartoon for a reason not immediately obvious to me (though I suppose there is one if I bothered to look).

According to the article this studio is going to “take over” the YouTube channel once the new cartoons are ready to go, so I have no idea how long the currently-available offerings will remain so. Go watch ’em while you can, I guess. I did sample one myself, “Sky High Fly Try,” which featured the following sequence right at the beginning:

Here’s Olive, cookin’ up some hot dogs at her concession stand:

And along comes Popeye, wearing his traditional pilot gear outfit with which we’re all so familiar, pokin’ his nose right on in there to get a good gander at those wonderful wieners:

…when Olive, in her hot dog preparation exuberance, reaches over with the tongs and inadvertently grabs and yanks Popeye’s nose into one of her buns, resulting in this surprised expression:


PLEASE NOTE: THERE ARE TWO EYES.

“THERE…ARE…TWO…EYES!”

Okay, given the limitations of the animation in question, all we can really determine is that there is a black dot where Popeye’s right eye should be…it could represent an empty, black pit, a hideous scar forever reminding him of whatever unknown tragic incident in his past (this notwithstanding) robbed him of that precious orb. However, I think it’s not entirely unreasonable to assume that it in fact represents an actual eye (otherwise, there’d be, I don’t know, an “X” as shorthand for the missing eye, or more likely not have bothered in the first place with briefly doing away with the squint).

Or maybe it was just a one-off gag done for the larfs, and not some kind of secret revelation that Popeye had maybe a scratched cornea, or a persistent stye, or similar, which is why he just kept that eye shut all the time instead of getting some Visine or even, like, an eyepatch.

Anyawy, just thought that was interesting. I’ll try to keep tabs on that YouTube channel for when they start cranking out the new cartoons…I’d like to see what they’re gonna do with it.

Speaking of Popeye, the Funko Pop! Popeye (or Funko Pop!eye, as it should have been called) just came out:


…and it’s just as adorable in person. Yeah, yeah, I know I’ve said before I’m not a Pop! “collector” but occasionally the right one (or, um, three or four, as in the case of the Swamp Thing Pops) comes along and I gotta have it. And yeah, it’s pretty amazing. Here’s hoping they eventually get around to Nancy and Sluggo…they seem like naturals for this particular format.

Popeye the Zombie Man.

§ February 22nd, 2018 § Filed under popeye, publishing § 8 Comments

So Wednesday morning my first customer in the door had a question for me, regarding the variant cover for the recently-released Popeye Classics #65, which looks a little something like this:


Charming, no? Frankly, I’m surprised King Features even let this fly, but that’s kinda beside the point of my post here. Anyway, my customer was asking if I could somehow get my filthy comic-selling mitts on a copy, as he tried eBay and someone there was asking for $500 for that particular comic. I found that a little…alarming, so I went to the eBays to see for myself, and sure enough:


…a “Buy It Now” listing for $499, and a still-active auction for one of those graded ‘n’ slabbed copies at nearly $300. But, you know, there’s free shipping.

That’s…something else, to be sure. And if that’s not enough, looking around at other Popeye variants that have been on eBay, here’s one that seemingly sold for $4,100!

Now, these variants are available at 1:10 ratios…for every ten copies of the regular cover I order, I can order one copy of the variant. I mean, I don’t need to tell you, you know how this whole comic book variant thing works. Under normal circumstances, a variant with only a 1-in-10 “scarcity” is hardly scarce at all, and wouldn’t sell for too high of a premium. There are some circumstances where I even say “eh, don’t feel like baggin’ it and markin’ it up” and just sell it for cover. That’s okay for high-selling (or, you know, “relatively high-selling,” given the state of the marketplace) comics, where even the 1/10 variants are easy to come by.

But Popeye Classics…that’s a different story. That’s a niche market in a niche market, a comic book directly reprinting comics from 50-something years ago. I love this comic, personally…when people ask me what my favorite comic on the stands is right now, that’s usually my go-to answer. But, unfortunately, it’s not a series that really moves off my shelves. I get a copy for me, a couple of copies for pull lists, and every time I try to rack it, it just doesn’t sell. It’s a shame, really, but at least I get copies for the folks around here who appreciate it…like me!

At the store (and on the Twitters) I was speculating that the print run was likely in the 2,000 to 3,000 range, which means, at most, there could only be potentially 200 to 300 copies of the 1:10 variants. Now, realistically, not every store who orders the comic is going to order 10 or more copies. I’d imagine far more stores order well under 10 copies, with shops ordering over 10 (and thus qualifying for the variant) being the exception. Thus…well, I don’t know how many stores exactly could qualify, but I was thinking the number of circulated variants would be closer to, maybe, 30 to 50.

Well, as I was tweeting about this, Twitter pal Dave let me know that, according to the information on this site, the number of copies of Popeye Classics #65 disseminated through Diamond Comics Distribution was 1,287. Presumably that number includes the variants, too, so as you can see, the actual maximum number of potential variants sent out to Diamond accounts is much lower than I assumed, and probably, realistically, way lower than even that. Again, I don’t know the specific number, but if it amounted to just a couple of dozen, I would not be surprised.

As I also wondered on on Twitter, I don’t know what kind of printing limitations there may be, too. Like, is there a minimum number they have to print of each cover? For example, if they need 25 copies of the variant cover to send out to retailers, and there’s a minimum print job of 100 copies, does that leave IDW with 75 extra they can sell at a premium at shows or in online stores and such? Or can they just…switch out the covers during the print job easily enough and only print out what they need? …Look, I just sell the things, I don’t print ’em, so I honestly don’t know what the deal is. If anyone could clarify the actual mechanics of this, particularly at this small of a scale for what is otherwise a major publisher, I’d be interested.

So of course the temptation is to always order enough Popeye to get variants, sell the portion of that I could actually sell, give the rest to Swee’Pea for him to read, sell the variant for that high premium, and then dive around in my money like a porpoise, and burrow through it like a gopher, and toss it up and let it hit me on the head, if I may mix up my cartoon characters a bit. But naturally the day I do that so will everyone else, and then the 1/10 Popeye variants are suddenly not expensive and in demand, and all we’d have gotten out of it is higher sales on Popeye comics and presumably more publishing interest in continuing to provide Popeye comics. But…despite those high prices I noted at the beginning, there are several of these variants that don’t sell for that kind of money, or at least not enough to let me eat the cost of extra unsold comics. And I’m not sure there’s much rhyme or reason to which ones do sell, and besides, speculation could pay off, or just leave me with a backroom filled with unsellable product. If I could guarantee that $4000 payoff, sure! Or even that $300 one. But that’s the sort of behavior that can kill a store, and one I’m wary of as a result.

But “your pal Mike thinking about making a big score” isn’t the point of all this. Mostly, it’s just amazement at finding out about this strange micro-market involving some variant covers I’d barely thought about over the last few years. And partially it’s about that Zombie Popeye cover. I mean, holy cow.

When I die, Saint Peter is going to ask me how much of my life did I waste thinking about Popeye continuity, and it’s not going to go well.

§ June 27th, 2016 § Filed under popeye § 5 Comments

So in a collection I recently purchased for my store (that store being Sterling Silver Comics, located in beautiful Camarillo, CA) there were a couple of really beat-up copies of the 1970s Charlton Popeye comics. I haven’t been actively collecting those for myself, but occasionally they do fall into my hands and, thus, into what remains of the Vast Mikester (Personal) Comic Archives.

George Wildman was the cartoonist responsible for these particular comics I obtained, and was in fact responsible for most, if not all, of the Charlton Popeye run. (A quick look at the Grand Comics Database listing for the series doesn’t note credits for lead stories in some of the books, but I’m pretty sure Wildman did a lot of them.) Mr. Wildman, by the way, did pass on just recently, and I direct you to this obituary by Mark Evanier. Looks like Mr. Wildman drew a lot of fun comic books, and the Popeye comics of his that I’ve read are just close enough to the original strips to be recognizably Popeye-esque, but usually with a completely bonkers and anarchic feel to the proceedings to make them their own unique experience.

In any case, I was reading one of these Popeyes (specifically issue #124 from July 1974), in which Wimpy and Popeye are called out to a remote island estate to investigate a haunting, where I happened upon this great full-page splash that I just had to share:

popeye124aaa
Now admittedly, I’ve only read a handful of the Charlton Popeyes, but I don’t recall too many full-page drawings in them. I especially like this one, with its spooky ambience and the stairs winding through the cliffside. It’s the sort of picture I probably would have spent an inordinate amount of time studying and imagining about as a child.

Now, there is a ghost in this story, but not the one Popeye and Wimpy were called out to initially bust. Turns out Patcheye and his faithful ghost parrot Matey were on this estate, trapped in a bottle:

popeye124bbb
Yes, he’s identified as Popeye’s grandfather, and the fact they recognize each other right off made me wonder where he’s appeared before, since I’m not familiar with the character. A quick search shows that he first popped up in issue #67 of the Popeye comics from Gold Key, back in 1963…in a story by E.C. Segar’s successor Bud Sagendorf, no less. Now, that database listing has Patcheye as Popeye’s great-grandfather, which I think I’m a little more comfortable with, but regardless, if Sagendorf put him in the comic, I will consider that at least B-Level Canon in the Expanded Popeye Universe. Hopefully IDW’s Popeye reprint program will get this far into the comics so I don’t have to search out the originals!

Another cute gag is this callback to Popeye’s first appearance in comics:

popeye124ccc
You can see the original strip on this page for comparison.

Oh, and I just flipped through the other Popeye comic I had here (#123 from November 1973) and it turns out there are two full-page images in this comic, face to face, as the last two panels of a story:

pop123yy pop123zz

Maybe splashes like this during this particular period of Popeye books were more common than I realized. Clearly the only answer is tracking down all the rest of the issues for myself and doing a complete survey. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Frankly, writing those prediction-discussion posts was really biting into my Batman: Arkham City-playing time.

§ January 11th, 2013 § Filed under collecting, other swamp creatures, popeye § 5 Comments

I’m going to pick up on the prediction commentary next week, since both you and I can probably stand a break from it. But don’t forget to submit your own predictions for this coming year! And in other news, I am my own worst enemy.

In the meantime, I suggest you all run out to your local comics emporium and get yourself a copy of Classic Popeye #6, featuring one of those space-filling prose stories that I’m going to recommend you actually read:


…Not that it’s any pillar of originality or anything…you’ll see the ending coming almost just by looking at that title banner, but the interplay between sweetly devious Swee’Pea and the irascible Poopdeck Pappy is a lot of fun. …Speaking of that banner, is that great or what? It really did make me want to read the story, and now I want to go back and read those previous text pieces I’d ignored.

Also, completely unrelated to anything above, since I mentioned being tempted by those Roy Thomas Presents the Heap hardcovers (reprinting Golden Age stories of a proto-Swamp Thing)…yeah, that bullet was bitten and I put my orders in for all three. I am so, so weak. …I’m also thinking of finally getting around to finishing off my runs of books published by 1970s Atlas, because I don’t have enough comics just piled around the house. (Oddly enough, I was reinspired to do so by a customer of mine filling out his New Universe collection.)

Anyway, I hope you’ll forgive me my brief break in discussing your predictions…I’ll finish up next week. And besides, I posted every day this week so far…what kind of crazy person would post on a blog every day?

I hope that’s not covered in an actual reindeer skin.

§ December 24th, 2012 § Filed under Christmas, popeye § 6 Comments


 

from Spinach Greetings! (1960)

In which I make a pretty large assumption that there are still kids playing with Groucho glasses.

§ October 12th, 2012 § Filed under popeye § 12 Comments

And now, from the 1940 Popeye cartoon “Puttin’ on The Act,” Popeye’s three terrifying impressions:

Jimmy Durante:


Stan Laurel:


…and Groucho Marx:


A credit both to the makers of this cartoon and to the immortality of these particular performers that their caricatures here are still instantly recognizable to us 72 years later.

Well, most of us, anyway…after finding out a couple of years back that one of my girlfriend’s nieces had never heard of the Three Stooges, and after having one young employee at the shop who’d never heard of Vincent Price, I shouldn’t take anything for granted. I’m sure as generations wear on, general knowledge of these “immortal legends” will increasingly become solely the interest of hobbyists and specialists.

…Though I have a hard time imagining that about Groucho Marx. That hair, nose, and moustache…the glasses and cigar. It’s all so embedded in our culture that I can’t see it ever going away, though I suppose it must. I’m guessing kids play with toy Groucho glasses from discount stores even now, without knowing that they’re inspired by a real person. Well, a character performed by a real person…you know what I mean.

I’m guessing of all these caricatures, it’s Groucho’s that’ll have the greatest chance of outliving knowledge of the actual man. I can see the glasses ‘n’ cigar becoming…well, continuing to be, since they pretty much are already…a generic symbol of “comedy,” but to the point, maybe centuries hence, where folks just think that image represents the idea of humor, with not one of them realizing that there was once a person who wore those glasses and wielded that cigar.

Of course, with the enormous proliferation of reproducible and storable media, it seems unlikely that Groucho and his brothers will be forgotten, but, a thousand years from now, ten thousand, fifty thousand…who knows? Maybe our giant-brained, spindly-limbed descendents will be wearing funny plastic glasses and wagging their cigars at each other, their big fake black eyebrows bobbing up and down, without any idea whom they’re imitating.

I sorta do and sorta don’t want this to be officially part of Popeye’s backstory.

§ September 20th, 2012 § Filed under popeye § 12 Comments

Long ago, during a stormy evening whilst at sea, Poopdeck Kidd’s wife gives birth to their child:


And thus does Poopdeck’s son enter the world with the name of “Ugly Kidd,” a handle as unlikely as it is appropriate:


Of course, Ugly would soon be better known to the world by his injury-inspired nickname:

On a related note, the future father of Linus, Lucy and Rerun Van Pelt (and apparent PTA fan) attended Santa Monica High School with Popeye:


 

from Popeye Special #1 (Summer 1987) by Ron Fortier, Benn Dunn and Bill Pearson

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