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It may, or may not, be well known, that Popeye was never meant to be a star.

Olive Oyl and her original boyfriend, Harold Hamgravy, was the original star of "Thimble Theatre (Which debuted over 90 years ago in 1919). The style changed a little, and introduced her brother Castor, who was always up to some comedic enterprise or other.

Then on January 17 1929, a story required Castor hiring a boat

...and a legend was born )

Popeye's history is probably worth a series of posts of their own, and I think we might have had some a couple of S_D incarnations ago.

By why mention that now, since I'm not planning on making such a series of posts? Well, because of Bela Lugosi, that's why...

Preview from Bela Lugosi's Tales From The Grave #2 )
[identity profile] dr_hermes.insanejournal.com
From July, 1934, a Sunday page by E.C. Segar. Popeye has survived his first encounter with the Sea Hag and her Goon, and come home with a fortune. Finding treasure is not his usual means of support, when not at sea he's a fighter who normally gets in the ring with an opponent three or four times his since. But over the course of his life, the sailor has sometimes been wealthy. It never lasts, though.

This sequence must have been much more powerful back in 1934, when the Depression meant millions were out of work (the unemployment rate hits 30%), families were homeless, lots of children were trying to sleep with empty stomachs. It was a time before unemployment benefits, welfare (Roosevelt would introduce that), child services, shelters (the few church missions had long been swamped by then), any of that... when you hit hard times, you were on your own. Popeye being rich and impulsively seeing to it that poor families had good food to keep them was as much a wish fulfilment as any super-hero slugging a Nazi spy. And more satisfying.
[identity profile] dr_hermes.insanejournal.com
THIMBLE THEATRE by EC Segar is so one of the greatest comics strips ever to hit print. The humor, pathos, action and suspense remain amazingly effective almost a century later. The art and dialogue work perfectly. And the Fleischer Brothers cartoons from the 1930s (even though not quite as good as the strip) show much of this magic.

This Sunday page from June 1932 is a good example. Popeye has taken in an desperate orphan*(for a rough weathered old sailor, he has a heart like a big marshmallow). Trying to make her feel at home, he puts on a skirt and plays at being her grandmother. Popeye is so confident in himself that he's not embarassed at all to go out in public like this. When the abusive "Big Butch" comes to claim the little girl, he has no idea what he's confronting and Popeye thrashes him. It's interesting too that the cop not only doesn't try to stop the "woman" beating her husband unconscious, he encourages it ("Knock him around all you please, Grandma.")


*(1932, no Department of Child Services or anything like that, no Welfare, millions out of work and going hungry. There were plenty of homeless children on the streets.


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