Popeye is what he is, a good-guy underdog with bulging forearms, a mean uppercut and a penchant for canned spinach. The only thing he loves more than spinach and the sea is his flighty, flirty girlfriend, Olive Oyl.
Popeye the Sailor, a cartoon fictional character created by Elzie Crisler Segar made his first appearance in the daily King Features comic strip Thimble Theatre on January 17, 1929, and in later years he became the strip’s title. Segar introduced him with his famous first line — ’Ja think I’m a cowboy?’ Initially, portrayed as a very strong and seemingly uneducated savvy sailor who would gain extraordinary luck and resilience when he rubbed the magical Whiffle Hen Bernice, but by 1932, he began to favor spinach, crediting it as a healthy source of strength. Interestingly, the consumption of spinach and other veggies went up worldwide after Popeye cartoons gained popularity.
Fleischer Studios adapted Popeye to animation in 1933. Popeye’s exploits are also enhanced by a few recurring plot elements. One is the love triangle among Popeye, Olive, and Bluto, and Bluto’s endless machinations to claim Olive at Popeye’s expense. Another is his near-saintly perseverance in overcoming any obstacle to please Olive, who often renounces Popeye for Bluto. In 1960, the first Popeye the Sailor animated television series was produced for the first-run syndication which proved successful. Notably, the only character that did not return to the scene was Bluto. Don’t get confused! Although Bluto appeared in only one story by Segar, he was a regular in Paramount Pictures theatrical cartoons. King Features Syndicate agreed without realizing Bluto debuted in Segar’s comic strip when Paramount claimed they owned the rights to the name “Bluto,” thinking he was a creation of the Fleischer Studios. Al Brodax renamed the bully Brutus after Cesar’s assassin. The theme song ‘‘I’m Popeye the Sailor Man’ was introduced in 1933 and is still our favourite cartoon song. Don’t we all remember it by heart?
A little fun fact about Popeye is that he is known as Iron Arm in Italy, Karl Alfred in Sweden and Skipper Skraek or “Terror of the Sea” in Denmark. Over the years, Popeye’s popularity has soared. From comic books, television cartoons to video games and merchandise, the sailor man has lived an interesting life! This iconic character has a special place in our hearts. Though it’s been 90 years but Popeye is still going strong.