Well blow me down! Looks like IDW brought Popeye to the masses in a new series by Roger Langridge and Bruce Ozella.
Previously in Popeye: Created by E.C. Segar, Popeye the Sailor appeared in comic strips and animated cartoons as part of King Features Thimble Theatre. Popeye debuted in 1929, and since then, the character has appeared in comic books, television cartoons, video games, a live action movie, and now back to comics with IDW Publishing.
I AM WHAT I AM
My grandparents collected old comic strips, so growing up I was no stranger to early Peanuts, Family Circus, Dennis the Menace, Gasoline Alley, and even Popeye the Sailor. I was familiar with the “rest of the Thimble Theatre” cast long before Robert Altman attempted to make a movie adaptation of the characters. So, when IDW’s Popeye landed on my comic stack this past week, I was really expecting a watered down version of the character similar to what the animation studios did to the one-eyed sailor in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
What I got was a story fairly faithful to the original strips. Granted, when Segar’s strips originally ran, the stories would transition from one major arc to the other in a meandering way, but Roger Langridge takes what made the stories fun, and whips up something new for readers. Here, Popeye, Olive Oyl, her brother Castor, and Wimpy head off to find a playmate, and potential mate for Eugene the Jeep. Castor, always looking to make a buck, believes if he can breed Jeeps he’ll be rich, rich, rich!
Of course it never works out that way, which means Langridge needs to throw obstacles at the heroes. I was never a big fan of Bluto, but after Fleischer made the nemesis synonymous with Popeye, it seems you can’t have one without the other. Fortunately, Langridge takes the brute and reduces him to a role similar to Redbeard the Pirate in the Asterix tales – something that causes a bit of a hiccup in the adventure, but really nothing to worry about. Instead, the real menace is The Sea Hag, who whipped up the entire Jeep scheme just to lure the crew to the island to deal with them once and for all.
It’s a fun story, and if one gets into the newspaper comic strip mentality while reading, they’ll see that each page stands as a single installment one might see each Sunday. I really do like this story telling, though seeing collected like this could make reading awkward for some.
LOTS OF ARTISTS
There have been a number of artists who have aped Segar’s style since the creator’s death in 1938, and most have been able to keep the style in check. Ozella continues to keep the characters faithful to the original, without taking them too far into the modern slick style that graced many a piece of merchandise when I was working on my master’s degree. It isn’t as rough as the original, but it is the spirit that counts.
BOTTOM LINE: If you are a fan, you already picked up this book
Popeye certainly isn’t for everyone. There are those that think the antics of the characters to be mundane and long past their shelf life. I think you have to be a real fan of Thimble Theatre to appreciate and love everything that has gone into this book, but it is clear Langridge takes a property and treats it with respect to the original creator. It would be great if IDW Publishing had dropped the cover price by a couple of bucks to draw even more to the title, but I understand the need to properly license and pay for a property. This book isn’t an endless stream of spinach swallowing and fighting with Bluto. The humor is subtle and the tale is fun, earning Popeye #1 4 out of 5 Stars.