Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Dunno about you, but frankly I don't remember when noted DIRTY DUCK artist Bobby London was brought in to pump some life into the ailing Popeye comic strip. By then (mid-eighties) let's just say that the last thing that I was paying attention to was the funny that time I felt that that the comics, or at least the ones I grew up reading and enjoying, had morphed into something that bore little resemblance to those that suckered me in during my toddler years and seemed more attuned to a late-baby booming fun-addicted brat like myself. And hey, at least the comic page of my youth in the late-sixties and early-seventies was still running on boss 20s/30s/40s energies with old classics intermingling with new toss offs making for a kultural storm front to come a'brewin', but by the time some nimnul decided that the comics section of your local paper needed to be "updated" we were suddenly inundated with the likes of DOONESBURY, FUNKY WINKERBEAN, TANK MACNAMARA, CATHY and whatever fluff of the month was deemed "relevant". Naturally because of these foreward-looking thinkers the comics section just lost all spark and zest. You can imagine how some depression-era kid who was raised on DICK TRACY and LI'L ABNER felt having to lend eyeballs to FOR BETTER OR WORSE let alone have to see just how his old time favorites were faring in the here and now. I mean, have you seen what such long-time and ever-decaying strips such as GASOLINE ALLEY, MARY WORTH or BRINGING UP FATHER are up to lately?

So yeah, I did harbor some trepidation as to just how London would have "updated" the ol' THIMBLE THEATRE when comic strips had been shrunk to the size of a postage stamp and the specter of Ameriga going soft 'n flabby had inflicted its iron fisted dullness on the world. But whaddaya know, London did manage pull off his attempts to drag Popeye into the eighties and without any kicking or screaming, and he did it with total elan as well making the strips collected in MONDO POPEYE pretty hotcha especially considering how they were conceived in an era when Cabbage Patch Kids and Strawberry Shortcake were consider the apex of kiddie fun and thrills!

An eighties-hater like myself will really enjoy the way London skewers the entire goody-goody atmosphere of the times with all of the moderne references from punques and rock critics to Howard Stern and ultra-violent videos coming in for a guffaw-inducing ribbing. Thankfully that whole seventies snide attitude that made not only DIRTY DUCK but the entire NATLAMP comic output so appealing to me is here en force, and even more thankfully the more disgusting aspects of that mag was left out making London's POPEYE a good enough effort that will not only draw in the more scabarous amongst us but just might keep the cornball old timers rolling in the aisles as well!

London's artwork is magnif too, sorta like a combination of his familiar KRAZY KAT-inspired style and the latterday pre-London Popeyes which had many a comic snob bemoaning just how far the gouged-one's comic had fallen since the death of creator Elzie Segar. Nothing to sneeze at, especially considering how most of today's comics look like quick slapdashes created by a couple of associates sweating it out while the creator is out on the golf course.

Unfortunately London's take on POPEYE was not to last, since in an effort to be even timelier and on-the-edge London eventually introduced a story line dealing with the hotcha subject of abortion! When the syndicate caught on it was bye bye for London and a return to those same lacklustre seventies strips that London had been hired to update which I guess only goes to show you just what kind of a clime the late-eighties were, at least as far as comic strip morality went. I gotta say that I don't really blame King Features for showing London the door since introducing such subject matter to a relatively innocent strip is something that naturally would upset a purist like myself, but then again I must admit that I always wondered what Wimpy did for a living.

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