Thursday, May 24, 2012


Maybe it is ridiculous for me to be writing a review of this first issue of what promises to be a new series of POPEYE comic books done up the way creator E. C. Segar woulda wanted it back inna thirties. After all, I can't admit to being as huge a fan of the old THIMBLE THEATER strip as many strip aficionados are, or at least I should state that I ain't as much of a cheerleader of Popeye 'n crew as I am of such contemporaries as NANCY and DICK TRACY let alone a score of obscure comics many readers could care less aboutAnd yeah, although I am smart enough to recognize that POPEYE creator Segar was one of the countless talents to have emerged during the years when the comic strip "came of age"  it wasn't like I was that agog over Fantagraphics' eighties reprints as I remain over those aforementioned big deals in my otherwise pithy life. Perhaps being over-exposed to POPEYE comic books and animated cartoons as a kid killed it for me. More likely it was my sister, who in order to prove her intelligence over my eight-year-old self, angrily told me that she knew why Popeye was named so, and he wasn't squinting either! Naw, his eye was actually GOUGED OUT and he didn't use a patch or prosthesis either...he just let his eyelid flap inna wind and allowed dust and junk collect in the now-empty socket which really nauseated the bejabbers outta my single-digit self! Kept me away from the guy for years on end until I came to the realization that hey, maybe not covering up an eye-less hole on your face is kinda cool...

Perhaps I'm just being a stubborn ol' turd by not rah-rahing a nice portion of those oft-heralded "classic" strips the "right people" go for the same way I steer clear of the "relevant" underground platters that most fanzines/blogs drool over in their usually smug, self-congratulatory way (as opposed to MY smug, self-congratulatory way 'natch!). After all, as Brad Kohler might have said, I don't have to hate LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE just because Dick Cavett likes it! And yeah, I know that these broken clocks can be right on rare occasion, but man I have my dignity to look out for as well!

If I had been in an even more dour'n usual mood I would have passed this up faster'n leftover sauerkrautade but sheesh, that writeup on Bhob Stewart's POTRZEBIE blog noting this new version of the (as they say) "venerable" strip with artist Bruce Ozella's apt mimicry of the mid-thirties style and swerve looked so tasty. Besides, it's sure nice 'n fuzzy to know that there is an artist who is doing fine-lined old-styled comic strip art in the here and now, a fact which would be just as good as discovering they still make Studebakers! Not that it matters that much long after the fact, but it's sure heartwarming to see the thirties look being utilized eighty years later, and in something that's an above-ground, relatively mainstream publication as well!

Really, I do like this new POPEYE reincarnation which at least looks faithful, or at least comes off easy on the eye and mind the same way that Bela Zaboly's Segar-esque yet oft-ignored take in the forties was. Maybe its even as guffaw-inducing as Bobby London's mid-eighties remodeling which I thought was the hoot's galore! In fact, I even like the ACTION COMICS #1 spoof cover, and you know how much I can't stand this satirical ripoffs/homages of/to everything from EC to Archie which have been milked to death ever since the fanzines of the fifties and sixties came up with that idea which has been re-hashed to the point of nausea!  I mean, if you wanna swipe from past accomplishments at least be like me and mimic the covers of old issues of BACK DOOR MAN which is way more original than grinding a once-brilliant idea into the dirt.

This revised POPEYE tale's at least faintly faithful to what I've read in the few eighties-vintage volumes of Segar-period comic strips. Not as good as what I've read, but us beggers really can't be choosers. This 'un has Popeye, Olive and brother Castor Oyl heading for an island located in the "Ninth Sea" in an attempt to find another Jeep to breed with the only living example (Eugene) they already have. Along the way Wimpy joins the adventure (and is eventually set adrift to hopefully be picked up later) and Bluto and his shipmates tangle with the gouge-eyed one for reasons that seem rather unclear (he's trying to stop Popeye from making it to the mysterious Jeep-infested island but the dialogue is vague as to tell you exactly why). And by the time Popeye does reach the isle who should he meet up with but none other than his old enemy the Sea Hag, who somehow doesn't seem as frightening as she must've been back in the thirties. But hey, soooo much has gone down since then to the point where I'm sure even Lex Luthor comes off like a fine, genial person compared with some of the rot they call human beings romping around these days! I guess that next to the Kardashians or Lady Caga neither the Hag nor the creepy Alice the Goon are as nerve-frazzling as they once were back in the boffo thirties, and that's most certainly the truth!

I have the sneaking suspicion that a lotta the hardcore old-time fans of the original comic, whether they be snobbish about it or not, might not cozy up to this take, but even with my objections I find this POPEYE revision a mildly pleasant diversion from the same old of 2012. And although a $3.99 price tag woulda flipped me out back when I first started buying comics way back inna seventies (and I remember the heck I got when it was discovered that I dished out $1.00 per for those EC reprints back in the mid-seventies!), I can't say that paying that much for a comic in the here and now would be highway robbery unless you're talking a book dedicated to most of the quaff seen in today's papers. And hey, I wouldn't buy a collection of DRABBLE comics even if there was a toilet paper shortage...old issues of TOO FUN TOO HUGE maybe but that's another story.

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