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I blogs what I like and I likes what I blog – Popeye the Sailor #152

September 6, 2011

I bet one legend that keeps recurring throughout history, in every culture, is the story of Popeye. — Jack Handey

This guy is such a ripoff of Captain Strong. It’s almost as bad as when the Beatles stole the Monkees’ original, distinctive sound.

I like Popeye. I’ve always found his cartoons endlessly amusing, and I’m gratified to know that his printed form hijinks are very much on par with their animated kin. Unlike Bugs Bunny or Donald Duck books, he’s every bit the character in them that one expects, not surprising since, unlike those other icons, he had his origins in the funny pages. His garbled verbiage and syntax translate remarkably well into word balloons. Once again, they had their origins there, but since I’m much more familiar with his audible output that came as a pleasant surprise.

I’m a Popeye comic book/strip neophyte. Sue me. I know enough, though, to proclaim that this late-1970s issue is amusing.

In it, Popeye has taken on nocturnal gardening, having bet Wimpy a hundred hamburgers (a weighty bet for Wimpy, to be sure) that he can grow a desert cactus in his backyard, more specifically a prickly-pear variety. He’s nursed and cared for the thing (including installing heat lamps to generate equivalent desert sunshine), but then one night the spindly, frazzled old broad on the cover makes off with it:

“Pull ‘er visor.” Well played, young man.

Despite the best efforts of Popeye and Swee’Pea, she makes a clean getaway. Popeye’s crestfallen, but Olive Oyl recognizes the description of this thief as being Amy Loony, a plant-raising local eccentric. Hot on the heels of this realization, Olive gets an invitation to a party that Loony’s holding soon. Popeye accompanies her to get his beloved cactus back, and party start times and metal gates mean nothing when confronted with his engorged/enraged forearms:

Popeye’s cactus is the centerpiece of the party, as this is Loony’s unveiling of it as her prize new plant. Poor Popeye — no one believes that this salty guy could have a green thumb:

Soon Popeye’s old friend Axel shows up and reveals his relation to the accused plant-pilferer:

All that’s well and good, but Popeye wants his damn cactus back. As we all know, he fights to the finish, and he finally exposes the fraud by asking a simple question: What blooms on a night blooming cactus?:

(Answer: A little bitty flower. I don’t know if this was supposed to be funny in some way or not.)

Our beloved sailor man proves to be magnanimous in victory, though still a bit wary of Loony’s produce:

Can’t say as I blame him.

The content of this book, and by that I mean the plot, isn’t all that engaging. As with most Popeye material, my default response is “Needs more Poopdeck Pappy.” But just looking at Popeye and listening to his voice in your head as you read his words — and you can’t help but hear his voice — makes it very enjoyable. A smile inducer. And he didn’t even have to pop open a can of spinach to crack this caper. Avast!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Thelonious_Nick permalink
    September 7, 2011 1:50 pm

    If you liked this, you definitely need to get one of the big Fantagraphics over-sized volumes of Popeye’s early strips. Some of the funniest stuff I’ve ever read, and the amount of violence per panel will astound you.

    • September 8, 2011 2:20 pm

      You know, I was taking some visiting family around DC a couple of weeks ago and saw those books in, of all places, a Smithsonian gift shop. Now I kind of wish I’d thumbed through them. I’ll put them on my “To Read” list.

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