Popeye the Sailor

Animated Character / Cartoon Character
Date Of Birth:
17 January 1929
Best Known As:
Fist-fighting, spinach-loving sailor of comics and cartoons
Popeye the Sailor has been well-known to comic strip fans since his first appearance in 1929 in the newspaper strip Thimble Theater, created by cartoonist Elzie Segar. The hot-tempered old salt with bulging forearms and a fractured vocabulary was at first a minor character, but he grew to dominate the strip as readers fell for Popeye "the sailor man." Eventually the Thimble Theater name fell away and the strip simply became widely known as Popeye. A comical cast of characters grew up around Popeye: skinny flirt Olive Oyl, originless orphan Swee'pea, tattered hamburger-lover J. Wellington Wimpy, and the bewhiskered brute Bluto, Popeye's perennial rival for Olive's attention. Popeye loved a good brawl, and would eat a can of spinach to give himself the sudden strength needed to secure victory. In 1933 Popeye made his way to animated cartoons (appearing first in a Betty Boop short by Max Fleischer), and that's where his supernatural spinach habit really became famous, along with screwball sayings like "I yam what I yam" and "That's all I can stands, I can't stands no more!" Hundreds of Popeye short subjects were made, and Popeye cartoons were a fixture in movie theaters and television well into the 1960s. The comic strip continued right into the 21st century, handled by a succession of artists. (Segar died in 1938.) Popeye was played by Robin Williams in the 1980 feature film Popeye, which co-starred Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl and was directed by Robert Altman.
Extra Credit

According to the King Features website, “Spinach growers credited Popeye with a 33 percent increase in U.S. spinach consumption and saving the spinach industry in the 1930s!”… The Popeye’s Fried Chicken restaurant chain is named not for Popeye the Sailor, but rather (according to the fast-food company) for the Popeye Doyle character played by Gene Hackman in The French Connection… Bluto was called Brutus in some later animated cartoons… Wimpy was an incorrigible moocher whose regular promise was, “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

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