Why is Popeye on the Google home-page today?

Popeye the Sailor Man, his bulging forearms, and his strength-fortifying can of spinach can be seen on Google’s home page today, doing fans of cartoon art a big favor. Today is the birthday of Popeye creator E.C. Segar, born 115 years ago.

Segar was a newspaper cartoonist, and Popeye was first seen in Segar’s comic strip “Thimble Theater,” starring the sailor, his rail-thin girlfriend Olive Oyl, her brother Castor Oyl, and, eventually, their hamburger-munching pal Wimpy, and Popeye’s rival for Olive, the hulking Bluto.

The adventures of Popeye in the comic strips were fantastic — terrific storytelling about the creepy Alice the Goon, the Sea Hag, and other exotic villains. But the character of Popeye is best remembered for the series of cartoons that the great animator Dave Fleischer made in the 1930s. Take a look at the way Popeye and Bluto battle it out in this 1936 cartoon:

As a kid watching these shorts on TV, I loved the bouncy, elastic animation of the Popeye cartoons; as an adult, I appreciate the way the work is utterly different in tone and style from the equally-great Warner Bros. cartoons (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck) and MGM’s Tom and Jerry shorts.

There used to be some debate about the violence in Popeye cartoons. After all, the climax of most of his adventures arrives in the form of Popeye wind-milling his muscled arms and beating Bluto to a pulp.

I also loved the voice-work by Jack Mercer, the way he made Popeye mutter sarcastic asides, commenting ruefully on the action. No one else in cartoons sounded like that.

Happy birthday, E.C. Segar, wherever you are.

Are you a Popeye fan?

Comments (53 total) Add your comment
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  • Jennifer

    I love popeye….and really want to name my soon to be here daughter Olive but Daddy says no way!

    • Lhsen

      homie413 on April 13, 2009 Wow, WHAT?! OMG! I can’t believe she was in Ave Q!! How was she? I can’t find any clips with her in it.

  • Delia from Detroit

    I grew up on these old cartoons and always thought it was fun when that familiar music played, and he pulled a can of spinach out of nowhere and ate it. Then tattoos of battleships or similar symbols of strength appeared on his bicep, and then it was time for opening up a can of “whup.”

    If violence is a concern for today’s kids, it should be explained to kids that this is a fantasy world, and they shouldn’t be beating anyone up. Anyway, Popeye fought only when he had to defend himself and to rescue Olive; however, I wish she wasn’t so fickle and bounced flakily between Popeye and Bluto/Brutus.

    When the cartoons were colorized in the 1990s for Cartoon Network, I actually thought it improved them, but the purists can still have the original B&W.

  • Sazzz

    I LOVE popeye :) Popeye the sailor man!

  • Cris

    Hate spinach … but LOVE the old black-and-white Popeye cartoons!

  • davidsask

    He also got a shout out by Robin Williams in his new comedy special in a joke!

    • Rock Golf

      Uhhh, maybe because Williams played Popeye in that rather horrible movie? Shelley Duvall was an uncanny Olive Oyl.

      • steve

        Yeah, you couldnt find an actress better suited for that part than Duvall.

      • Stacie

        It’s not THAT bad. I watched it a lot as a kid. For goodness sake it’s Robert Altman!

      • Zeynep

        Posted on The both of us really jneoyed your post. It appears like you’ve put a lot of effort into your article and the human race need much more of these on the Net these days. I do not real have a large deal to say in retort, I just wanted to comment to tell well done. marvelous post. i never thought of that.

  • Rick

    Popeye was my role model growing up. Well atleast for being strong, good hearted and having a hottie like Olive Oil. lol. Thank you EC Segar

  • Phil

    Darn it! I read this damn item and now i am craving me some Popeye’s chicken before 10AM….Thanx alot! hahaha

  • Carlos

    Happy birthday, Popeye. My grandmother would always say, “You better eat your spinach so you can grow up and be strong, just like Popeye.” It never worked. However, the animation, culture and subtext is fun to watch and admire now as an adult. As an adult, I can now catch the subtle nature of its messages and themes. Good work, indeed. If I ever have grandchildren, I will not feed them spinach at all. :-)

  • Michelle

    Sorry, but John Lennon should be on the Google page today.

    • bondfool

      Absolutely. All you need is Popeye, I guess.

    • steve

      Sorry, but showing John Lennon would just depress me.

  • smoothscape

    Popeye on the Google homepage…nice. Nothing for Pearl Harbor Day on December 7th but we are supposed to get misty over the birth of Popeye’s creator 115 years ago on December 8th. Most Americans of a certain age don’t even know who the man was.

    • lefty

      that’s the point – let’s become informed, not just celebrate obvious pop-culture behemoths….

  • Rob Grizzly

    Most random discussion ever

  • Tracyleigh

    Popeye’s creator is celebrated over John Lennon?? Today is the anniversary of Lennon’s death!!

    • Matt

      Google seems to rarely “celebrate” the negative events. So, John Lennon’s death today and Pearl Harbor Day yesterday wouldn’t be likely to show up as Google logos.

      http://www.google.com/logos/

    • steve

      Maybe google was going with a fonder memory than someone’s death.

      • John

        Consider also that Yoko Ono doesn’t want this day specially comemorated.

      • Daniel

        actually, Yoko has commemorated the anniversary of John’s death many times

  • galacticadude

    Smoothscape, it’s not PC to remember Pearl Harbor any more. I do enjoy Popeye though. There are 3 official DVD releases of the Max & Dave Fleischer cartoons out now.

    • smoothscape

      Not offended by Popeye….and I own the DVD cartoon set! My comment has less to do with Popeye than it has to do with being “PC” by not remembering one of the greatest tragedies to befall this country. Makes you wonder how many people will rememeber 9/11 in ten years. Google and the media in general usually downplays the achievements and tragedies of veterans. I didn’t see any mention of Pearl Harbor Day on the evening news last night. I’m sure it must have been on somewhere, just not when I was watching.

    • Salma

      kamarusso on September 4, 2011 I love that Wimsyboo Baby was efondud by a WAHM, Jenny. It’s so nice to see a quality product made by real people like us. Proceeds benefit real people like us, instead of big corporation.

  • nicole

    It has been a long time, but I remember this particular cartoon.

  • steph

    wow, people are actually offended about Popeye? :\ It’s just a freaking Google logo for crying out loud!

    • Michelle

      Never said I was offended…just think there are more important things to remember than Popeye. They put something up for Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Martin Luther King, Elvis, Michael Jackson…even Arbor Day, but nothing for Pearl Harbor or John Lennon. Just shows where the priorities lie when they choose Popeye over Americans who gave their lives at the hand of the Japanese while fighting for our freedom or a world-reknowned icon who was loved by many and was murdered.

      • gryph

        Popeye was a big reason why WWII ended the way that it did. The Popeye propaganda cartoons from 1941 to 1945 helped buoy the American resolve in a big way. No matter what the revisionist view of history says.

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