Popeye the Sailor is a fictional hero notable for appearing in comic strips and animated films as well as numerous television shows. He was created by Elzie Crisler Segar, and first appeared in the daily King Features comic strip Thimble Theatre on January 17, 1929. Popeye soon became strip's title.
Although Segar's Thimble Theatre strip, first published on December 19, 1919, was in its tenth year when Popeye made his debut, the sailor quickly became the main focus of the strip and Thimble Theatre became one of King Features' most popular properties during the 1930s. Thimble Theatre was continued after Segar's death in 1938 by several writers and artists, most notably Segar's assistant Bud Sagendorf. The strip, now titled Popeye, continues to appear in first-run installments in its Sunday edition, written and drawn by Hy Eisman. The daily strips are reprints of old Sagendorf stories.
In 1933, Max and Dave Fleischer's Fleischer Studios adapted the Thimble Theatre characters into a series of Popeye the Sailor theatrical cartoon shorts for Paramount Pictures. These cartoons proved to be among the most popular of the 1930s, and the Fleischers—and later Paramount's own Famous Studios—continued production through 1957. The cartoons are now owned by Turner Entertainment, a subsidiary of Time Warner, and distributed by sister company Warner Bros. Entertainment.
Over the years, Popeye has also appeared in comic books, television cartoons, arcade and video games, hundreds of advertisements and peripheral products, and a 1980 live-action film directed by Robert Altman starring comedian Robin Williams as Popeye.
Characters and story
In most appearances (except during the World War II era), Popeye is a middle-aged sailor with a unique way of speaking, disproportionately muscular forearms with two anchor tattoos, thinning hair, and an ever-present corncob pipe (which he toots like a steamship's whistle at times). Popeye is generally depicted as having only one eye, his left. In at least one Fleischer cartoon, Bluto refers to Popeye as a "one-eyed runt." Mostly quiet as to how he lost his right eye, the sailor claims it was in "the mos' arful battle" of his life with Sea Hag's vulture. Later versions of the character had both eyes, with one of them merely being squinty, or "squinky" as he put it. According to the official site, Popeye is 34 years old and was born in a typhoon off Santa Monica, California. This appears to be a retcon, as in the 1938 cartoon "Goonland", Popeye sets out to find his long-lost father, who had left when Popeye was born. Popeye himself states that his father had been gone 40 years. Much later, in Popeye, the Ace of Space, his original age is given as 40 by an alien aging machine. In 1934, Segar stated that Popeye was born in Victoria, Texas.
Popeye's strange, comic and often supernatural adventures take him all over the world and place him in conflict with enemies such as the Sea Hag and Bluto. His main base of operations is the fictional town of Sweethaven. Popeye's father is the wayward sailor Poopdeck Pappy, who is somewhat irresponsible and is represented as having a fleeting association with Popeye in some sources. Popeye's sole sweetheart over the years is Olive Oyl; although the two characters often bickered in early stories. Popeye is the foster father of Swee'Pea, an infant foundling left on his doorstep. (Sweet Pea is a term of affection used by Popeye; in the cartoon We Aim to Please, he addressed Olive Oyl as "Sweet Pea" at one point.)
In addition to a gravelly voice and a casual attitude towards grammar, Popeye is known for having an apparent speech impediment (a common character-distinguishing device in early cartoons), which either comes naturally or is caused by the ever-present pipe in his mouth. Among other things, he has problems enunciating a trailing "t"; thus, "fist" becomes "fisk" (as sung in his theme song, which makes it conveniently rhyme with "risk") and "infant" becomes "infink." This speech impediment even found its way into some of the titles of the cartoons.
Popeye is depicted as having superhuman strength, though the nature of his strength changes depending on which medium he is represented in. Originally, the comic-strip Popeye gained his strength and invulnerability in 1929 by rubbing the head of the rare Whiffle Hen. From early 1932 onward, especially the cartoons, Popeye was depicted as eating spinach to become stronger. The animated shorts depicted Popeye as ridiculously strong but liable to be pummeled by the much larger Bluto before his eating of the spinach.
When fed up with this treatment or exhausted, he would eat spinach, which would instantly restore and amplify his strength to an even greater level. In the comic strips, spinach is presented as a panacea, infusing Popeye not only with his extraordinary strength, but also making him invulnerable to all sorts of threats (including bullets, a basilisk's petrifying gaze, or aliens' weapons) and even capable of feats like flight or extraordinarily fast swimming (usually with the aid of his pipe as a propeller or hydrojet). In the animated shorts, Popeye's ingestion of spinach—which is almost invariably canned—is equally fanciful and often involves squeezing the can until the top opens, or sucking the spinach through his pipe, and on rare occasions, even ingesting the can as well. Occasionally, spinach has a similar invigorating power on other characters.
Other differences in Popeye's story and characterization show up depending upon which medium he is presented in. While Swee'Pea is definitively the ward of Popeye in the comic strips, he is often depicted as belonging to Olive Oyl in cartoons. The cartoons also occasionally feature family members of Popeye that have never appeared in the strip, notably his look-alike nephews Peepeye, Pupeye, Pipeye and Poopeye. Popeye also had a red bulbous-nosed dog named Jeep-Jeep, who ate geraniums and vanished without notice.
Even though there is no absolute sense of continuity in the stories, certain plot and presentation elements remain mostly constant, including purposeful contradictions in Popeye's capabilities. Though at times he seems bereft of manners or uneducated, Popeye is often depicted as capable of coming up with solutions to problems that (to the police, or, most importantly, the scientific community) seem insurmountable. Popeye has, alternatively, displayed Sherlock Holmes-like investigative prowess, determining for instance that his beloved Olive was abducted by estimating the depth of the villains' footprints in the sand, scientific ingenuity (as his construction, within a few hours, of a "spinach-drive" spaceship), or oversimplified (yet successful) diplomatic argumentation, by presenting to diplomatic conferences his own existence (and superhuman strength) as the only true guarantee of world peace.
Popeye's vastly versatile exploits are deemed even more amusing by a few standard plot elements. One is the love triangle between Popeye, Olive and Bluto, and the latter's endless machinations to claim Olive at Popeye's expense. Another is his (near-saintly) perseverance to overcome any obstacle to please Olive – who, quite often, renounces Popeye for Bluto's dime-store advances. She is the only character Popeye will permit to give him a thumping. Finally, in terms of the endless array of villain plots, Popeye mostly comes to the truth by "accidentally" sneaking on the villains, the moment they are bragging about their schemes' ingenuity, thus revealing everything to an enraged Popeye, who uses his "fisks" in the name of justice.
Thimble Theatre and Popeye comic strips
Popeye's first appearance in Thimble Theatre
(January 17, 1929)
Thimble Theatre was created by King Features Syndicate comic writer/artist E.C. Segar, and was his third published strip. The strip first appeared in the New York Journal, a newspaper operated by King Features owner William Randolph Hearst, on December 19, 1919 before later expanding into more papers. In its early years, the strip featured characters acting out various stories and scenarios in theatrical style (hence the strip's name.)
Thimble Theatre's first main characters/actors were the thin Olive Oyl and her boyfriend, Harold Hamgravy. After the strip moved away from its initial focus, it settled into a comedy-adventure style featuring Olive, Ham Gravy, and Olive's enterprising brother, Castor Oyl. Olive's parents, Cole and Nana Oyl, also made frequent appearances.
Popeye first appeared in the strip on January 17, 1929 as a minor character. He was initially hired by Castor Oyl and Ham to crew a ship for a voyage to Dice Island, the location of a casino owned by the crooked gambler Fadewell. Castor intended to break the bank at the casino using the unbeatable good luck conferred by stroking the hairs on the head of Bernice the Whiffle Hen. Weeks later, on the trip back, Popeye was shot many times by Jack Snork, a stooge of Fadewell's but survived by rubbing Bernice's head. After the adventure, Popeye left the strip—but due to reader reaction he was quickly brought back.
The Popeye character became so popular that he was given a larger role, and the strip was expanded into many more newspapers as a result. Though initial strips presented Olive as being less than impressed with Popeye, she eventually left Ham Gravy to become Popeye's girlfriend—and Ham Gravy left the strip as a regular. Over the years, however, she has often displayed a fickle attitude towards the sailor. Castor Oyl continued to come up with get-rich-quick schemes and enlisted Popeye in his misadventures. Eventually he settled down as a detective and later on bought a ranch out West. Castor has seldom appeared in recent years.
In 1933, Popeye received a foundling baby in the mail, whom he adopted and named "Swee'Pea." Other regular characters in the strip were J. Wellington Wimpy, a hamburger-loving moocher who would "gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" (he was also soft-spoken and cowardly, hence the name; Vickers Wellington bombers were nicknamed "Wimpys" after the character); George W. Geezil, a local cobbler who spoke in a heavily affected accent and habitually attempted to murder or wish death upon Wimpy; and Eugene the Jeep, a yellow, vaguely dog-like animal from Africa with magical powers. In addition, the strip featured the Sea Hag, a terrible pirate, as well as the last witch on earth (her even more terrible sister excepted); Alice the Goon, a monstrous creature who entered the strip as the Sea Hag's henchman and continued as Swee'Pea's babysitter; and Toar, a caveman.
Segar's strip was quite different from the cartoons that followed. The stories were more complex, with many characters who never appeared in the cartoons (King Blozo, for example). Spinach usage was rare and Bluto made only one appearance. Segar would sign some of his early Popeye comic strips with a cigar, due to his last name being a homophone of "cigar" (pronounced SEE-gar).
Thimble Theatre soon became one of King Features' most popular strips during the 1930s and, following an eventual name change to Popeye in the 1970s, remains one of the longest running strips in syndication today. The strip carried on after Segar's death in 1938, at which point he was replaced by a series of artists. In the 1950s, a spinoff strip was established, called Popeye the Sailorman. Acknowledging Popeye's growing popularity, the Thimble Theatre strip was re-named Thimble Theatre Starring Popeye during the 1960s and 1970s, and was eventually retitled, simply Popeye, the name under which the strip continues to run.
Artists after Segar
After Segar's death in 1938, many different artists were hired to draw the strip. Tom Sims, the son of a Coosa River channel-boat captain, continued writing Thimble Theatre strips and established the Popeye the Sailorman spin-off. Doc Winner and Bela Zaboly, successively, handled the artwork during Sims's run. Eventually, Ralph Stein stepped in to write the strip until the series was taken over by Bud Sagendorf in 1959.
Sagendorf wrote and drew the daily strip until 1986, and continued to write and draw the Sunday strip until his death in 1994. Sagendorf, who had been Segar's assistant, made a definite effort to retain much of Segar's classic style, although his art is instantly discernible. Sagendorf continued to use many obscure characters from the Segar years, especially O.G. Wotasnozzle and King Blozo. Sagendorf's new characters, such as the Thung, also had a very Segar-like quality. What set Sagendorf apart from Segar more than anything else was his sense of pacing. Where plotlines moved very quickly with Segar, it would sometimes take an entire week of Sagendorf's daily strips for the plot to be advanced even a small amount.
From 1986 to 1992, the daily strip was written and drawn by Bobby London, who, after some controversy, was fired from the strip for a story that could be taken to satirize abortion. London's strips put Popeye and his friends in updated situations, but kept the spirit of Segar's original. One classic storyline, titled "The Return of Bluto", showed the sailor battling every version of the bearded bully from the comic strip, comic books, and animated films. The Sunday edition of the comic strip is currently drawn by Hy Eisman, who took over in 1994. The daily strip began featuring reruns of Sagendorf's strips after London was fired, and continues to do so today.
On January 1, 2009, 70 years since the death of his creator, Segar's character of Popeye (though not the various films, TV shows, theme music and other media based on him) became public domain in most countries, but remains under copyright in the United States. Because Segar was an employee of King Features Syndicate when he created the Popeye character for the company's Thimble Theatre strip, Popeye is treated as a work for hire under U.S. copyright law. Works for hire are protected for 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter. Since Popeye made his first appearance in January 1929, and all U.S. copyrights expire on December 31 of the year that the term ends, Popeye will not enter the public domain in the U.S. until January 1, 2025 (assuming that no further term extensions are passed into law in the interim).
There have been a number of Popeye comic books, from Dell, King Comics, Gold Key Comics, Charlton Comics and others, originally written and illustrated by Bud Sagendorf. In the Dell comics, Popeye became something like a freelance police assistant, fighting the Mafia and Bluto's criminal activities. The new villains included the Ming dwarves, who were identical.
Popeye appeared in the British "TV Comic" series, a News of the World publication, becoming the cover story in 1960 with stories written and drawn by 'Chick' Henderson. Bluto was referred to as Brutus and was Popeye's only nemesis throughout the entire run.
A variety of artists have created Popeye comic book stories since then; for example, George Wildman drew Popeye stories for Charlton Comics from 1969 until the late 1970s. The Gold Key series was illustrated by Wildman and scripted by Bill Pearson, with some issues written by Nick Cuti.
In 1987, Ocean Comics released the Popeye Special written by Ron Portier with art by Ben Dunn. The story presented Popeye's origin story and attempted to tell more of a lighthearted adventure story as opposed to using typical comic strip style humor. The story also featured a more realistic art style and was edited by Bill Pearson, who also lettered and inked the story as well as the front cover. A second issue, by the same creative team, followed in 1988. The second issue introduced the idea that Bluto and Brutus were actually twin brothers and not the same person. In 1999, to celebrate Popeye's 70th anniversary, Ocean Comics revisited the franchise with a one-shot comic book, entitled The Wedding of Popeye and Olive Oyl, written by Peter David. The comic book brought together a large portion of the casts of both the comic strip and the animated shorts, and Popeye and Olive Oyl were finally wed after decades of courtship. However, this marriage has not been reflected in all media since the comic was published.
In 1989, a special series of short Popeye comic books were included in specially marked boxes of Instant Quaker Oatmeal, and Popeye also appeared in TV commercials for Quaker Oatmeal, which featured a parrot delivering the tag line "Popeye wants a Quaker!". The plots were similar to those of the films: Popeye loses either Olive Oyl or Swee'Pea to a musclebound antagonist, eats something invigorating, and proceeds to save the day. In this case, however, the invigorating elixir was not his usual spinach, but rather one of four flavors of Quaker Oatmeal. (A different flavor was showcased with each mini-comic.) The comics ended with the sailor saying, "I'm Popeye the Quaker Man!", which offended members of the Religious Society of Friends or Quakers. Members of this religious group (which has no connection to the cereal company) are pacifists and do not believe in using violence to resolve conflicts. For Popeye to call himself a "Quaker man" after beating up someone was offensive to the Quakers and considered a misrepresentation of their faith and religious beliefs. After a brief protest, the Quaker Oatmeal Company pulled the comic books and commercials in 1990, and the promotional campaign remains little-known.
In November 1932, King Features signed an agreement with Fleischer Studios, run by producer Max Fleischer and his brother, director Dave Fleischer, to have Popeye and the other Thimble Theatre characters begin appearing in a series of animated cartoons. The first cartoon in the series was released in 1933, and Popeye cartoons, released by Paramount Pictures, would remain a staple of Paramount's release schedule for nearly 25 years.
The plotlines in the animated cartoons tended to be simpler than those presented in the comic strips, and the characters slightly different. A villain, usually Bluto, made a move on Popeye's "sweetie," Olive Oyl. The bad guy then clobbered Popeye until Popeye ate spinach, giving him superhuman strength. Thus empowered, the sailor made short work of the villain.
The animated Popeye shorts were the first stories to suggest that Popeye's enormous strength came from a love of spinach; in the Thimble Theatre strips, Popeye did say he owed his strength to spinach, but was rarely seen actually using it until the cartoons. The 1954 Popeye cartoon Greek Mirthology depicts the fictional origin of spinach consumption in Popeye's family. Popeye's Greek ancestor, Hercules, originally sniffed garlic to gain his supernatural powers. When the evil Brutus removes the scent of the garlic using chlorophyll (an obvious incongruity), Hercules ends up getting blown (literally) into a spinach field, and, upon eating the leafy green substance, finds it empowers him many times more than garlic. (This story should be dismissed as just one of many fictional stories Popeye told his nephews so they would eat their spinach, a common theme in the Famous Studios cartoons.) The 1980 Popeye film depicted Popeye as initially disliking the vegetable until Bluto force-fed him some, resulting in great strength.
Many of the Thimble Theatre characters, including Wimpy, Poopdeck Pappy, and Eugene the Jeep, eventually made appearances in the Paramount cartoons, though appearances by Olive Oyl's extended family and Ham Gravy were notably absent. Popeye was also given more family exclusive to the shorts, specifically his look-alike nephews Pipeye, Peepeye, Pupeye, and Poopeye.
Popeye made his film debut in Popeye the Sailor, a 1933 Betty Boop cartoon (Betty only makes a brief appearance, repeating her hula dance from Betty Boop's Bamboo Isle). It was for this short that Sammy Lerner's "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man" song was written. I Yam What I Yam became the first entry in the regular Popeye the Sailor series.
For the first few cartoons, the opening-credits music consisted of an instrumental of "The Sailor's Hornpipe," followed by a vocal variation on "Strike Up the Band (Here Comes a Sailor)," substituting the words "for Popeye the Sailor" in the latter phrase. After that the "I Yam What I Yam" tune was used as the theme song. As Betty Boop gradually declined in quality as a result of the Hays Code being enforced in 1934, Popeye became the studio's star character by 1936.
The character of Popeye was originally voiced by William "Billy" Costello, also known as "Red Pepper Sam." When Costello's behavior allegedly became a problem because of the MPAA Code, he was replaced by former in-betweener animator Jack Mercer, beginning with King of the Mardi Gras in 1935. Jack Mercer copied Costello's gravelly voice style familiar to audiences. Olive Oyl was voiced by a number of actresses, the most notable of which was Mae Questel, who also voiced Betty Boop. Questel eventually took over the part completely until 1938. William Pennell was the first to voice the Bluto character from 1933 to 1935's "The Hyp-Nut-Tist", after which Gus Wickie voiced Bluto until his death in 1938, his last work as the "Chief" in Big Chief Ugh-A-Mug-Ugh.
Thanks to the animated-short series, Popeye became even more of a sensation than he had been in comic strips. During the mid-1930s, polls taken by theater owners proved Popeye more popular than Mickey Mouse, and by 1938, polls showed that the sailor was Hollywood's most popular cartoon character, leaving Mickey in a third place (The second place was taken over by Donald Duck). Despite this, Popeye would lose that place beginning in 1942, when Bugs Bunny became more popular than Popeye was. In 1935, as Popeye was able to surpass Mickey Mouse in popularity, Paramount added to Popeye's popularity by sponsoring the "Popeye Club" as part of their Saturday matinée program, in competition with Mickey Mouse Clubs. Popeye cartoons, including a sing-along special entitled Let's Sing With Popeye, were a regular part of the weekly meetings. For a 10-cent membership fee, club members were given a Popeye kazoo, a membership card, the chance to become elected as the Club's "Popeye" or "Olive Oyl," and the opportunity to win other gifts.
The original 1932 agreement with the syndicate called for any films made within ten years and any elements of them, to be destroyed in 1942. This would have erased all Fleisher films, which are considered the best of the series. King was not sure what effect the cartoons would have on the strip; if the effect was very negative, King was very eager to erase any memory of the cartoons by destroying them. However, the films were not destroyed, either through oversight or because of their success.
The Popeye series, like other cartoons produced by the Fleischers, was noted for its urban feel (the Fleischers operated in New York City, specifically in Broadway), its manageable variations on a simple theme (Popeye loses Olive to bully Bluto and must eat his spinach and defeat him), and the characters' "under-the-breath" mutterings. The voices for Fleischer cartoons produced during the early and mid-1930s were recorded after the animation was completed. The actors, Mercer in particular, would therefore improvise lines that were not on the storyboards or prepared for the lip-sync (generally comprised of word-play and clever puns). Even after the Fleischers began pre-recording dialog for lip-sync shortly after moving to Miami, Mercer and the other voice actors would record ad-libbed lines while watching a finished copy of the cartoon. Fleischer Studios produced 108 Popeye cartoons, 105 of them in black-and-white. The remaining three were two-reel (double-length) Technicolor adaptations of stories from the Arabian Nights billed as "Popeye Color Features": Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor (1936), Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves (1937), and Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp (1939).
The Fleischers moved their studio to Miami, Florida in September 1938 in order to weaken union control and take advantage of tax breaks. The Popeye series continued production, although a marked change was seen in the Florida-produced shorts: they were brighter and less detailed in their artwork, with attempts to bring the character animation closer to a Disney style. Mae Questel, who started a family, refused to move to Florida, and Margie Hines, the wife of Jack Mercer, voiced Olive Oyl through the end of 1943. Several voice actors, among them Pinto Colvig (better known as the voice of Disney's Goofy), succeeded Gus Wickie as the voice of Bluto between 1938 and 1943.
In 1941, with World War II becoming more of a source of concern in the United States, Popeye was enlisted into the U.S. Navy, as depicted in the 1941 short The Mighty Navy. His costume was changed from the black shirt and jeans he wore in the original comic to an official white Navy suit, which Popeye continued to wear in animated cartoons until the 1960s. Popeye periodically appeared in his original costume when at home on shore leave, as in the 1942 entry Pip-Eye, Pup-Eye, Poop-Eye, An' Peep-Eye, which introduced his four identical nephews, and in the 1950 and 1952 Famous cartoons Popeye Makes a Movie and Big Bad Sindbad, which featured clips from 1937's Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves and 1936's Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor respectively. (See: List of Popeye the Sailor theatrical cartoons (Fleischer Studios).)
In May 1941, Paramount Pictures assumed ownership of Fleischer Studios, which had borrowed heavily from Paramount in order to move to Florida and expand into features (Gulliver's Travels and Mister Bug Goes to Town). By the end of the year, Max and Dave Fleischer were no longer on speaking terms with each other, communicating solely by memo. Paramount fired the Fleischers and began reorganizing the studio, which they renamed Famous Studios.
With Famous Studios headed by Sam Buchwald, Seymour Kneitel, Isadore Sparber and Dan Gordon, production continued on the Popeye shorts. The early Famous-era shorts were often World War II-themed, featuring Popeye fighting Nazis and Japanese soldiers, most notably the 1942 short You're a Sap, Mr. Jap. As Popeye was popular in South America, Famous Studios set the 1944 cartoon We're on our Way to Rio in Brazil, as part of a "good neighbor" policy between the US government and the rest of the continent during the war.
In late 1943, the Popeye series was moved to Technicolor production, beginning with Her Honor the Mare. Though these cartoons were produced in full color, some films in the late-1940s period were released in less-expensive two-color (usually) processes like Cinecolor and Polacolor. Paramount had begun moving the studio back to New York that January, and Mae Questel reassumed voice duties for Olive Oyl. Jack Mercer was drafted into the Navy during World War II, and scripts were stockpiled for Mercer to record whenever he was on leave. When Mercer was unavailable, Harry Welch stood in as the voice of Popeye (and Shape Ahoy had Mae Questel doing Popeye's voice as well as Olive's). New voice cast member Jackson Beck began voicing Bluto within a few years; he, Mercer, and Questel would continue to voice their respective characters into the 1960s. Over time, the Technicolor Famous shorts began to adhere even closer to the standard Popeye formula, and softened, rounder character designs – including an Olive Oyl design which gave the character high heels and an updated hairstyle – were evident by late 1946. (See List of Popeye the Sailor theatrical cartoons (Famous Studios).)
Theatrical Popeye cartoons on television
Famous/Paramount continued producing the Popeye series until 1957, with Spooky Swabs being the last of the 125 Famous shorts in the series. Paramount then sold the Popeye film catalog to Associated Artists Productions (a.a.p.), which was bought out by United Artists in 1958 and later merged with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which was itself purchased by Turner Entertainment in 1986. Turner sold off the production end of MGM/UA shortly after, but retained the film catalog, giving it the rights to the theatrical Popeye library.
The black-and-white Popeye shorts were shipped to South Korea in 1985, where artists retraced them into color. The process was intended to make the shorts more marketable in the modern television era, but prevented the viewers from seeing the original Fleischer pen-and-ink work, as well as the three-dimensional backgrounds created by Fleischer's "Stereoptical" process. Every other frame was traced, changing the animation from being "on ones" (24 frame/s) to being "on twos" (12 frame/s), and softening the pace of the films. These colorized shorts began airing on Superstation WTBS in 1986 during their Tom & Jerry and Friends 90-minute weekday morning and hour-long weekday afternoon shows. The retraced shorts were syndicated in 1987 on a barter basis, and remained available until the early 1990s. Turner merged with Time Warner in 1996, and Warner Bros. (through its Turner subsidiary) therefore currently controls the rights to the Popeye shorts.
Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Bluto in a scene from Famous Studios' Floor Flusher
For many decades, viewers could only see a majority of the classic Popeye cartoons with altered opening and closing credits. a.a.p. had, for the most part, replaced the original Paramount logos with their own. In 2001, the Cartoon Network, under the supervision of animation historian Jerry Beck, created a new incarnation of The Popeye Show. The show aired the Fleischer and Famous Studios Popeye shorts in versions approximating their original theatrical releases by editing copies of the original opening and closing credits (taken or recreated from various sources) onto the beginnings and ends of each cartoon, or in some cases, in their complete, uncut original theatrical versions direct from such prints that originally contained the front-and-end Paramount credits.
The series, which aired 135 Popeye shorts over forty-five episodes, also featured segments offering trivia about the characters, voice actors, and animators. The program aired without interruption until March 2004. The Popeye Show continued to air on Cartoon Network's spin-off network Boomerang. The restored Popeye Show versions of the shorts are sometimes seen at revival film houses for occasional festival screenings. The Popeye Show is currently airing on Cartoon Network in Pakistan as well as in India. In the U.S., a daily half-hour block of Popeye can be seen on the Boomerang network from time to time; however, the Fleischer Popeye shorts shown on this block are mostly the 1980s colorized versions, and most of the title cards thereof have been edited to hide the a.a.p. logo.
CBS/Fox Video (under license of MGM/UA) had planned a VHS and Beta release of the Fleischer and Famous Studios cartoons in 1983. However, UA was informed by King Features Syndicate that only King Features had the legal right to release Popeye cartoons on video. United Artists did not challenge King Features' claim, and the release was canceled. While King Features owns the rights to the Popeye characters, and licensed the characters to appear in the Fleischer/Famous cartoons, King Features does not have any ownership in the films themselves.
A clause in the original contract between Paramount Pictures and King Features stated that after ten years, the prints and negatives of the Popeye cartoons were to be destroyed, a clause the syndicate had for all of its licensed properties. The clause was never enforced for Popeye.
While many of the Paramount Popeye cartoons remained unavailable on video, a handful of those cartoons had fallen into public domain and were found on numerous low budget VHS tapes and later DVDs. Among these cartoons are a handful of the Fleischer black-and-whites, several 1950s Famous shorts (many of which went public domain after the MGM/UA merger), and all three Popeye Color Specials. When Turner Entertainment acquired the cartoons in 1986, a long and laborious legal struggle with King Features kept the majority of the original Popeye shorts from official video releases for more than 20 years. King Features instead opted to release a DVD boxed set of the 1960s made-for-television Popeye cartoons, which it retained the rights to, in 2004. In the meantime, home video rights to the a.a.p. library were transferred from CBS/Fox Video to MGM/UA Home Video in 1986, and eventually to Warner Home Video in 1999.
In 2006, Warner Bros. finally reached an agreement with King Features Syndicate and its parent company Hearst Corporation. Warner Home Video announced it would release all of the Popeye cartoons produced for theatrical release between 1933 and 1957 on DVD, restored and uncut. The studio also plans to release DVD sets of the Popeye cartoons made for television in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the rights to which are controlled by Hearst Entertainment. This is similar in most respects to the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD sets also released by Warner, except the Popeye shorts will be released in chronological order.
The first of Warner's Popeye DVD sets, covering the cartoons released from 1933 until early 1938, was released on July 31, 2007. Popeye the Sailor: 1933-1938, Volume 1, a four-disc collector’s edition DVD, contains the first 60 Fleischer Popeye cartoons, including the color specials Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor and Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves. Restoration timelines caused Warners to re-imagine the Popeye DVD sets as a series of two-disc sets. This DVD set was included, either erroneously or through fraud, in a batch of boxed sets sold in discount outlets for $3 or less in the summer of 2009.
A second volume of Popeye cartoons from Warner Home Video, Popeye the Sailor: 1938-1940, Volume 2 was released on June 17, 2008. It includes the final color Popeye special Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp. Warner also released Popeye & Friends, Volume One, a single DVD featuring eight color Popeye cartoons from Hanna-Barbera's 1978 TV series The All-New Popeye Hour, on the same day (Hanna-Barbera is also a division of WB).
Popeye the Sailor: 1941-1943, Volume 3 was released on November 4, 2008. It includes three seldom shown wartime Popeye cartoons: You're A Sap, Mister Jap (1942), Scrap The Japs (1942), and Seein' Red, White, and Blue (1943). A second single-disc volume of H-B produced Popeye TV cartoons was also scheduled for release titled Popeye & Friends, Volume Two, but Warner decided to cancel the release of this DVD.
Original television cartoons
In 1960, King Features Syndicate commissioned a new series of cartoons entitled Popeye the Sailor, but this time for television syndication. Al Brodax served as executive producer of the cartoons for King Features. Jack Mercer, Mae Questel, and Jackson Beck returned for this series, which was produced by a number of companies, including Jack Kinney Productions, Rembrandt Films (William L. Snyder and Gene Deitch), Larry Harmon Productions, Halas and Batchelor, Paramount Cartoon Studios (formerly Famous Studios), and Southern Star Entertainment (formerly Southern Star Productions). The artwork was streamlined and simplified for the television budgets, and 220 cartoons were produced in only two years, with the first set of them premiering in the autumn of 1960, and the last of them debuting during the 1961–1962 television season. Since King Features had exclusive rights to these Popeye cartoons, 85 of them were released on DVD as a 75th anniversary Popeye boxed set in 2004.
For these cartoons, Bluto's name was changed to "Brutus," as King Features believed at the time that Paramount owned the rights to the name "Bluto." Many of the cartoons made by Paramount used plots and storylines taken directly from the comic strip sequences-as well as characters like King Blozo and the Sea Hag. The 1960s cartoons have been issued on both VHS and DVD.
On September 9, 1978, The All-New Popeye Hour debuted on the CBS Saturday morning lineup. It was an hour-long animated series produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions, which tried its best to retain the style of the original comic strip (Popeye returned to his original costume and Brutus to his original name of Bluto), while complying with the prevailing content restrictions on violence. In addition to providing many of the cartoon scripts, Mercer continued to voice Popeye, while Marilyn Schreffler and Allan Melvin became the new voices of Olive Oyl and Bluto, respectively. (Mae Questel actually auditioned for Hanna-Barbera to recreate Olive Oyl, but was rejected in favor of Schreffler.) The All-New Popeye Hour ran on CBS until September 1981, when it was cut to a half-hour and retitled The Popeye and Olive Show. It was removed from the CBS lineup in September 1983, the year before Jack Mercer's death. These cartoons have also been released on VHS and DVD. During the time these cartoons were in production, CBS aired The Popeye Valentine's Day Special – Sweethearts at Sea on February 14 (St. Valentine's Day, of course), 1979. In the UK, the BBC aired a half-hour version of The All-New Popeye Show, from the early-1980s to 2004.
Popeye briefly returned to CBS in 1987 for Popeye and Son, another Hanna-Barbera series, which featured Popeye and Olive as a married couple with a son named Popeye Jr., who hates the taste of spinach but eats it to boost his strength. Maurice LaMarche performed Popeye's voice; Mercer had died in 1984. The show lasted for one season.
In 2004, Lions Gate Entertainment produced a computer-animated television special, Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy, which was made to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Popeye. Billy West performed the voice of Popeye; after the first day of recording, his throat was so sore he had to return to his hotel room and drink honey. The uncut version was released on DVD on November 9, 2004; and was aired in a re-edited version on Fox on December 17, 2004 and again on December 30, 2005. Its style was influenced by the 1930s Fleischer cartoons, and featured Swee'Pea, Wimpy, Bluto (who is Popeye's friend in this version), Olive Oyl, Poopdeck Pappy and the Sea Hag as its characters. On November 6, 2007, Lionsgate Entertainment re-released Popeye’s Voyage on DVD with redesigned cover art.
Popeye has made brief parody appearances in modern animated productions, including:
Popeye’s theme song, titled "I'm Popeye The Sailor Man", composed by Sammy Lerner in 1933 for Fleischer’s first Popeye the Sailor cartoon, has become forever associated with the sailor. As one cartoon historian has observed, Popeye's theme song itself was inspired by two lines of the tune "Oh, Better Far to Live and Die", sung by the Pirate King and chorus in Act I of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta The Pirates of Penzance: "For I am a Pirate King! (You are! Hoorah for the Pirate King!)" The tune behind those two lines is similar to the "Popeye" song, except for the high note on the first "King". The Sailor's Hornpipe has often been used as an introduction to Popeye's theme song.
A cover of the theme song, performed by Face To Face, is included on the 1995 tribute album Saturday Morning: Cartoons' Greatest Hits, produced by Ralph Sall for MCA Records.
The success of Popeye as a comic-strip and animated character has led to appearances in many other forms.
Popeye was adapted to radio in several series broadcast over three different networks by two sponsors from 1935 to 1938. Popeye and most of the major supporting characters were first featured in a thrice-weekly 15-minute radio program, Popeye the Sailor, which starred Detmar Poppen as Popeye along with most of the major supporting characters—Olive Oyl (Olive Lamoy), Wimpy (Charles Lawrence), Bluto (Jackson Beck) and Swee'Pea (Mae Questel). In the first episode, Popeye adopted Sonny (Jimmy Donnelly), a character later known as Matey the Newsboy. This program was broadcast Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights at 7:15 pm. September 10, 1935 through March 28, 1936 on the NBC Red Network (87 episodes), initially sponsored by Wheatena, a whole-wheat breakfast cereal, which would routinely replace the spinach references. Music was provided by Victor Irwin's Cartoonland Band. Announcer Kelvin Keech sang (to composer Lerner's "Popeye" theme) "Wheatena is his diet / He asks you to try it / With Popeye the sailor man." Wheatena paid King Features Syndicate $1,200 per week.
The show was next broadcast Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7:15 – 7:30 pm on WABC, and ran from August 31, 1936 to February 26, 1937 (78 episodes). Floyd Buckley played Popeye, and Miriam Wolfe portrayed both Olive Oyl and the Sea Hag. Once again, reference to spinach was conspicuously absent. Now Popeye would sing, "Wheatena's me diet / I ax ya to try it / I'm Popeye the Sailor Man".
The third series was sponsored by the maker of Popsicle three nights a week for 15 minutes at 6:15 pm on CBS from May 2, 1938 through July 29, 1938.
Of the three series, only 20 of the 204 episodes are still known to exist.
- Popeye (1980)
Main article: Popeye (film)
Director Robert Altman used the character in Popeye, a 1980 live-action musical feature film starring Robin Williams as Popeye (his first movie role), Paul Smith as Bluto and Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl, with songs by Harry Nilsson. The script was by Jules Feiffer, who adapted the 1971 Nostalgia Press book of 1936 strips for his screenplay, thus retaining many of the characters created by Segar. A co-production of Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Productions, the movie was filmed almost entirely on Malta, in the village of Mellieħa on the northwest coast of the island. The set is now a tourist attraction called Popeye Village. The US box office earnings were double the film's budget, making it somewhat of a success.
- Upcoming film
In 2010, it was announced that Sony Pictures Animation is developing 3-D computer-animated Popeye film, with Avi Arad producing it..
Video and pinball games
- Nintendo created a widescreen Game & Watch called Popeye in 1981. The handheld game featured Popeye on a boat, and the aim was to catch bottles, pineapples, and spinach cans thrown by Olive Oyl while trying to avoid Bluto's boat. If Bluto hit Popeye on the head with his mallet or Popeye failed to catch an object three times, the game would end.
- The Nintendo arcade game Donkey Kong was originally conceived as a Popeye video game by Shigeru Miyamoto. But due to licensing disagreements with King Features, this idea was scrapped.
- A table top Game & Watch style game was also released by Nintendo in 1983, which featured Popeye trying to rescue Olive while engaging in fisticuffs with Bluto.
- Nintendo created another Popeye game for the Famicom, Popeye no Eigo Asobi, in 1983. This was an educational game designed to teach Japanese children English words.
- In 1994, Technos Japan released Popeye no Beach Volleyball for the Game Gear, and Popeye: Volume of the Malicious Witch Seahag (Popeye: Ijiwaru Majo Shihaggu no Maki) for the Japanese Super Famicom. A side scrolling adventure game that was mixed with a board game, the game never saw US release, but a ROM of the game can be found at various emulation sites. It featured many characters from the Thimble Theatre series as well. In the game, Popeye had to recover magical hearts scattered across the level to restore his frozen friends as part of a spell cast upon them by the Sea Hag in order to get revenge on Popeye.
- In 2003, Nova Productions released a strength tester called Popeye Strength Tester.
- Released June 2007, the video game The Darkness featured televisions that played full-length films and television shows that had expired copyrights. Most of the cartoons viewable on the "Toon TV" channel are Famous Studios Popeye shorts.
- In fall 2007, Namco Networks released the original Nintendo Popeye arcade game for mobile phones with new features including enhanced graphics and new levels.
Marketing, tie-ins, and endorsements
From early on, Popeye was heavily merchandised. Everything from soap to razor blades to spinach was available with Popeye's likeness on it. Most of these items are rare and sought-after by collectors, but some merchandise is still being produced.
- Games and toys
- Mezco Toyz makes classic-style Popeye figures in two sizes.
- KellyToys produces plush stuffed Popeye characters.
- In October 2007, to coincide with the launch of the Popeye mobile game, Namco Networks and Sprint launched a Popeye the Sailorman sweepstakes offering the authorized edition four-disc Popeye the Sailor: 1933–1938 Vol. 1 DVD set as grand prize.
- Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits, a fast food restaurant chain, is not named after Popeye the sailor but after the character "Popeye" Doyle from the 1971 film The French Connection, who was in turn named after real police detective Eddie Egan, who was called "Pop Eye" because of his keen observational skills. The restaurant chain would later obtain a license for use of the cartoon character and advertise the name as Popeye's after Popeye the sailor, causing some confusion as to the source of the name. Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits locations in Puerto Rico make extensive use of Popeye the Sailor and associated characters.
- Wimpy's name was borrowed for the Wimpy restaurant chain, one of the first international fast food restaurants featuring hamburgers, which they call "Wimpy Burgers."
- Retail foods and beverages
- Allen Canning Company produces its own line of spinach, called "Popeye Spinach", in various canned varieties. The cartoon Popeye serves as the mascot on the can.
- In 1961, Buitoni Pasta marketed a Popeye-shaped spinach macaroni.
- Popeye appeared in a 1979 Dr Pepper commercial during the "Be a Pepper" campaign (possibly as a tie-in for the movie, going so far as to modify his traditional catchphrase to "I'm Popeye the Pepper-man").
- In 2001, Popeye (along with Bluto, Olive, and twin Wimpys) appeared in a television commercial for Minute Maid Orange Juice. The commercial, produced by Leo Burnett Co, showed Popeye and Bluto as friends (and neglecting Olive Oyl) due to their having had Minute Maid Orange Juice that morning. The ad agency's intention was to show that even the notable enemies would be in a good mood after their juice, but some, including Robert Knight of the Culture and Family Institute, felt the commercial's intent was to portray the pair in a homosexual romantic relationship—an allegation that Minute Maid denies. Knight was interviewed by Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central's The Daily Show about this issue.
- World Candies Inc. produced Popeye-branded "candy cigarettes", which were small sugar sticks with red dye at the end to simulate a flame. They were sold in a small box, similar to a cigarette pack. The company still produces the item, but has since changed the name to "Popeye Candy Sticks" and has ceased putting the red dye at the end.
- During the 1960s, Popeye appeared in advertising for Crown gasoline.
- In 1987, Stabur Graphics commissioned artist Will Elder to paint "Popeye's Wedding" as oil on masonite. Released was a stamped, numbered and signed Limited Edition lithograph , edition size of 395. The lithograph shows Popeye and Olive Oyl in front of the preacher (Popeye slipping a lifesaver-ring onto Olive's finger) along with Nana Oyl, Alice the Goon, Swee'Pea (cradled in Popeye's free arm), Wimpy, Granny, Eugene the Jeep and Brutus (holding a large cauldron of steaming, cooked rice). Twenty-one other characters watch from the pews. The litho is titled "Wit Dis Lifesaver, I Dee Wed!" and is pictured on page 83 of the book "Chicken Fat" by Will Elder (Fantagraphics, 2006).
- In 1990, Popeye appeared in an advertisement warning of the harmful effects of coastal pollution. Bluto is laughing as he carelessly dumps garbage over the side of his boat, to which Olive reacts in horror as seagulls and other sea creatures are caught in six-pack ring holders. Popeye punches out Bluto and cleans up his garbage; however, when some more plastic garbage sails by Popeye's boat, he says unsurprisingly, "I can't do it all meself, you know!"
- In 1995, the Popeye comic strip was one of 20 included in the Comic Strip Classics series of commemorative U.S. postage stamps.
- In 2006, King Features Syndicate produced a radio spot and an industrial for the United States Power Squadrons featuring Robyn Gryphe as Olive and Allen Enlow as Popeye.
- Starting in 1940, Popeye became the mascot of the Flamengo (Rio de Janeiro – Brazil), the most popular soccer team with almost 50 millions fans around the world. The mascot of the soccer club is currently a cartoon vulture.
Cultural origins and impact
Local folklore in Chester, Illinois, Segar's hometown, claims that Popeye is based on Frank "Rocky" Fiegel, a man who was handy with his fists. Fiegel was born on January 27, 1868. He lived as a bachelor his entire life. It was said that later Segar sent checks to Fiegel in the 1930s. Fiegel died on March 24, 1947 at the age of 79.
Culturally, many consider Popeye a precursor to the superheroes who would eventually come to dominate the world of comic books. Some observers of popular culture point out that the fundamental character of Popeye, paralleling that of another 1930s icon, Superman, is very close to the traditional view of how the U.S. sees itself as a nation: possessing uncompromising moral standards and resorting to force when threatened, or when he "can't stands no more" bad behavior from an antagonist. This theory is directly reinforced in certain cartoons, when Popeye defeats his foe while a US patriotic song, usually either "Stars and Stripes Forever," "Yankee Doodle," or "Columbia, Gem of the Ocean," plays on the soundtrack. One of Popeye's catchphrases is "I yam what I yam, and that's all what I yam," which may be seen as an expression of individualism.
Such has been Popeye's cultural impact that the medical profession sometimes refers to the biceps bulge symptomatic of a tendon rupture as the "Popeye muscle." Note, however, that under normal (non-spinach-influenced) conditions, Popeye has pronounced muscles of the forearm, not of the biceps.
At the end of his song "Kansas City Star," Roger Miller's character of a local TV kids show announcer says, "Stay tuned, we'll have a Popeye cartoon in just a minute."
The 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit featured many classic cartoon characters, and the absence of Popeye was noted by some critics. Popeye (along with Bluto and Olive Oyl) actually had a role planned for the film. However when executive producer Steven Speilberg went to acquire the rights for a licencing fee of $5,000 per character, he found he had to pay to both King Features (who created the character) and Turner Entertainment (who held the rights for the cartoons at the time) and this was too expensive for the Disney's liking. Thus, the rights could not be acquired and Popeye's cameo was dropped from the film.
Most prominently, Popeye has been associated with the vegetable spinach, and is credited by many with popularizing the vegetable among children.
In 1973, Cary Bates created Captain Strong, a takeoff of Popeye, for DC Comics, as a way of having two cultural icons – Superman and (a proxy of) Popeye – meet.
The popularity of Popeye helped boost sales of the leafy vegetable. Spinach consumption increased 33 percent in the United States between 1931 and 1936 as Popeye gained popularity, saving the spinach industry in the 1930s. Using Popeye as a role model for healthier eating may work; a 2010 study revealed that children increased their vegetable consumption after watching Popeye cartoons. The spinach-growing community of Crystal City, Texas, erected a statue of the character in recognition of Popeye's positive effects on the spinach industry. There is another Popeye statue in Segar's hometown, Chester, Illinois, and statues in Springdale, Arkansas and Alma, Arkansas (which claims to be "The Spinach Capital of the World,") at canning plants of Allen Canning, which markets Popeye-branded canned spinach. In addition to Allen Canning's Popeye spinach, Popeye Fresh Foods markets bagged, fresh spinach with Popeye characters on the package. In 2006, when spinach contaminated with E. coli was accidentally sold to the public, many editorial cartoonists lampooned the affair by featuring Popeye in their cartoons.
A frequently circulated story claims that Fleischer's choice of spinach to give Popeye strength was based on faulty calculations of its iron content. In the story, a scientist misplaced a decimal point in an 1870 measurement of spinach's iron content, leading to an iron value ten times higher than it should have been. This faulty measurement was not noticed until the 1930s. While this story has gone through longstanding circulation, recent study has shown that this is a myth, see Spinach, Popeye and the myth.
The strip is also responsible for popularizing, although not inventing, the word "goon" (meaning a thug or lackey); goons in Popeye's world were large humanoids with indistinctly drawn faces that were particularly known for being used as muscle and slave labor by Popeye's nemesis, the Sea Hag. One particular goon, the aforementioned female named Alice, was an occasional recurring character in the animated shorts, but she was usually a fairly nice character.
Eugene the Jeep was introduced in the comic strip on March 13, 1936. Two years later the term "jeep wagons" was in use, later shortened to simply "jeep" with widespread WWII usage and then trademarked by Willys-Overland as "Jeep". Some dispute this claim, however, as the WWII jeep was designated a "general purpose vehicle," with "GP" or "GPV" aka "jeep" appearing on the paperwork.
Events and honors
The Popeye Picnic is held every year in Chester, Illinois on the weekend after Labor Day. Popeye fans attend from across the globe, including a visit by a film crew from South Korea in 2004. The one-eyed sailor's hometown strives to entertain devotees of all ages.
In honor of Popeye’s 75th anniversary, the Empire State Building illuminated its notable tower lights green the weekend of January 16–18, 2004 as a tribute to the icon’s enormous love of spinach. This special lighting marked the only time the Empire State Building ever celebrated the anniversary/birthday of a comic strip character.
- Popeye the Sailor, Nostalgia Press, 1971, reprints three daily stories from 1936.
- Thimble Theatre, Hyperion Press, 1977, ISBN 0-88355-663-4, reprints daily from September 10, 1928 missing 11 dailies which are included in the Fantagraphics reprints.
- Popeye, the First Fifty Years by Bud Sagendorf, Workman Publishing, 1979 ISBN 0-89480-066-3, the only Popeye reprint in full color.
- The Complete E. C. Segar Popeye, Fantagraphics, 1980s, reprints all Segar Sundays featuring Popeye in 4 volumes, all Segar dailies featuring Popeye in 7 volumes, missing 4 dailies which are included in the Hyperion reprint, November 20–22, 1928, August 22, 1929.
- Popeye. The 60th Anniversary Collection, Hawk Books Limited, 1989, ISBN 0-948248-86-6 featuring reprints a selection of strips and stories from the first newspaper strip in 1929 onwards, along with articles on Popeye in comics, books, collectables, etc.
- E. C. Segar's Popeye, Fantagraphic Books, 2000s, reprints all Segar Sundays (in color) and dailies featuring Popeye in 6 hardcover volumes.
- Vol. 1: I Yam What I Yam – covers 1928–30 (November 22, 2006, ISBN 978-1560977797)
- Vol. 2: Well Blow Me Down! – covers 1930–32 (December 19, 2007, ISBN 978-1560978749)
- Vol. 3: Let's You and Him Fight! – covers 1932–33 (November 15, 2008, ISBN 978-1560979623)
- Vol. 4: Plunder Island – covers 1933–35 (December 22, 2009, ISBN 978-1606991695)
- Vol. 5: Wha's a Jeep – covers 1935-37 (March 21, 2011, ISBN 978-1606994047)
- Vol. 6: Me Li'l Swee'Pea – covers 1937-38 (November 15, 2011, ISBN 978-1606994832)
Thimble Theatre/Popeye characters
Characters originating in the comic strips
Listed in rough order of original appearance
- Olive Oyl
- Castor Oyl (Olive Oyl's brother)
- Cole Oyl (Olive Oyl's father)
- Nana Oyl (Olive Oyl's mother)
- Ham Gravy (full name Harold Hamgravy, Olive Oyl's original boyfriend)
- Popeye the Sailor
- The Sea Hag
- The Sea Hag's vultures, specifically Bernard
- J. Wellington Wimpy
- George W. Geezil (the local cobbler who hates Wimpy)
- Rough House (a cook who runs a local restaurant, The Rough House)
- Swee'Pea (Popeye's adopted baby son in the comics, Olive's cousin in the cartoons)
- King Blozo
- Toar (a 900 pound caveman living in the modern age)
- Goons, specifically Alice the Goon
- Poopdeck Pappy (Popeye's 99-year-old long-lost father; also a sailor)
- Eugene the Jeep
- Barnacle Bill (a fellow sailor and old friend)
- Dufus (the son of a family friend)
- Granny (Popeye's grandmother and Poopdeck's mother)
- Bernice (The "Whiffle Bird" in 1960s King Features TV shorts)
- O. G. Watasnozzle (a character with a large nose, as his name indicates)
- Otis O. Otis, "The world's smartest detective" as well as filmmaker Otis Von Lens Cover
Characters originating in the cartoons
- Pipeye, Pupeye, Poopeye, Peepeye (Popeye's identical nephews)
- Shorty (Popeye's shipmate in three World War II era Famous studios shorts)
- Diesel Oyl (Olive's identical niece, a conceited brat who appears in three of the 1960s King Features shorts)
- Popeye, Jr. (son of Popeye and Olive Oyl, exclusive of the series Popeye and Son)
Theatrical and Television cartoons
- Popeye the Sailor (produced by Fleischer Studios) (1933–1942, 108 cartoons)
- Popeye the Sailor (produced by Famous Studios) (1942–1957, 122 cartoons)
- Popeye the Sailor (1960–1962; produced by Jack Kinney Productions, Rembrandt Films (animated by Gene Deitch), Halas and Batchelor, Larry Harmon Pictures, TV Spots, and Paramount Cartoon Studios for King Features Syndicate, 220 cartoons)
- The All-New Popeye Hour, later "The Popeye and Olive Show" (1978–1983, CBS; produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions, 159 cartoons)
- Popeye and Son (1987–1988, CBS; produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions, 26 cartoons)
- The Popeye Show (2001–2003, Cartoon Network, repeats)
In total, 638 Popeye cartoons were produced between 1933 and 1988.
Television specials and feature-length films
- Popeye the Sailor: 1933-1938, Volume 1 (released July 31, 2007) features Fleischer cartoons released from 1933 through early 1938 and contains the color Popeye specials Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor and Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves.
- Popeye the Sailor: 1938-1940, Volume 2 (released June 17, 2008) features Fleischer cartoons released from mid-1938 through 1940 and includes the last color Popeye special Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp.
- Popeye the Sailor: 1941-1943, Volume 3 (released November 4, 2008) features the remaining black-and-white Popeye cartoons released from 1941 to 1943, including the final Fleischer-produced and earliest Famous-produced entries in the series.
- Popeye - 75th Anniversary Collector's edition (released April 27, 2004) features 85 cartoons from the Popeye the Sailor 1960s series.
- Popeye and Friends: Volume 1 (released June 17, 2008) features a collection of eight cartoons from The All-New Popeye Hour. A second volume containing cartoons from Popeye and Son was scheduled, but it was cancelled before being released.
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- ^ "July 28, 2011 Popeye comic strip". http://www.seattlepi.com/comics-and-games/fun/Popeye/2011-07-28/. Retrieved 2011-07-28.
- ^ "October 1, 2011 Popeye comic strip". http://www.seattlepi.com/comics-and-games/fun/Popeye/2011-10-01/. Retrieved 2011-10-01.
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