couple of weeks ago, I had a rushed book-selection. I thought I had Covid-19.
Isolated overnight in my den (on the floor, poor me). The next day, I cleared the wife out of my path of egress and bolted from the house (heading towards a testing site, then my mom’s beach place). Would be a couple of days away. And before I went, I grabbed the closest thing with words, my collection of Popeye cartoons (from 1930-1934).
This constituted Volumes 1 and 2 of the collection by Fantagraphics Books on this, massive things about 20 inches tall (which made the art really viewable). And I really have to say that I love Popeye.
He is a character of depth. His faults include his propensity to fight at the drop of a hat, his gullibility, and of course, his vocabulary. His pipe stinks, too. But on the good side, he fights for what’s right, he’s generally good-natured (though he will hold grudges against “old enemies” for decades), his kindness to women and children, and his overall outlook on life. And that’s important. You really grow to like the little runt.
The first volume of the set (1930-1932) looks at his generally easy-going, brawl-happy nature, his timid courtship with Olive, but mainly his prize fighting. The evil Mr. Kilph, multimillionaire, spends vast amounts of money to see Popeye bested in the ring, only to have each contestant (including a mechanical man and a 400-pound gorilla) soundly clobbered (leaving him to snarl “You ruffian” at Popeye with every defeat). That Popeye generally gives his prize money away to the young and poor every time adds to his likability. It is here we also notice the referee slowly poly-morphing to the character that will be Wimpy.
The second volume (1933-1934) covers Wimpy to the point that he nearly eclipses Popeye (as Popeye himself had, back when he joined Thimble Theater). As Segar develops the character, we see more and more of his skimpy beggarly ways (the whole “I’ll invite you to my house for a duck dinner – you bring the duck” and of course, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today” racket). Other characters show up too, my favorite being Roughhouse, the Café Deluxe owner, a hot-headed, cleaver-wielding man who ends up in the hospital over Wimpy-induced-stress.
Overall, I have to say I really enjoyed these books – just like they distracted millions from the horrors of the depression, they helped me get through waiting for my Covid-19 test to come back (happily in two days, and negative).
I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam. Words to live by.
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