9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Timing is everything, especially when it comes to a burgeoning pop-culture phenomenon of the sort that Popeye had become by the early 1930s. Bluto, Popeye's eternal antagonist on both the large and small screens, provides the menace in "The Eighth Sea" (1932), this latest Segar collection's first extended narrative. The hulking, black-bearded pirate scourge does enjoy the privilege of an extended fistfight with the sailor man (nearly getting permanently dispatched by the terrible force of Popeye's "twisker sock") but consequently suffers the relatively placid fate of being set adrift in a lifeboat, along with a band of thugs that had stowed away on Popeye's ship in hopes of glomming onto a "vast treasure." That was it for Bluto's comic-strip career, but the Fleischer Studios just happened to be starting its series of POPEYE shorts at the time and latched onto the big brute as an ideal foil.
"The Eighth Sea" cabooses neatly onto a lengthy, though sometimes wandering, story in which Nazilia's King Blozo returns in triumph to his country with gold to prop up his pathetic economy, survives an attempted coup and an electoral challenge from the cigar-chomping General Bunzo (his commander during "The Great Rough-House War"), and then agrees to sell an outlying island to Popeye, who's intrigued with the notion of setting up an entire nation from scratch. "Popeye, King of Popilania" definitely points toward the later "The Dictator of Spinachovia" but lacks the topical satirical sting of that story, including only a few passing references to the Depression (e.g. Popeye ensures "prosperiky" for his new realm by turning a horde of invading jaybirds sent by the jealous Blozo into a Shmoo-like source of all manner of salable products) and wedging in a severely silly subplot in which Popeye lures bachelors from Nazilia by offering them the matrimonial services of a tribe of "wild women." Presaging the denouement of "Spinachovia," Popeye ultimately gives up on nation-building and generously turns over his kingdom to Blozo, who's watched his land depopulate as a result of Popeye's eccentric, but genuine, largesse. Perhaps Popeye had come to realize that government will always turn out "punk" regardless of whether its leader is a two-fister straight-shooter like himself or a whining worrywart like Blozo. "Spinachovia" would hone this point to a rapier's keenness a few years down the line.
The last story in the volume, besides introducing another key member of Popeye's extended "tribe," illustrates Segar's nimbleness as a story-teller, in the sense that he knew when to cut away from a less-than-inspired plot and go in an entirely different direction that ultimately netted vast profits. After returning from Popilania/Nazilia, Popeye (joined by Wimpy, who'd made his first extended appearance in the daily strip in the role of the ineffective "commander" of Popilania's minuscule army), accepts Castor Oyl's offer to invest his profits in a newspaper. The ensuing reporter-and-photographer gags evidently didn't excite Segar, who executes a neat swerve by having Popeye receive a mysterious package. Inside is Swee'pea, who will, of course, become Popeye's child-ward forever after. (Segar obviously loved the "package" gambit, as he also used it to introduce Bernice the Whiffle Hen and Eugene the Jeep. No wonder; it's a sure-fire way to build suspense and make a new character's appearance seem like something really out of the ordinary.) Swee'pea is being pursued by agents of his "superstitious" homeland of Demonia, who regard the infant as a "lucky gift from the gods" on account of the seven moles on his back. The Demonians inflict such a series of head-blows upon Popeye that the sailor suffers a supposedly fatal case "bonkus of the conkus." Even when mentally addled, however, Popeye holds his ward in an iron grip, braving a sojourn in the desert (and an attack from a goon sent to track him and Swee'pea down) and finally curing himself through sheer willpower. Segar puts the cap on this extraordinarily detailed "diversion" by bringing Popeye home to take over a small-town newspaper.
In this era's Sunday strips, Wimpy really comes into his own as the ultimate sponger, driving Rough-House to distraction (and even into a hospital at one point!) and even discomfiting poor Popeye at times. The "sprize fight" theme gradually fades into the background as Segar prepares for "Plunder Island," his greatest Sunday continuity (and, arguably, his most famous story), which will be reproduced in full in the next volume. (In a sort of anticipation of that epic, Segar sends John Sappo and Professor O.G. Wottasnozzle on a lengthy trip to Mars and Venus in THIMBLE THEATRE's always-entertaining Sunday-page companion strip.) And that's not all, folks; we close the volume with a series of never-before-reprinted strips from early 1933 in which Popeye and friends experience the Chicago World's Fair in their own unique way. These strips appeared in the sports sections of the Hearst newspapers, which perhaps explains why Segar was willing to dare convention (not to mention evoke nausea) by having Olive Oyl emulate Sally Rand and perform a fan dance. Popeye likewise "has his way" with a series of chorus girls and dancers, as indirectly indicated by the fact that a whole slew of them cry at his departure from the Windy City in the series' final strip. Between this additional newspaper exposure, the debut of the Fleischer cartoons, and the canonical newspaper strip, 1933 might be considered the peak year of Segar's career -- except that some of his greatest narratives were still over the horizon. Save for another obscure and muddy introductory spiel by Donald Phelps, this would be an absolutely perfect package of classic comic-strip entertainment.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Andrew C Wheeler
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Popeye has always been too popular for his own good: almost from the very moment he appeared in E.C. Segar's then-mid-rank comic strip Thimble Theatre in 1929, he almost-inexplicably grabbed the imagination of the public and the strip began to reconfigure itself around him. By the time of the stories reprinted in this volume -- originally published in newspapers during 1932 and '33, about half-way through the Segar Popeye years -- "Thimble Theatre" was universally known as "Popeye," and the wave of other-media versions had already begun.
(I complained about the animated Popeye, in particular, when I reviewed the first two volumes of this series -- "I Yam What I Yam!" and "Well, Blow Me Down!" -- so I won't repeat myself here.)
So this third volume is titled "Let's You And Him Fight!", which is of course one of the catchphrases of the cover character, Mr. Wellington J. Wimpy (along with "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a Hamburger today" and "Come up to the house sometime for a duck dinner -- you bring the ducks" and "Have a hamburger with me -- on you"). Wimpy only appears in the Sunday continuity, though -- this is from the era in which dailies and Sundays were almost entirely separate, like Earth-1 and Earth-2 versions of the same characters.
The dailies in this book -- from June of '32 through December of '33 -- have a succession of long stories (each one generally taking several months, even with six large, dialogue- and action-filled panels a day), in which Popeye sails off in search of treasure in "The Eighth Sea," fights Bluto and his piratical mutineers, discovers that treasure and takes it back to King Blozo's kingdom of Nazila, where there's another close to a year of adventures, with Popeye founding his own country and dealing with wild men (and, even better, wild women!). When Popeye finally gets back home -- which is some nameless port city in the USA -- he immediately dives into an unlikely job as a star investigative reporter, which quickly gets sidetracked when he discovers a lost baby. (Popeye, of course, usually calls him "Swee'pea," but the boy is actually christened with spinach in the name of Scooner Seawell Georgia Washenting Cristiffer Columbia Daniel Boom, just in case you want a really obscure Popeye trivia question.) And then, at the end of the daily section, there's the funniest sequence of this period, in which Popeye was hit on the head -- and developed "Bonkus of the Konkus," a very serious ailment -- which made him think "I yama lonely cowboy" who had lost his "horsh" and all of his cows. Popeye's usually so all-competent -- pretty much unstoppable, unless he's frightened of black magic -- that seeing him confused and aimless is a lot of fun, especially since we're sure that he's too tough to ever really be hurt.
The Sundays cover a similar but distinct period -- October '32 to November '33 -- and have less continuity to them. There are occasional boxing matches, and other stories, that run for a few weeks, but most of these are one-off gags, set either in Rough-house's restaurant or the Oyl's front parlor -- though, again, each of these strips has sixteen big panels, so they're not small gags. (The Sunday pages also include Segar's other strip of the time, Sappo, about -- by this time -- a pair of inventors and the odd things they get up to.)
Segar's Thimble Theater was a nearly perfect blend of humor and adventure, with a cast of interesting oddballs (led by Popeye himself, of course) and a tone that could veer from high drama to low comedy within a couple of panels. And this Fantagraphics series is even closer to perfection, presenting Segar's work gorgeously on great big pages -- it would be a much better world if all our artistic treasures were treated this well.