While I know some only like one
particular incarnation of The Sailorman, and I respect their opinions, I'd like
to give you my own two cents worth.
To me, Popeye is like James Bond. The books that followed Ian Fleming's were
subtly different than the ones in his canon (ex. de-emphasizing the travelogue
aspects; having modern-day, high-tech threats; a female Q; more military
involvement in the cases; "Bond as paid assassin" sometimes
downplayed; etc.). And certainly the films are MUCH different than the books.
And Pierce Brosnan is not Timothy Dalton, who is not Roger Moore, who is not
George Lazenby, who is not Sean Connery. Each actor brought out certain
aspects of the character. While I still believe that Sean Connery IS
James Bond, I enjoy the others' performances and films as well.
These different incarnations have enough of the "real" Bond in
them, so that I can appreciate them all for what they are.
it is with Popeye. While I agree that Segar's Popeye IS Popeye and
that Segar was a creative genius, I've also enjoyed the material I've seen by
Sagendorf and the much-maligned (unjustly so in my opinion) Bobby London. The
Fleischer films are full of laughs imagination, and manic energy, with a
Popeye who is very close to Segar's. The Famous Studios' babe-ification of
Olive Oyl and their making Bluto (or another guy) seem initially more
charming seems to me to be the natural evolution of the love triangle
storylines. The creators were trying to answer the questions of why guys were
attracted to Ms. Oyl and why she is tempted to dump Popeye and why we should
worry for our hero. And Popeye still overcame impossible odds, had super
strength and abilities even before he ate the spinach, and stayed loyal to
his fickle girl, as he had since his Segar days. The KFS toons were
definitely hampered by tight budgets, impossible schedules, and limited (very
limited) animation. Still, the best of them were either based on Segar's
stories and/or characters from Thimble Theater, or at least tried to capture
Segar's spirit, or evoked themes and memories of the Famous Studios'
cartoons. (The worst of them it's best not to talk about.) Fred
Grandinetti's summaries of the KFS toons in the The Official Popeye Fan Club
News-Magazine and information he and fellow Fanclub member, Richard Ranke,
provided me have made me realize how much these cartoons were a pleasant part
of my growing up. Critics are definitely wrong to pan all KFS toons and
tar them with the same brush. (For my own summaries/quick reviews of
the KFS cartoons click
here.) All of the above incarnations had enough of the
"real" Popeye in them to satisfy me. I enjoy each for what it is.
The Hanna-Barbera incarnations of Popeye were the ones that didn't do it for
me. First, they returned to using very Thimble Theater, comic strip,
Fleischer-looking designs for the characters, but used stories that had none
of the wit or excitement of those earlier days. So to me, the cartoons
always seemed like only half-way attempts to recapture past glories. And I
couldn't stand Bluto's voice. It had none of the meanness and threat of the
Fleischer's Bluto and none of the clever, evil, con man intelligence, or
lust, of the Famous Studios' incarnation. Bluto always sounded dumb and
always reminded me of Sam The Butcher from The Brady Bunch. I wonder why? :-)
I hated Olive's voice as well. It wasn't funny, as the Fleischer's Olive had
been, nor as full of life as the Famous Studios' Olive was. It was just
annoying. Not to mention that the music was inferior to the earlier
And the essence of many characters was violated. Popeye and Bluto not
able to punch each other??!!??!! (Just what we needed. a politically correct
Popeye - NOT!) Olive Oyl and Alice The Goon in the army taking orders
from Joanne Worley!!??!!?? Then a Hawaiian-shirt-wearing Popeye and a
sweat-suit-wearing Olive married (talk about a dysfunctional family) with a
California surfer son??!!??!! Bluto looking like a Goodfella and
marrying a bruiser (what happened to his taste for skinny dames)!!??!!??