Monday, June 23, 2008

Popeye Then And Now

Back from New York, back to blogging.

This is hardly news, but I'll mention it anyway: the original Max Fleischer Studio Popeye cartoons are being released on DVD in a series of lovely box sets. Volume One came out a while ago, and features cartoons from 1933-38; Volume Two is now available, with cartoons from 1938-40. If you're offended by pre-PC racial, sexist and ethnic stereotypes (PC in this case meaning "politically correct"), you're going to be massively offended by these cartoons, but I hope you'll be able to put them in context with the times. If nothing else, seeing how casually these stereotypes were used, and how shocking they appear now, tells us we've made some progress toward a less racist society. (Some progress; we still have a ways to go.) In any event, if you can look past the stereotypes, there's a lot to enjoy in these old cartoons. The early Popeyes are pretty crude, but as the series progresses, the design, storytelling, and humor (if not the actual animation) becomes more and more sophisticated and surreal. Highly recommended.

Also highly recommended are the original newspaper strips by Segar from which the cartoons were derived. Fantagraphics is in the process of reprinting Segar's Thimble Theater strip, which introduced Popeye as a minor character back in 1929. These books are fantastic, a real treat for fans of the squint-eyed sailor, or for anyone who enjoys a well-told yarn. Segar was a tremendous story-teller. The Popeye of the newspaper strip is much more developed and a far more interesting character than the Popeye of the Fleischer cartoons, and the stories are charming, mysterious, and loads of fun. (The Sea Witch saga is a personal favorite.) Two volumes are available now, with a third volume due for release in November.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I just introduced my two sons (11 and 13) and they can't get enough. They also remarked that "Too bad they don't make them like that anymore" Amen boys