He Yis What He Yis
by T. Hodler
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
I don’t know if Popeye is the best comic strip of all time—or even what that would mean, exactly—but it is without question my favorite. It’s been said before, but if you only know Popeye from the enjoyable but repetitive Fleischer cartoons, you really don’t know the character at all. (The late, lamented Robert Altman‘s flawed film version got closer to the original Segar flavor, with a large cast of eccentric characters and understated humor, but it ultimately misses the mark as well.)
The original strips are funny and fantastic (in both senses of the word). They’re the rare adventure strips that are driven as much by character as by plot. With its bizarre creatures (the Goons, the Jeeps), indelible characterizations (Wimpy, Olive Oyl), and impeccable timing (each day’s strip building beautifully on the one before), Thimble Theatre worked as only a serialized comic strip could. It’s like early Wash Tubbs mixed with Mutt and Jeff, but with monsters and witches and hamburgers—and three times as funny! I can’t imagine higher praise than that.
Read the book. And save room on your shelves for the next five volumes. They keep getting better. Which means “comic book of the year” is pretty much foreordained for a while, at least until 2011.