Thursday, June 04, 2020

POPEYE: Bobby London's Final Weeks

Today I want to share a Popeye cartoon controversy.

Maybe you've heard the story, maybe you haven't. Regardless, here is the background on what happened, as well as the strips themselves.

From 1986 until he was fired in 1992, Bobby London had a dream job: drawing POPEYE for King Features Syndicate. When asked if Segar was a seminal influence on him, London replied:

"Segar was, as far as my career, as far as making a decision to be a professional cartoonist, Segar was the seminal influence in my career. I've been drawing cartoons since I was four years old. I grew up as fascinated with the Max Fleischer Popeye because I used to get beat up by big, fat kids all the time, so naturally I sort of gravitated to Popeye because he kind of took care of all the fictitious bullies in my head. But as I got a little older, as I reached junior high school age, I stumbled upon the legendary E.C. Segar version, which I had heard about from my dad, when he would talk to me about it, and, uh, he regaled great stories of Olive Oyl's mysterious little brother, Castor Oyl, and...the Sea Hag and a lot of other characters, so when I actually saw these old strips, I was mesmerized, and it joined the ranks of some of my other favorite old-time strips that I admired at the time, like Mutt and Jeff, and Barney Google, but I would chance to say that it really took front and center in my imagination."

-- from S.C. Ringgenberg's 1992 interview with Bobby London at the Comic Art and Grafix Gallery

Years ago, I was fortunate enough to meet Bobby London. We got together a couple of times, when he lived in NYC. I heard his story of how this was his ultimate gig, to follow in the footsteps of Popeye's creator. He was picked to continue the strip by Bill Yates, who had learned cartooning via a correspondence course with E.C. Segar himself!

In 1992, London, who, at that point, was both writing and drawing the strip for six years, introduced a Home Shopping Club storyline for Olive Oyl. Thus begins the below controversial and, so far as I understand, final three weeks of the Popeye strip under London's direction. They're scanned from copies of proofsheets, so the quality is not great.

Popeye is copyright King Features. The daily strips are by Bud Sagendorf, and Sundays are drawn by the one and only Hy Eisman.

There you have it. Please make up your own mind.

-- This is an edited version of an April 17, 2008 blog entry. Since that time, Bobby London's run on Popeye has been collected in a multi-volume series of hardcovers by IDW's Library of American Comics imprint.

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