Each Monday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets around Los Angeles.
Popeye and Consumer and Homemaking Careers
Author: Joe Gill, writer; Frank Roberge, art
Publisher: King Features
Discovered at: United Thrift Store, 1600 W. Washington Blvd.
The Cover Promises: Belligerent, pipe-addicted sailors with long histories of violence are just the ticket for teaching kids about home ec.
Popeye: “I love spinach! Arf! Arf!”
Dietician: “Spinach is an excellent food, Popeye, but one vegetable alone is not a balanced diet.”
A quick list of words besides “pleasant” and “interior designers” that are far outside Popeye's vocabulary: snuggle, timeshare, self-actualization, book club, designated driver, fulfillment, am, home economics.
In the 81 years since he first punched and mumbled his way into the hearts of America, E.C. Segar's Popeye the Sailor Man has suffered the fate of all great things that start out for grown-ups but get housebroken for kids. He's like a Grimm tale gone Disney, or “Fuck You” on Glee, or the ghost of Bruce Willis made-for-TVing it through that last Die Hard.
Here's a sample of his early work, as reprinted in those wonderful Fantagraphics collections of Segar's original strips.
Even death wouldn't stop him from stomping ass.
But soon adults started thinking of cartoons and the comics page as entirely for kids, and the irascible sailor became more and more rascible each year. Perhaps his lowpoint hit in 1973, when King Features whored him out for some of that sweet, sweet home economics money.
They made him say things like this:
At the risk of stirring controversy, I don't believe this half-literate roustabout really worried much about the aesthetics of contemporary design.
And I doubt this was his idea of date conversation:
As far as I can tell, his talk of interior designers is mostly consigned to this spiritless comic book. In fact, as late as 1975 Popeye raised some serious hell in his newspaper strip. In this one, he puts a bag over Olive Oyl's head to keep himself from socking her in the jaw.
But here's the most excitement that polite ol' Home Ec Popeye can muster:
The Popeye of the past couldn't even get a shave without finding himself in an epic brawl. Home Ec Popeye has an entirely different approach to problem-solving:
You know, none of us would ever have heard of Popeye if back in those classic Fleischer cartoons he laid off the spinach in favor of presenting disputes to the proper authorities.
This Popeye's simply not a man of action. He stars in my vote for the most boring panel in any comic, ever.
Lord, even Mark Trail would have given us a critter or something to look at.
Anyway, here's more humiliating examples of the indignities suffered when a rough-edged original gets sanded down into a smooth corporate logo. Here, he considers giving up the seafaring life in favor of The Remains of the Day:
Just how surly a brute did this ol' seadog used to be? In 1931, just two years after Popeye debuted in Segar's strip, WIlliam Faulkner's novel Sanctuary featured a wastrel named Popeye who rapes a woman with a corncob. Popeye '73, to his credit, inspired nothing of the sort:
You know when Popeye mutters incomprehensibly in all those cartoons? Wouldn't it suck if thatis what he was actually saying?
I try not to begrudge Home Ec Popeye's yen for self-improvement . . .
BUT DAMN IT, POPEYE, BEAT SOMEONE UP!
In the ten panels after Popeye tells us that 90 per cent of all dieticians are women, the artist draws seven male dieticians and two female.
Actual yes-or-no questions from the pop quiz on the last page:
Do all the people in the United States need the services of men and women who work in consumer and homemaking careers?
Did Popeye think the consumer and homemaking workers make life better for all of us?
Also, here's a perfect storm of awesomeness: Chuck Forsman's adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark in the style of Segar's daily strip.
Hey! @studiesincrap is finally on Twitter!