Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Popeye, Vol. 4: "Plunder Island" by E.C. Segar

The fourth big slab of Elzie Crisler Segar's great comic strip Thimble Theatre -- better known, now but even in it's '30s heyday, by the name of its central character, Popeye -- came out from Fantagraphics about a year and a half ago, but it took me a while to work out how to physically read these gigantic, wonderful artifacts in the most satisfying way, so I didn't get to it until recently.

It's called Popeye, Vol. 4: "Plunder Island" -- after the six-months-long Sunday sequence of that name, in which Popeye, Wimpy, Olive, and others go in search of that legendary island, facing the horrible Sea Hag and her weird minion, Alice the Goon, along the way -- and it's just as good and thrilling a mixture of low humor, high adventure, running gags, populist sentiment, brawling action, expressive drawing, and unforgettable characters as ever. (See my reviews of the first three books -- "I Yam What I Yam!", "Well, Blow Me Down!", and "Let's You and Him Fight!" -- for more details.)

Everything I wrote about the earlier books -- well, except for the detail of which stories are in which volumes; this one has "Plunder Island" and some shorter continuities in the Sundays and a host of stories in the dailies, seeing Popeye back out West, back in Nazilia, hobnobbing with high society, in the "laziest town on earth," searching for the pool of youth, and, finally, building and filling an ark to found a men-only utopia that he'll rule -- is still true of Plunder Island, and I don't feel like repeating myself. The newspaper comic strip is one of the great American artforms, the second quarter of the 20th century was probably its greatest flowering, and Segar was one of the brightest lights of that Renaissance. This is great stuff, and it's just as funny and enthralling as it was in the mid-30s when Segar was spinning it out, day by day, in the funny papers. Someone who can read Popeye and doesn't has no advantages to speak of over the mule, who cannot read Popeye.


Anonymous said...

I have to ask. What approach did you final settle upon " physically read these gigantic, wonderful artifacts in the most satisfying way"?

Andrew Wheeler said...

mmcshrry: For the first book, I read it while sitting at a table, which was fine but slightly limiting. The other volumes were all read in bed, a few strips or pages at a time at night before going to sleep, mostly lying down with the book in front of me -- I'd say it made me feel like a kid again if that wasn't a tedious cliche.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip! Your earlier reviews were VERY tempting when you posted them. So, today, I (finally) ordered the first four volumes using your provided Amazon links.

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