"E.C. Segar's Complete Popeye" Vol. 1 out Nov. 30

Here's cover art and details on Fantagraphics' first volume reprinting all of E.C. Segar's Popeye comic strips. You can pre-order it now from Amazon for $19.77.

E.C. Segar's Complete Popeye Vol. 1: I Yam What I Yam

Most folks are familiar with Popeye through a variety of incarnations that have ensconced the character in the public consciousness for almost 80 years—the animated Popeye cartoons, the feature film Popeye, etc.—but far fewer have been exposed to the original brilliance of Popeye's creator, E.C. Segar. Now, comic strip fans can experience Segar's original comic strips through this new six-volume series.

In 1929, Segar took his eccentric Thimble Theatre comic strip (which began in 1919) and introduced Popeye, transforming the strip almost overnight into one of the most popular works of art in American history. Segar's entire cast of characters, such as Olive Oyl, Wimpy, Eugene the Jeep, the Sea Hag, and Alice the Goon became a part of American culture. This outwardly farcical gaggle of vaudevillian-esque antiheroes, bumbling about on picaresque chases was one of the most sophisticated—and hilarious—comic strips in history.

Fantagraphics' Popeye will collect the complete run of Segar's Thimble Theatre comic strip (dailies and color Sundays) featuring Popeye, re-establishing Segar as one of the first rank of cartoonists who have elevated the comic strip to art. He was the most popular cartoonist of his day, his sense of humor coming straight out of Mark Twain, who also balanced exaggerated tall tales and a perfect ear for everyday speech with dark themes that undercut his laugh-out-loud stories.

In this first volume, covering 1928-1930, Popeye's initial courtship of Olive Oyl takes center stage while Olive's brother Castor Oyl discovers the mysterious Whiffle Hen. Also, the entire cast meets the Sea Hag for the first time in their pursuit of the "Mystery House" (Popeye's first extended daily narrative), and Castor Oyl attempts to turn Popeye into a boxing champion in a series of hilarious Sunday strips.

These strips are masterpieces of comic invention. Popeye's omnipotence pre-figures the rise of superheroes in the 1930s and 1940s, though Popeye is a much more sympathetic character, and his very name announces his vibrant personality. He's a scoundrel with a heart of gold, and a tongue of silver: "My sweet patootie loves me because I yama high-voltage poppa, and she is my hotsy-totsy momma!" His mangled English pulsated with the vital spirit of immigrant America, its rhythm poetic in its own vulgar way: 'I yam what I yam and tha's all I yam.'"

Segar blended complex narrative, slapstick traditions, brilliant characterization, and an inimitable cartooning style to create the most exciting and profound humor of its era, rivaling even the great film comics of his era, such as Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers.

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