He’s strong to the finish ‘cause he eats his spinach. Created as a newspaper comic strip character by the cartoonist E.C. Segar in the 1930s, Popeye soon took over the strip and made the leap to animation, courtesy of the Fleischer Studios, and director Dave Fleischer (already famous for their work on Betty Boop). Their loose-limbed, almost rubbery animation style brought Popeye to life and gave a new physicality to the bizarre love triangle between Popeye, Bluto, and the ugliest, most annoying and thereby funniest girl in the history of cartoons, Olive Oyl. These are non-stop action from start to finish, and are considered too violent for little kids. Popeye the squinty-eyed sailor-man bounces as he walks, he gallops when he runs and when he’s full of his beloved spinach, there’s no stopping him. There’s punching, kicking, and throwing (everything from cars to buildings) and that’s before the sailor man eats his can of the green vegetable, which gives him unbelievable smackdown powers. Throughout it all, Popeye’s forever muttering under his breath (courtesy of voice genius Jack Mercer), you’re never quite sure of every word, but it’s very funny both in and out of context.
The timing of the gags is impeccable. Watch something like Sweet Pea in “Lost and Foundry” or Olive Oyl in the similar “A Dream Walking” and even those some of these cartoons are over 70 years old, you’ll be on the edge of your seat. Almost everything on the 4-disc set is in black and white, which may give some viewers a panic attack about watching great-granddad’s cartoons, but make the effort. The packaging is outstanding and the discs include many rare cartoon extras, commentaries by cartoon experts like John Kricfalusi, Michael Barrier and Jerry Beck, and “Popumentaries.” A class act that’s strong to the finish.