This third oversized collection of E.C. Segar’s Popeye-era Thimble Theatre strips collects all the daily strips from June 1932 to December 1933, all the full-page, colour Sunday strips from October 1932 to November 1933, and twelve never-before-reprinted strips that were produced to promote the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair. And like the previous volumes in this series, apart from a very tedious introduction, it is brilliant stuff.
This volume features the first appearance of Popeye’s adopted son ‘Swee’pea’ (although Popeye actually christens him ‘Scooner Seawell Georgia Washenting Christiffer Columbia Daniel Boom’ by tipping a bucket of spinach over his head) and the first appearance of Bluto (although Bluto was the main villain in the animated Popeye cartoons, his appearance in one of the storylines in this book marked the only time he ever appeared in a Segar Popeye strip). In the dailies, Popeye sails the ‘eighth sea’ in search of treasure; returns to Nazilia with King Blozo and helps him fix an election; becomes king of Popilania, thought deserted but actually populated by ‘wild men’ and, even better, ‘wild women’, which gives Olive Oyl cause for concern (Popeye: ‘Can’t a swab take a bath, comb his hairs, shine his shoes, trim his nails, wear a flower, an’ use a squirt of prefume without you thinkin’ sumpin?’) and causes all the men in Nazilia move to Popilania; becomes star reporter for the Daily Blast; and after getting hit in the face with a baseball bat so hard that it drives his head through a wall, is diagnosed with a terminal case of ‘bonkus of the konkus’, spends what must have been a few months’ worth of strips wandering around convinced he is a lonely cowboy (Popeye: ‘I yama lonely cowboy. Me horsh is gone. Me horsh run’d away – I ain’t got no more horsh.’), and then makes a sudden, unexpected recovery (Popeye: ‘Nothin’ can kill me ... I am immoral.’ Doctor: ‘You mean immortal?’ Popeye: ‘I means what I means – tha’s what I means.’). Meanwhile, nearly all of the Sunday strips focus on the antics of arch-scrounger J. Wellington Wimpy. In the best of these Sunday strips, Popeye pretends to be Wimpy’s grandmother to prove to someone that Wimpy would not choke his own grandmother for a hamburger, and loses his bet, as Segar’s Wimpy is such a greedy bastard that he would do pretty much anything – other than pay – for food.
These books are great value for money. There is at least as much reading material in one of these volumes as there is in your average Marvel Omnibus book – admittedly on fewer (larger) pages – but at a fraction of the price. This volume has a recommended retail price of £21.99 / $29.99 but Forbidden Planet International have it for just £13.79 (plus £1.00 P&P) at the moment. I didn’t pay a penny for my copy, as my wife bought me for it as an anniversary present. I am tempted to order the remaining three volumes in the series right now, but if I don’t, I know what I’ll be asking for this Christmas!