Monday, 14 May 2012

Popeye Vol.4: Plunder island HC / Popeye: Strong To The Finish - The Great Comic Book Tales By Bud Sagendorf HC

‘Plunder Island’ is the fourth of six oversized volumes collecting all of E.C. Segar’s Popeye-era Thimble Theatre strips, while ‘Strong To The Finish’ is a collection of Popeye comics from the 1940s and ‘50s, written and drawn by Segar’s former assistant Bud Sagendorf and originally published by Dell (these were comic books, rather than newspaper strips).  The Segar book is every bit as good as the three volumes that preceded it – brilliant cartooning and laugh-out-loud funny gags.  The only difference this time around is that the Sunday strips fill the first half of the book and the dailies fill the second half (it’s usually the other way around) but otherwise it’s business as usual.  I don’t have a single bad thing to say about Segar’s Popeye, and the whole book was thoroughly enjoyable, but highlights in this volume include: Wimpy’s excessive scrounging and his repeated insistence, when confronted by someone he has pushed too far, that he’s not Wimpy at all (‘Jones is my name – I’m one of the Jones boys.’); a strip in which Popeye tricks some savages into shooting all of their poisoned darts at him so that they use up their ammunition (Popeye is so tough that being covered from head to toe in poisoned darts doesn’t bother him at all); and a brilliant sequence in which Popeye survives having his neck broken in two places during a fight (‘I wouldn’t mind it, but the poppin’ of me neck bones makes me nervous!’) and then carries on fighting with a broom tied to his neck as a splint (Olive Oyl: ‘You’re not going to fight him with your broken neck!’  Popeye: ‘A’course not!  I yam go’ner fight him with me fisks.’).  Great stuff!

The Bud Sagendorf book is something that I’ve been looking out for ever since I saw a copy in Gosh Comics last year, although I was previously unaware of Sagendorf’s work.  It’s certainly a great-looking book, from the spinach can cover design, which carries over to the back cover and even the inside of the front and back covers, which are designed to look like the corrugated metal interior of a tin can, to Sagendorf’s fantastic art.  I even love the old-style colouring and paper stock, which make these stories look more-or-less the way they would have looked when they first appeared in print more than half a century ago.  Unfortunately, the book itself was a bit of a letdown.  These are good children’s comics, probably aimed at very young children, but the stories and gags were too simplistic for my tastes – stories about Popeye boxing Martians, or Popeye eating some spinach which causes people to shrink, etc., which seemed to drag on for pages and then end very suddenly – and worst of all, so were the characters.  Popeye was more or less himself, albeit with a bit of his edge missing, but the supporting characters really seemed to be missing something – particularly Wimpy!  In Segar’s Popeye strips, Wimpy is a despicable human being, an arch scrounger – very funny but loathed by more or less everyone within the strip.  In Sagendorf’s Popeye, however, Wimpy is reduced (or should that be elevated?) to the role of Popeye’s loyal sidekick, a role that could have been filled by anyone, and he doesn’t do much (if any) mooching at all.  Still, as I said, this is a great-looking book, so I reckon I’ll probably hang on to it and flick through it from time to time. 

Cost: I’m pretty sure my wife bought me ‘Plunder Island’ for Christmas, so that one didn’t cost me anything, but it has an RRP of £21.99 / $29.99.  You can usually get the Segar Popeye books online for around £15.00 each but they are well worth buying even at the full cover price, and very good value considering their size and the amount of material included (it took me a week or more to read ‘Plunder Island’, while I read the Sagendorf book, which has a similar page count, in two short sittings).  ‘Strong To The Finish’ also has an RRP of £21.99 / $29.99 and can also be found online for nearer £15.00.  I guess I always suspected that this book might not be as good as the Segar books, otherwise I would have happily paid £15.00 (or more) for a copy, but instead I waited until I managed to find a copy ‘on the ration’.  I eventually bought a new copy from an Amazon Marketplace seller for £7.35 (£4.55 plus £2.80 P&P), which I thought was a great bargain at the time – and I’m still happy to have bought it at that price – but I’ve since seem another Amazon Marketplace seller selling new copies for £3.00 (plus £2.80 P&P).  At that price, it’s worth buying a copy just to look at the pretty pictures, and to admire the brilliant cover design, which I think was my favourite thing about the book.         


  1. After reading so much about them recently I've started getting the Segar collections (sounds like a Springsteen album!) and all I can do is echo what so many have said already, they are a delight. At odds with my memories of Popeye, which, like a lot of people I guess, stems from an animated versions (for me it was one's shown on TV AM I think, not sure which these where) but all the more wonderful for it. Just hilarious stuff.

    Thanks to yourselves and the others that peaked my interest and pointed me in the direction of these classics.

    On another related note got the new Roger Langridge series (I think this is now an ongoing) from IDW this weekend and this first issue suggests that this series will be well worth getting if your a fan of the Segar books.

  2. Glad you are enjoying them, Colin. I've got the final two volumes now and can't wait to read them. I'll also have to check out that new IDW series. I forgot to say that the Bud Sagendorf book I reviewed above was published by IDW, who are doing a very good job of reprinting some of the classics that Fantagraphics overlook. They have lots of interesting collections in print at the moment. I've got the first Little Orphan Annie volume in my read pile and will be tackling that soon.

    Did you ever read that Pogo book you bought? What did you think of it? I ordered a copy of the first Pogo book from FP (.com) quite some time ago, because they had it listed at a much lower price than anyone else, but it still hasn't turned up so I may have to look elsewhere for a copy.

  3. Arh... now you see... er... my 'to read' pile is embarrassing long (well in fact its a spreadsheet actually!). Pogo got a significant boost up the running order as I'd been waiting to get a collection for an age but still its had to wait a bit. That said its getting very close to the top and I'll hopefully get to it within the month. I'll make sure to let you know.

  4. A spreadsheet? That sounds like quite a read pile you've got there. Mind you, mind is out of control and could probably do with a spreadsheet, too. I've got unread books sitting around that have been with me for years, and after a while they just become part of the furniture. If I had any sense, I wouldn't buy anything new until I'd worked through all the stuff I've already got.

  5. Err, that should have read 'mine' is out of control, although my mind is out of control and would probably benefit from a computerised organisation system.

  6. Yeah, to be fair though it is half re-read stuff, as I realised the more new stuff I bought I'd never get around to re-reading all the stuff I intended to, so I started to include them too. I keep trying to cap it off, but whenever I see a bargain, or something comes out that I worry will go out of print, or otherwise become unavailable to me I snap it up... hence my list is measured in years not months!

    Now then how much is that Showcase Presents All-star Squadron...