Popeye Now Being Drawn By Someone Younger Than Popeye


I’d been meaning to point to Daily Cartoonist’s recent article that Popeye Sunday-strip creator Hy Eisman was recovering from a medical procedure. That was why the comic had been in repeats. And then all that got upstaged by news this morning. Not anything bad about Eisman, mind you, other than that he is retiring after a long career in comics that, among other things, saw him bring two comic strips to their centennials (Katzenjammer Kids and Popeye/Thimble Theatre). Something potentially great for Popeye the comic strip.

Randy Milholland is taking over the Sunday comic strip, starting this coming Sunday. Milholland was (I think) the most prolific contributor to the Popeye’s Cartoon Club limited-edition comic strip, back in 2019-2020. And I know he’s been lobbying to take over the comic strip, which has been Sunday-only ever since Bobby London got fired in the early 90s.

Popeye pointing out pictures in his scrapbook: 'That's Mary Ann. After a car wreck she got amnesia an' lived as a lost li'l orphink. I helped her find her parenks. And then there's Matey, the newsboy. He wuz a good boy. I can't 'member his face, but I can still hears his voice. [ The picture is just a note, 'Popeye- Get a pitcher of Matey. -Popeye] And last but nevers least ...' It's a picture of Swee'Pea. We see Popeye sharing the scrapbook with Swee'pea in his lap: 'Me ever-lovin' Swee'Pea.' Swee'Pea; 'Awww, Popeye! You've helped a lot of orphans, huh?' Popeye: 'A am the friend of all children, but orphinks need extra care. This old world can be rough on lost li'l ones. 'Sides [ getting angry ] I gotta proteck 'em from the alternative.' Cutaway to dark city streets, where Popeye has just clobbered Batman and tossed him a rubbish bin; a small child holding a Robin costume is behind Popeye. Popeye points at Batman, declaring: 'If I tol' ya once, I've tol' ya a thousan' times! You've ruined enough orphinks!'
Randy Milholland’s Popeye’s Cartoon Club for the 19th of June, 2020. This is not the debut strip of Milholland’s Popeye run proper, just an example of what he was doing for the Cartoon Club. Mary Ann was the main character in the story “Orphan Mary Ann” from 1932. Matey the Newsboy was a character created for the 1930s radio show as someone who could take the Swee’Pea role in stories but could, you know, talk. So that’s the level of deep pull Milholland is comfortable working with here. Also, yes, I saw that bust of Shorty in the second row there.

I’m happy for this news. First because I’m happy when a comic strip gets a new creative team rather than going into perpetual repeats or, worse, cancellation. And you all know how I feel about Popeye. I wanted to be the astronaut who drew Popeye when I grew up. At age seven I overestimated how much society needed Popeye to be drawn and also misunderstood how astronauts best spend their time. But also Milholland seems a great choice from the cartoonists who worked on Popeye’s Cartoon Club. I’d enjoyed the energy he brought, and the blend of zany and sentimental strips. He also brings an encyclopedic if not terrifying knowledge of the Popeye universe. If there’s anybody who’s going to draw a story based on how Davey Jones, of locker fame, is literally Popeye’s uncle, it’s him.

Also, unless I’ve missed someone, Milholland will be only the second credited creator of the comic strip Popeye younger than the actual character Popeye. Bobby London, who drew the strip from 1986 to 1992, was born in 1950, but otherwise? Hy Eisman was born in 1927; Bud Sagendorf in 1915. Ralph Stein was born in 1909, Bela Zaboly in 1910, and Doc Winner in 1885. Elzie Segar, of course, was born before he drew his comic strip (I checked) or, in 1929, debuted Popeye. It’s an odd state of affairs, but, I mean, it’s 2022. There are no not-odd states of affairs anymore.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

7 thoughts on “Popeye Now Being Drawn By Someone Younger Than Popeye”

  1. Hy told me earlier today that he is “not retiring” but that he is “taking commissions.” He just felt it was time to give up the pressures of a weekly Sunday strip. He’s quite a guy!

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