60s Popeye: Model Muddle, featuring one model, who’s not confused about it


Today’s is another Gene Deitch cartoon. There’s more credits than usual for this 1960 production: we’re told the animation was by “Halas and Batchelor”. We saw those names before, on Weight For Me, the one where Olive Oyl is fat. Is this another cartoon that’s got no toxic attitudes built in to a timeless premise? Only way to know is by watching Model Muddle, or reading my thoughts about it.

Olive Oyl has a surprise: we’re doing Modern Art jokes! Comic strips and cartoons have had a curious antipathy for Modern Art ever since both modes started. It’s curious because it’s not like either is a threat to the other’s cultural niche. It’s like if train enthusiasts were always mocking fire engine enthusiasts. I get that Modern Art leads itself to easy jokes. Well, to an easy joke. That’s because a lot of it will carry the question “what makes something Art?” and sometimes you don’t want to deal with that. But even in 2021, when society’s dropped all support for the humanities, we’re still interested in the question “what makes (this) and (something)”. Else your STEM friend would not have Opinions about whether a corn dog is a ravioli.

Still, we’re set up for this being a cartoon about Modern Art and don’t quite deliver. We get a couple minutes of Popeye in the museum. For me, this is the high point of the cartoon, sold by Popeye’s disproportionate anger. Jack Mercer reads his lines like Popeye is supposed to have been wounded by all this and it’s great. Characters reacting way out of line with the scene makes for hilarity.

Popeye stands proudly beside his sculpture, a giant marble figure of Olive Oyl's head, while Olive Oyl swoons at the work.
Yeah, it’s great work until you notice Popeye’s house doesn’t have any doors big enough to get that thing out.

But after that we move to Popeye as an artist. I appreciate the cartoon letting us suppose Popeye drew inspiration from the Modern Art after all. Seems to be a lot of traditional, representational work, but you have to start somewhere. He invites Olive Oyl over and she skips merrily along. Brutus overhears and takes up sabotage. He smashes Popeye’s tall marble sculpture of Olive Oyl’s head, and gets a mallet to his own head for the trouble. That in time for Olive Oyl to arrive and treat the rubble as Art.

Then for some reason she poses while Popeye makes a new An Art, in an abbreviated remake of 1937’s My Artistical Temperature. Popeye way over-explains why he can eat his spinach off a painting, and we get a longer fight with Brutus than usual. Like, for the King Features shorts I expect Popeye to hit Brutus once or twice to knock him out of the cartoon. Here, we get a lot of action. Particularly, Popeye swinging Brutus again and again at the marble to carve a new Olive Oyl head. It’s more painful than I expect. I think that’s from all the time Popeye spends swinging around a hollow-looking, dazed Brutus. The pain is less real when it looks like Brutus would clobber Popeye if he could get a fist in edgewise.

So, in the end, Brutus is dazed, a lot of marble has been quarried and destroyed, Popeye’s made a pretty representative head of Olive Oyl, and Olive Oyl is happy. I guess the museum trip was a success?

Mother Of The Arts


I do worry in highlighting comic strips that I get too relentlessly snarky and downbeat on them. For one, I really do love comic strips, even though the syndicated newspaper comic strip is not a form of art that’s near a creative or commercial peak. For another, well, you can get high-quality snark about the comics from pretty near every blog ever on the Internet and I would like to offer something a little bit different.

So let me point out Saturday’s Momma, in which Mell Lazarus presents a joke that I find perfectly well-formed. It’s punchy, a little tartly mean, and worth a grin at least. I even like Momma’s offended look in the second panel. And I appreciate that the strip shows the characters doing something, when the joke would read at least as well if it were just a couple of two-shots of the characters standing in a featureless void and the strip would’ve been quicker to draw.

Momma and a friend are painting. The friend explains her children used to tell her everything. 'Then they stopped telling me *anything*, and our relationship improved.'
Mell Lazarus’s not-at-all baffling Momma for the 28 of February, 2015.

I admit I am a little distracted by how Momma is looking everywhere except the canvas as she paints a human head onto a potted plant, and that I do not know what form of art Momma’s Friend is engaged in. I’m thinking it’s some kind of sculpting done with hypodermic needle? Well, it’s something in the beret genre.

And as sort of post usually indicates, I talk about some mathematics-themed comics over on my other blog, where there aren’t any equations in case you worry about those, but there is some talk about the calendar.

Closed Cut


Since I was out of practice with lawn-mowing, yeah, there were problems. The worst was having no idea where to plug the electrical cord in. This was silly on my part since it turns out we have a steam-powered house, but how do you know that before you find out? I worked around it, though, since out in the garage I found what I needed. Now the front lawn’s nice and neatly trimmed, although I admit I wasn’t very careful about wiping all the shaving cream off the rose bushes. I hope it isn’t going to need lotion; that stuff can be tricky. Worse, the lawn was talking some about getting a goatee, which is far beyond what I’m able to trim into it. I hope that proves to be a fad, like when the lawn was so going to take up pewter sculpting.