Elzie Crisler Segar was born 115 years ago today. His 1919 comic strip THIMBLE THEATRE had been running for nearly a decade before the belated and unlikely introduction of its leading man, POPEYE. The ugly single-eyed sailor with unnatural strength and a strong set of values was quickly recognized as one of the great strip creations of all time and celebrates his birthday this year with the 4th in Fantagraphics’ top notch series reprinting the character’s complete run under his creator. Although E. C. Segar died young after only about nine years on his iconic creation, POPEYE outlived him and his fame and popularity are today on or just below a par with MICKEY MOUSE and SHERLOCK HOMES.
Today, according to Wikipedia, Segar himself is aalso getting his due–”In 1977, Segar’s hometown of Chester, Illinois honored its native son with a park named in his honor. The park is home to a six-foot-tall bronze statue of Popeye, and since 1980 has been the site of the annual Popeye Picnic, a weekend-long event that celebrates the character with a parade, film festival and other activities. In 2006, Chester launched the ambitious “Popeye & Friends Character Trail,” which links a series of statues of Segar’s characters located throughout town. Each stands on a base inscribed with the names of donors who contributed to its cost, and is unveiled and dedicated during the Popeye Picnic. The 2006 debut sculpture of hamburger-loving Wimpy stands in Gazebo Park. A statue of Olive Oyl, Swee’Pea and the Jeep, located downtown near the Randolph County Courthouse, followed in 2007. In 2008, a Bluto statue was dedicated at the corner of Swanwick and W. Holmes Streets, in front of Buena Vista Bank. The 2009 statue of Castor Oyl and Bernice the Whiffle Hen stands in front of Chester Memorial Hospital. An additional 11 statues will be unveiled at the rate of one per year until 2019, when a bust of Segar at his birthplace will mark the cartoonist’s 125th birthday.”
So kick back, light up a see-gar and “Arf! Arf!” your way through some POPEYE strips today if you can to remember one of the most important cartoonists of the 20th Century!