Saturday, April 13, 2013

Seven thoughts about Popeye#12

At the launch of Roger Langridge's Popeye comic book for IDW last year, I composed a list of seven thoughts about Popeye#1. With the cancellation of the series as of this month's Popeye#12, I felt it was appropriate to revisit the list format and mark the passing of one truly fun comic book series.
Thought#1: Publishing a Popeye comic book series in the 21st century was always Quixotic. If people of my generation just barely remember Popeye as a not-that-great live action film and very-forgettable Saturday morning cartoons, how must generations younger than I feel? Meanwhile, the generation older than me has barely any money left for a $3.99 comic book after purchasing the month's allotment of Muslix. Lasting twelve issues is no small feat, especially considering it was first conceived of as a four-issue limited series.
Thought#2: Speaking of the Muslix-munching crowd, this issue guest stars Barney Google; according to the indica, he and Popeye are both owned by King Features Syndicate. I only know of Barney Google through the song written about him (it was in a family songbook - my mother played it a few times). I can't speak as to whether Langridge portrayed Google accurately or respectfully, but it was a little fun to imagine the Popeye cast of characters brushing up against some other comic strip's continuity.
Thought#3: Langridge was joined by several artists during his Popeye tenure, beginning with Bruce Ozella in issue #1, who, in my opinion, was the best. It would have been fine to see Ozella on duty for this final story, but instead it's drawn by Langridge himself, who seems to have grown more comfortable with the characters as time has gone on. It's interesting to reflect on the fact Langridge's written-drawn series Snarked also completed on issue#12.
Thought#4: The plot concerns Castor Oyl winning Spark Plug the racehorse off Google in a poker game. Determined to win his horse back, Google hires Wimpy to find him a horse to race against Spark Plug; Wimpy being Wimpy, Google winds up with a racing-cow instead. There's also a back-up tale where Swee'pea roughs up a wrestler.
Thought#5: It's interesting to note how well Langridge can combine gags and plots; usually, each page starts setting up a gag to be resolved by the end of the page, but at the same time the plot of Google & Castor's rivalry continues. One really feels the economy of entertainment in a Roger Langridge comic book - you get value from every penny of the $3.99 price tag! It's similar to the sort of timing you would expect from a comic strip; perhaps more of today's comic book writers should take a cue from the pace of comic strips.
Thought#6: Of all the cast of Popeye characters, Wimpy seemed to be Langridge's favourite and I'll certainly miss the monthly dose of Wimpy jokes I've been favoured with for the past year. Wimpy's characterization - a single-minded individual who can place a square meal over his best friends, yet possesses a peculiar sense of honour despite it all - would be very easy to get wrong, I think. That Wimpy can perform despicable deeds while remaining sympathetic, funny and loveable speaks to Langridge's talent as a writer.
Thought#7: Roger Langridge can draw a happy cow like no one's business.

R.I.P., IDW's Popeye.

1 comment:

Colin Smith said...

A lovely piece, and you're of course quite right to celebrate what's been a wonderful book. I shall miss it tremendously.