A few weeks ago, I was going through my garage and I’ve decided to look into some boxes of old comic books I kept on the shelf. I found a box labeled “Dell Comics” (or otherwise known as “Gold Key” comics) and “Walt Disney” so I opened it up, expecting to find a nice stock of old Donald Duck and Junior Woodchucks comics from the 70’s that I could just give away. To my surprise I found quite a few copies of “Popeye” comics from the late 40’s and early 50’s. I was happy since it brought forth fun memories when I was a kid (please keep in mind that I am not that old, one of my parents' probably owned this issue) reading about our spinach-munching sailor. Popeye is one of the most recognizable figures in pop-culture; in America and around the world.
I picked up “Popeye” # 21 to read and wait while I was doing my laundry. The Gold Key series were mostly scripted by Bill Pearson and illustrated by George Wildman. I thought it would be cool to give this to a friend’s nephew, but I looked it up and a fine-very fine edition of this comic book is now valued at $85-100! Not bad for a comic with an original 10 cent cover price right? But I am not an investor, but I now have second thoughts whether I want to keep it or not. This comic book takes on a different take on our pipe-tooting sailor. There is no stereotypical Popeye-Brutus rivalry, and while it has the classic characters, Wimpy, Olive and Swee’Pea; it introduces a new villain and puts Popeye as a different person. Oh course, no Popeye story would be complete without the power-giving characteristics of spinach.
Popeye is the undefeated champion boxer of the world. I think this may be a take on the exploits of Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano, who in their undefeated days had issues trying to find an opponent. Popeye needs to get in the ring to make a living; no fight, no payday, no food in the table. It was that easy, boxing is not the money-making sport it is today, before, fighters actually had to fight for a living and they cannot choose who they want to fight. Popeye needs to find an opponent or he can’t pay the rent, and he will starve. So to help him out, Wimpy (who has his own radio station) sends out a wide radio broadcast to issue a challenge to anyone in the planet who may be willing to get in the ring with the champ and make a small fortune for himself.
Unfortunately, no one is willing to fight Popeye given his reputation. Well, no one in the planet earth that is. From the planet Mars, come forth the champion fighter of his race. A short, goofy-looking, shape-shifting powerhouse called “Jetoe”. He has arrived on Earth to take on the challenge since Wimpy’s radio broadcast was so powerful that it even reached Earth’s neighboring planet. Jetoe is such a powerhouse and he displays his powers and skills to intimidate our favorite sailor. Jetoe intends to defeat Popeye and prove that he is the greatest fighter in the galaxy. Wimpy and Popeye are in a tight spot, and they fear that not even spinach can bring victory. Can Popeye prevail against this martian?
I guess this is a comic book not for mature readers and I loved every minute of it. It gave me such a sense of nostalgia from my childhood that I didn’t care if the story was silly, predictable and maybe even outrageous; it made it part of its charm. The gags can be predictable and it all takes its focus on Jetoe’s shape-changing abilities. Jetoe can change his size, shape and he can look like anyone and anything. Imagine fighting someone whose strength increases when he increases his size, and who can have a hammer-like knockout punch. I laughed when Jetoe took the form of a certain someone to spy on Popeye, and it took a certain ‘test’ to find out the truth. Of course, Olive Oyl and Swee’Pea had their moments in the jokes and they were all part to develop the respect between Popeye and Jetoe.
Of course, the comic had its share of plot missteps. I wondered as to why and how things didn’t and why they weren’t and then I realized it was all part of the Popeye formula. He never eats the energy giving weed until the last scene, and it was to be expected that Jetoe would have the upper hand in their boxing match. Jetoe uses his size-changing, shape-shifting skills to beat our favorite sailor senseless. It is pretty violent, but it was silly violent meant for kids. Not my cup of tea these days, but I laughed myself silly reading this old comic. “Splat!, ZOKK!, BAM! POW!”…are classic comic sound effects that made me smile as a kid and it serves to make me smile once again.
As expected, Popeye would win the day and there is an expected twist. It is a sort of a commentary as to the misuse of powers and its abuse. Popeye # 21 is real fun. I am real happy that I managed to relive a part of my childhood once again, since I have read a little too much of darker more mature comic books.
Thank you for the read. Time for my fabric softener (maybe I'll do a review on "Goofy" while I am drying).... LOL!