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Popeye, Vol. 1: I Yam What I Yam Hardcover – November 17, 2006

4.9 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews
Book 1 of 6 in the Complete Popeye Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Segar had been drawing the Thimble Theatre strip for a decade when he launched its leading characters, Castor Oyl and Ham Gravy, on a seafaring adventure in 1929. The squinty-eyed seaman they hired for the voyage quickly came to the fore, soon displacing all of the strip's other characters except for Castor's sister Olive, who became the hired tar's scrawny sweetie. Most people know Popeye, as the character was called, through his animated incarnation, but Segar's strip is a far richer creation combining a colorful cast, outlandishly inventive dialogue, slapstick humor, and lengthy story lines that originally unfurled over the course of months. The first two years of Popeye contained in this oversize volume show those ingredients in place right from the start, even before Segar added such beloved second bananas as Wimpy and Swee'pea. The book's series title, E. C. Segar's Popeye, is telling. Although many hands continued the strip after its creator's death in 1938, none of them came close to capturing the brilliance Segar displays in these pages. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


The books qualify as near-architectural marvels in their own right―towering, heavyweight packages with die-cut front-cover windows and an interior design that showcases numerous installments of the feature with each two-page spread... The Fantagraphics editions make plain Segar’s mastery of grim suspense and biting humor as essential components of storytelling. (The Fort Worth Business Press)

I think of Thimble Theatre as blue-collar Beckett. (Art Spiegelman)

The perfect comic strip. (Charles M. Schulz)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 182 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics; 1st Fantagraphics Books Ed edition (November 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560977795
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560977797
  • Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 0.8 x 14.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #378,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By ewomack TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like the rest of us, Popeye came from nothing. The pug-faced, squinty-eyed, semi-literate Terminator of the sea blessed with forearms of exploding Zeppelins began as an ancillary character. A throwaway, the Star Trek crewman never before seen and doomed never to reappear after the next scene with the spandex monster. BWaaghYAA! No more. Yes, one of the most enduring, ubiqitous, and fundamental personalities of twentieth century popular culture emerged from the primordial muck as a mere plot device. But first some history. Some moments after the Big Bang, in 1919, a strip entitled "Thimble Theater," a name now humbled by the sandblaster of time, seeped from the head of one E.C. Segar, tunnelled through the nib of his fountain pen, and saturated the New York Journal's fibrous pages for the first time. Olive Oyl, the walking stick heroine, graced the strip's very first panel. Much later her brother, the haphazardly entreprenurial Castor Oyl, waddled his way to major character status. The bendy Ham Gravy completed the trio as Olive's beau. Until 1928 these characters held "Thimble Theater's" top spots. No one challenged their authority. No one dared. Ham loved Olive, Olive loved Ham. Castor schemed. So on it went. Then, in 1928, one year before the financial catastrophe that signaled the Great Depression, Castor Oyl's Uncle brought home an elusive Wiffle Bird. This bird, quaintly named Bernice, brings good luck to those that rub her tiny pea head. Her powers are no secret. Others stalk Castor and covet the feathery fortune. A high-heeled shadow with shapely legs, the "Black Ghost," apprehends Castor and reveals the valuable secret he carries. Her employer wants to win bajillions by exploiting the Whiffle Bird's powers at a Casino called Dice Island.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you asked most people about Popeye, they'd be able to recall the cartoon. Each one had basically the same plot: Popeye and Bluto would vie for the affection of Olive Oyl; Bluto would trounce Popeye until the hero ate his spinach, which would then give him super-strength and he'd save the day. Some of the early Popeye cartoons are pretty good, but overall, they're just average or even awful at times. If you asked these same people if they knew Popeye was originally a comic strip character, they would probably be surprised. What would be more surprising was that the comics Popeye was quite different from his animated counterpart.

E. C. Segar had actually been writing the Thimble Theater comic strip for a decade before he introduced Popeye, who soon became a fixture. As Volume One (out of an intended six) of these Popeye reprints opens, Olive's brother Castor is the main character. Presented by his uncle with a Whiffle Hen, Castor tries to kill the magical bird, spurred on by a monetary award. The Whiffle Hen, however, is completely unkillable, and actually enjoys Castor's attention. The two bond, and when Castor learns that the Hen will bring good luck, he decides to sail to an island where there's a casino. To get there by boat, he needs a sailor, and he finds Popeye.

Popeye is a good-natured brawler, loyal but not overly intelligent. Almost unbeatable in a fight, he gets to punch out more than his fair share of ruffians. Other principal characters in this volume include Castor, Olive, Ham Gravy (Olive's early boyfriend who disappears out of the story soon enough) and villains like Jack Snork and the Sea Hag. The daily strips feature one set of storylines which takes Castor and Popeye all over the globe in search of adventure.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
WOW! Make that a double WOW! This is a real lulu of a book! Oops, sorry different cartoon strip.

This is the first long look that I've had of the real, honest to goodness Popeye other than just fragments in comic strip histories. This volume gives the reader a chance to get to know Popeye and the Oyl family and some other assorted characters from E. C. Segar's brilliant Thimble Theatre.

Popeye doesn't need spinach to make him strong. He got his strength from the sea and from the school of hard knocks. In these Depression-era tales, we get to see an undereducated, rough-around-the-edges "everyman" make it in a world of cold, hunger, joblessness, dispair, crooks, thieves, get-rich-quick schemers, murderers, and some nice people thrown in for good measure.

Popeye manages to outsmart and outfight them all without even trying. There is such a basic goodness in him, that the world around him can't beat him down no matter how hard it tries.

That spirit got America through the Depression and made Popeye an American icon... and old "blow me down" Popeye still lives today. Granted, in a somewhat more sanitized version, but he's still Popeye.

Buy this book and marvel at the stroylines, the wordplay, and the genius of E. C. Segar. Thanks, Fantagraphics for giving Popeye and the Thimble Theatre cast the treatment they deserve, which is world class. I can't wait for volume two coming in the fall of 2007!
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This book reprints E.C. Segar's Thimble Theatre daily comic strip from September 1928 to December 1930 (and the Sunday comic from March 1930 to February 1931). Thimble Theatre was a humorous adventure strip that starred Castor Oyl, brother of Olive Oyl. Castor was usually accompanied on his adventures by his friend Ham Gravy, who was also Olive's boyfriend. As this book begins, Castor gets a lucky Whiffle Hen from his uncle Lubry Kent Oyl. Castor and Ham (and stowaway Olive) buy a ship to sail to an African gambling island to use the Whiffle Hen's luck to win money. Naturally, they need an actual sailor to sail the ship, so Popeye is introduced. The colorful Popeye was an immediate hit with readers and soon replaced the colorless Ham Gravy as Castor's sidekick. It's easy to see why readers took a shine to Popeye, because he's such a great character. How can you not love a guy who can get shot 16 times and still come back to kick the bad guy's butt? Popeye's character as established here is that of an English mangling tough guy with a good heart. Although he is basically a good guy, he will still beat people up with little provocation (they usually deserve it, though). Another major character in the Popeye mythos, his nemesis the Sea Hag, is also introduced in this volume. This is a great book that I recommend without reservations to any fan of classic comic strips.
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