Customer Reviews: Popeye: The Great Comic Book Tales by Bud Sagendorf
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Showing 1-2 of 2 reviews(3 star). Show all reviews
VINE VOICEon March 15, 2011
"I Yam What I Yam". When I was growing up this seemed like a meaningless tautological statement, after all aren't we all what we are? It wasn't until I read the fabulous works of Popeye creator Elzie Segar that Popeye's catch phrase finally resonated. Segar's Popeye was an unattractive, poorly educated, ruffian with bad grammar who swore and gambled and of course punched people on a biblical scale with oversized fists. His legendary self proclamation generally followed a socially unacceptable act as if to unapologetically acknowledge that he'd done wrong but justify it by stating that his actions are engrained in his nature. In one of Segar's strips Popeye violently slaps down Olive Oyl and "I Yam What I Yam" could have easily been interpreted as "I Can't Help Who I Am". Bud Sagendorf's interpretation of Popeye is a VASTLY watered down domesticated version of Segar's multidimensional Popeye. His true blue cardboard Popeye essentially strips "I Yam What I Yam" of any real meaning.

The fact is Craig Yoe's collection of Bud Sagendorf's comics is the ugly step sister to Fantagraphics exhaustive collection of the works of Elzie Segar and the Amazon sales is reflective of this. Segar was a superior artist, a far better storyteller and created a character that was so unique that even today he feels edgy. Unfortunately Segar died at the young age of 43 having less than a decade to craft the world of Popeye. Bud Sagendorf, by contrast, had over four decades working on Popeye and his is the most recognizable incarnation. Fantagraphics just released volume 5 and I can't help but compare the two with Sagendorf coming out a vanishingly distant second. If Popeye is watered down Wimpy is absolutely bled dry. The humor of Wimpy was the way he was a lying, shameless mooch so self absorbed that it reached the point of mental illness. Sagendorf `s Wimpy, by contrast, is a rather inconsequential pal of Popeye little more relevant than a piece of furniture. The strangest change, however, is Swee'Pea who for whatever reason speaks like an adult. Having such bland characters robs Popeye of any of the humor that Segar was famous for.

As a huge Popeye fan I can't tell you how disappointing this collection is. The stories aren't just written FOR children they feel like they were written BY a child. Imagine asking a youngster to come up with a Popeye story and the child might say, "So Popeye and Swee'pea sail to the Happy L'il Island where everyone is happy but now no one is happy because every time they're happy a little man with a hammer comes out of the ground and smashes their feet making them sad". This is seriously the plot of one of the stories. In another story Popeye and Swee'pea are miniaturized because they accidentally ate `Shrink Weed' that resembles spinach. No explanation is given for the existence of this amazing plant. In yet another Wimpy broadcasts a challenge to anyone in the universe who would like to face Popeye in the ring and a goofy looking Martian shows up to do battle. The stories are so lacking in depth that I curse Leukemia for taking Segar far too soon.

Let me finish by saying that Sagendorf's skills as a cartoonist are quite good and a decent replacement for Segar but the colors in this collection are horrible. Craig Yoe presented a page of Sagendorf's art with only inking and it looked very nice but when the colors are added they kill the presentation. These are unlikely to be Yoe's fault but one thing I question is Yoe's use of such heavy stock paper. The book is pretty thick for just 176 pages but it's due to the thickness of the paper. The comics here really don't merit such fine treatment and Yoe could have included a lot more stories with a thinner stock of paper. On the other hand the volume of material here was more than enough of a sample of Sagendorf for my needs. In 1979 Bud Sagendorf published an awesome book titled `Popeye: The First Fifty Years' (now over 80 years). I loved that book and was looking forward to seeing the comics of Sagendorf but this is not at all what I was hoping for. If you're a fan of Popeye I suggest reading all the stories by Segar and if you're burning for more get the Fleischer Cartoons and if you just can't live without more Popeye pick up this book. Just be prepared for a dramatic drop in quality unless you're nine years old in which case the Happy Li'l Island may seem perfectly reasonable.
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on March 5, 2011
Not every story in this volume deserves the classification "greatest". Love to see the Sea Hag represented, but where is the classic GOON ISLAND with it's "Cast of Thousands"? Like most of Craig Yoe's collections, this is nice, but leaves one wanting more. Still, it's great to see Sagendorf collected at all.
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