Wednesday, July 20, 2016

"Ya kin not hit a ghosk, 'cause they is jus' air!"

There have been a number of skilled writers and artists who have given us great Popeye stories over the years, but the one person who comes closest to matching E.C. Segar (Popeye's creator) in giving us Segar's unique synthesis of slapstick and grand adventure is Bud Sagendorf, who wrote and drew Popeye comics for Dell.

Popeye #3 (August-October 1948) is a prime example of this. The cover story is a 32-pager titled "Ghost Island," which actually starts out with Popeye refusing to go on an adventure.

That's because this particular adventure involves delivering ghost traps to the appropriately-named Ghost Island, where the island's sole inhabitant is simply tired of being haunted.

Popeye doesn't want to tangle with ghosts. You can't fight something intangible and throwing a punch is pretty much Popeye's sole tactic for dealing with dangerous situations. But though Popeye wants to leave the ghosts alone, the ghosts don't want to leave him alone.

But when Swee'Pea is snatched by a ghost, Popeye pretty much has to get involved.      
I love how Sagendorf draws the ghosts--everything about them exudes a casual matter-of-factness that just makes the situation that much more hilarious.

What follows is both exciting and funny. Popeye sails with the cargo of ghost traps for ghost island. Olive Oil stows away on board disguised as one of the ghost--only to walk into one of the traps. The ghosts sabotage the compass, sending the boat wildly off course. When they finally arrive on the island, their client is livid when he sees a dozen ghosts (along with their luggage) disembarking.

In the end, it turns out the ghosts are just guys wearing sheets, hired by the ghost trap salesman to drum up business. And Swee'Pea? He turns out to be working for the "ghosts" as well--the little brat took a bribe to help out.

The salesman, by the way, turns out to be someone who is always in need of money--otherwise, he would have to pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. When Popeye finally finds out what's going on--he indulges himself by beating up a lot of "ghosts" and then having words with Wimpy.

The trouble with reviewing a story like this is that it brings to mind the old saying about analyzing humor: It's like dissecting a frog--you can do it, but the frog dies in the process. A brief summary of the story simply does not do it justice and the humor has a delightful sort of bizarre-ness to it that makes it difficult to describe at all. Like E.C. Segar's original comic strip, Bud Sagendorf's Popeye stories have to be read to be truly appreciated. 

Next week, we return to giant robots fighting giant monsters--the obvious fallback position when you don't have Popeye available to simply punch out the monsters.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...