This Day in History (17-Jan-1929) – Popeye makes 1st appearance, in comic strip “Thimble Theater”

Popeye made his first public appearance on Jan. 17, 1929, in Elzie Segar’s then nine-year-old comic strip, THIMBLE THEATRE, which originally revolved around Olive Oyl’s family. From the minute he walked into the comic strip, THIMBLE THEATER, and muttered his famous “D’ja think I’m a cowboy” line, Popeye the Sailor Man captured the hearts of millions of fans around the world. Popeye was just a sailor then without any heroic shade. Later the character of Popeye became so popular that the entire comic strip started to revolve around this sailor-man. Then ‘Thimble Theater’ changed into the comics of Popeye where Olive Oyl became Popeye‘s sweetheart. After Elzie Segar’s death in 1938, a number of writers continued the comic strips of Popeye.

Popeye made the jump to the silver screen in a 1933 in a Betty Boop cartoon entitled POPEYE THE SAILOR from the Fleischer Studios. Popeye’s theme song, titled “I’m Popeye The Sailor Man”, composed by Sammy Lerner in 1933 for Fleischer’s first Popeye the Sailor cartoon, has become forever associated with the sailor. In 1937, spinach capital Crystal City, Texas, erected a statue to honor Elzie Segar and Popeye for their positive influence on America’s eating habits, making Popeye the first cartoon character ever immortalized in public sculpture. Interestingly, Popeye’s spinach obsession began in THIMBLE THEATRE but became an indispensable plot device in his later animated adventures. The spinach growers credited Popeye with a 33 percent increase in U.S. spinach consumption and saving the spinach industry in the 1930s.

The controversy of Spinach remained for decades. The most popular concept is it was actually the forbidden wide ‘marijuana’. However recent research also reveals that Spinach may be an herb with somewhat muscle boosting qualities, obviously not like the incredible strength of Popeye. However, whatever be the spinach is, the concept of eating spinach and then beating the villains away has managed to retain its popularity for over 80 years. Many consider Popeye a precursor to the superheroes who would eventually come to dominate comic books.


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