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Author(s) E. C. Segar (creator, 1929–1937, 1938)
Doc Winner (1937, 1938)
Tom Sims & Bela Zaboly (1938–1955)
Ralph Stein & Bela Zaboly (1954–1959)
Bud Sagendorf (1959–1994)
Bobby London (1986–1992)
Hy Eisman (1994–present)
Portrayed by
Robin Williams
Voiced by
William Costello (1933–1935)
Detmar Poppen (1935–1936, radio only)
Floyd Buckley (Be Kind To Aminals, 1936–1937 radio appearances)
Jack Mercer (1935–1945 and 1947–1984)
Mae Questel (Shape Ahoy)
Harry Foster Welch (1945–1947)
Maurice LaMarche (1985–present)
Billy West (Popeye's Voyage: The Quest for Pappy, Drawn Together, Minute Maid commercials)
Keith Scott (Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges)
Scott Innes (commercials)
Tom Kenny (2014 animation test)
Kōichi Yamadera
Current status / schedule New strips on Sundays, reprints Monday through Saturday
Launch date December 19, 1919
End date July 30, 1994 (date of last first-run daily strip, Sunday strips continue)
Syndicate(s) King Features Syndicate
Publisher(s) King Features Syndicate
Genre(s) Humor, adventure

Popeye the Sailor is a fictional cartoon character created by Elzie Crisler Segar. He is one of the most popular cartoon characters of all time. He first appeared in a comic strip called Thimble Theatre by EC Segar in 1929. Popeye is a sailor who smokes a pipe and mutters things under his breath. He has only one eye, he is short and uneducated, but when trouble occurs, usually saving his girlfriend, Olive Oyl from his arch-nemesis, Bluto/Brutus, he eats a can of spinach, and gets super-strength. He also appeared in a series of cartoons made for movie theatres by Paramount Pictures.

Following Segar's illness and eventual death in 1938 (with his final Thimble Theatre strip appearing October 2 of that year), numerous people were hired to draw and write the strip. Tom Sims, the son of a Coosa River channel-boat captain, acted as the writer for Thimble Theatre beginning in August 1938 and established the Popeye the Sailorman spin-off. Doc Winner, who had previously filled in for Segar between January and May 1938, initially acted as Sims' artist, with Bela Zaboly succeeding him by December 1939. In 1954, Sims relinquished writing duties on the daily strip to Ralph Stein, who would continue to collaborate with Zaboly until both the daily and Sunday strips were taken over by Bud Sagendorf in 1959.

Sagendorf wrote and drew the daily strip until 1986, and continued to write and draw the Sunday strip until his death in 1994. Sagendorf, who had been Segar's assistant, made a definite effort to retain much of Segar's classic style, although his art is instantly discernible.

From 1986 to 1992, the daily strip was written and drawn by Bobby London. The Sunday edition of the comic strip was drawn by Hy Eisman from 1994 to 2022. Following Eisman's retirement, the Sunday strip was taken over by R.K. Milholland, who had previously contributed Popeye cartoons to the web-only feature Popeye's Cartoon Club in 2019 and 2020. The daily strip has featured reruns of Sagendorf's strips since London's firing.

On January 1, 2009, 70 years since the death of his creator, Segar's comic strips (though not the various films, TV shows, theme music, and other media based on them) became public domain in most countries, but remain under copyright in the United States. Because Segar was an employee of King Features Syndicate when he created the Thimble Theatre strip, it is treated as a work for hire under U.S. copyright law. Works for hire are protected for 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter. As of 2024, Thimble Theatre comic strips from 1919 through 1928 have entered the public domain, concluding seventeen days before Popeye's first appearance. Even after the strips enter the public domain, trademarks regarding Popeye remain with King Features, as trademarks do not expire unless they cease to be used, and King Features has used the trademark continuously since the character's debut.

Interesting facts about Popeye

  • Popeye was a precursor to the superheroes who came to dominate U.S. comic books.
  • In medicine, the bulge indicating a bicep tear is called the Popeye sign.
  • The 1981 Nintendo videogame Donkey Kong, which introduced its eponymous character and Nintendo's unofficial company mascot Mario to the world, was originally planned to be a Popeye game. Mario (then known as Jumpman) was originally supposed to be Popeye, Donkey Kong was originally Bluto, and the character Pauline was originally Olive Oyl, but when Nintendo was unable to acquire the rights to use the actual franchise characters, it decided to create original characters instead.
  • The Popeye was a popular dance in the dance craze era of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Originating in New Orleans around 1962, the Popeye was performed by shuffling and moving one's arms, placing one arm behind and one arm in front and alternating them, going through the motion of raising a pipe up to the mouth, and alternate sliding or pushing one foot back in the manner of ice skating, similar to motions exhibited by the cartoon character.
  • The Popeye Picnic is held every year in Chester, Illinois, on the weekend after Labor Day. Popeye fans attend from across the globe.
  • In honor of Popeye's 75th anniversary, the Empire State Building illuminated its notable tower lights green the weekend of January 16–18, 2004 as a tribute to the icon's love of spinach. This special lighting marked the only time the Empire State Building ever celebrated the anniversary/birthday of a comic strip character.


The popularity of Popeye helped boost spinach sales. Using Popeye as a role model for healthier eating may work; a 2010 study revealed that children increased their vegetable consumption after watching Popeye cartoons. The spinach-growing community of Crystal City, Texas, erected a statue of the character in recognition of Popeye's positive effects on the spinach industry. There are also statues in Springdale and Alma, Arkansas (which claims to be "The Spinach Capital of the World"), at canning plants of Allen Canning, which markets Popeye-branded canned spinach. In addition to Allen Canning's Popeye spinach, Popeye Fresh Foods markets bagged, fresh spinach with Popeye characters on the package.

Word coinages

The strip is also responsible for popularizing, although not inventing, the word "goon" (meaning a thug or lackey); goons in Popeye's world were large humanoids with indistinctly drawn faces that were particularly known for being used as muscle and slave labor by Popeye's nemesis, the Sea Hag.

Eugene the Jeep was introduced in the comic strip on March 13, 1936. Two years later the term "jeep wagons" was in use, later shortened to simply "jeep" with widespread World War II usage and then trademarked by Willys-Overland as "Jeep".

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Popeye para niños

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